The first inFamous was a pretty good game, but it missed just that little bit extra for me at least. Sometimes frustrating and repetitive missions (The Reapers put surveillance equipment on my building!) and a story that didn’t seem move forward until the end: the game lacked dynamic. And that is something that’s just not done by a superhero (or villain) with enough electricity running through his body to power half of New York City. Can InFamous 2 deliver what the first installment couldn’t?
The fact that InFamous 2 is literally buzzing with dynamism becomes clear almost in the first minutes of gameplay. Just as Cole is ready to leave for New Marais with NSA-agent Kuo and his friend Zeke to prepare for the coming of ‘The Beast’, the big evil thing that was referenced in inFamous 1, the latter appears in Empire City. The pier you’re standing on is shaking, people are running away in panic and the world around you appears to be ending with all the explosions and smoke that fills your screen. It’s not the prettiest game on the PS3 à la Crysis 2, but whatever happens the game keeps on running smoothly. The chaos in Empire City is only the beginning, but the tone is set, especially when you see that after a fruitless battle with The Beast Empire City is leveled to the ground. Cole sees no other option than to flee to New Marais.
The lost confrontation makes for an excellent motivation to become stronger and take revenge on your new arch-enemy. The game constantly reminds you of your mission to defeat The Beast, without ever becoming frustrating. On the pause screen and after completing important missions you can see how far The Beast is from New Marais (and your next confrontation), and news reports of the trail of destruction The Beast leaves in its wake. The Beast will not appear before you completed all the missions and gathered the necessary powers, but the effect remains the same. It really gives you the sense of impending doom and urgency to gather all your powers.
The story is also better this time around. You leave for New Marais with a clear goal, namely becoming stronger, but it soon becomes clear that your task is more complex than just using a device called the Ray Field Inhibitor to gather new powers. The Beast isn’t your only problem, it seems. New Marais is ‘protected’ by the dictator Joseph Bertrand and his militia. The man doesn’t like strangers with powers and wants to keep the city clean and pure. What’s more is that he blames Cole for the destruction of Empire City. Little detail: Bertrand is a member of The First Sons, the group responsible for Cole’s powers. Add to that the mutant-like Corrupted, South-African mercenaries with ice-powers, a group of rebels and the mysterious plague from InFamous 1.
If you’re scared that you need to play the first game in order to understand everything, then don’t fear because InFamous 2 gives you a crash course on the events from InFamous relayed to you through the comic like cutscenes. Depending on your choices you start on a higher level with good or evil karma, get some experience points and a longer energymeter. There are some subtle references to InFamous 1 but those aren’t very important and serve only to make fans chuckle. I’d like to see more depth and consequences to your actions, but you’re still playing the wrong game if you’re looking for that.
Still a bit black and white
The choice between good and evil is still very black and white, both in the main storyline as in the optional sidemissions. Both are connected to your ‘counselors’ Nix and Kuo, where Nix stands for chaos and egocentrism and Kuo stands for order and justice. For instance, you’ll need the help of the rebels to attack Bertrand and his militia. To convince the rebels you could use the help of Nix, who dresses up as a militia and attack the rebels so you can show up and be the hero. If you choose Kuo, you’ll see her run off with an ambulance for of medicine. In both cases, the rebels join your side and you choice will only influence your karma and whether you can use Nix’ fire powers of Kuo’s ice powers. The difference in missions is something that is worth playing the game a second time for though, adding to the replayability.
Next to the main and side missions you’ll often encounter events during your travels around town. These events are meant to further influence your karma. For instance you can choose to stop a robbery (good), but you can also harass the police (bad). It’s still easier to do bad things than to put effort in doing the right thing. Especially with some of the later powers it’s pretty hard to be good, when you end up killing a bunch of civilians to get to one bad guy. Either way, the game offers you 6 hours of gameplay if you only complete the main storyline. If you want to play both sides and do all the side missions you can add another 10 or so hours to the first 6.
The variation in powers is also dependent on your choice between good and evil. The different powers aren’t just linked to progress, but also to karma. This was the same in the first game, but you can also switch between powers. For instance, you can replace the standard lightning bolt by a powerful beam of lightning, but you can also choose to use the full-automatic version to efficiently combat larger groups. You can also choose to replace the Kinetic Pulse, that allows you to throw cars and such, by a shield that converts bullets to energy. They’re useful additions that make it possible to adapt to any situation. Dynamic isn’t it?
The environment is also of some influence to Cole’s powers. Cole was pretty adept at the climbing and jumping from building to building, but in Infamous 2 he’s almost a fully trained parcours expert. Climbing buildings is smoother than ever and the grinding on cables or rails is keeping the pace in your travels. It can sometimes feel a bit clunky, but it’s a system I couldn’t live without. Water is still bad, since water and electricity don’t mix very well, so it’s important to get to dry land.
Enemies aren’t scared of you and bring big weapons. They’re also faster and stronger than in the first game. You’ll feel pretty powerful with your arsenal of powers, but never so powerful that there’s no challenge. Even the amazing Ionic attacks, like a tornado or lightning storm, aren’t a guarantee that you’ll emerge from the fight as a victor.
Though, making yourself as powerful as possible is the main drive to explore the city and do something more than follow the main missions. To make sure your energy will deplete less quick for instance, you can go out and collect Blast Shards that are spread around the world. Next to that, there are about 70 side missions, that are more varied and make you do more than pick up packages or chase after a courrier. You’ll still do something more than once, but not all the time, and you get more experience points to upgrade your powers. Just that is enough motivation to invest time in the side missions.
Finally, InFamous 2 has a mission editor that prolongs to game’s life to infinity. The threshold to start actively building good missions is pretty high. I didn’t even succeed in making simple missions, but luckily you can use existing missions or missions made by others as a template. As you gain more experience in building missions you’ll get the hang of it eventually. And to create order in chaos, there is a possibility to filter the amount of user-generated content you wish to see in the game world.
In summary, I would definitely recommend InFamous 2 to any fan of the first game and sandbox games.
Stay tuned for a playthrough of InFamous 2 by Swidtter.