With great power comes… well, greater power. Besides actually being based on one of the trophy titles in the game, I realized that that phrase is inFamous 2‘s core idea. The original inFamous laid a great foundation for a super powered hero (or villain) and fed you neat power after neat power to experiment with. inFamous 2 improves and adds to this idea, which results in a game that is better than its predecessor.
As teased in inFamous 1, The Beast is coming and Cole has to be ready to take it on. He shows up and kicks your ass, sending you to lick your wounds in a new city, New Marais which is a loose interpretation of New Orleans. From there you must become stronger by absorbing Blast Cores to power up a device that is said to destroy The Beast. Other antagonists serve as bumps in road as well, but none distract you from the impending doom as The Beast works his way down the coast from Empire City to finally meet you. It’s a pretty classic comic book affair, but it stands to be a good motivation to move from mission to mission. The final few hours deserve extra kudos due to the shocking revelations and intense final mission, no matter your choice.
That final mission changes based on your decisions throughout the game. inFamous 1 had two endings as well, but they had almost exactly the same outcome. Here, the good and evil endings are completely different. Without spoiling anything, the evil ending is gloriously devious and refreshing to see something this maniacal make its way into a game. When the game means evil, it sure as hell means it. The good ending is the direct opposite extreme as Cole is a complete, ethical saint. Both were solid endings, with the evil one being my personal favorite, and I can’t wait to see how an eventual inFamous 3 starts with these radically different finales.
Characters, sadly, do not match, or even compete, with the story. Starting with the strong, Cole’s voice actor has been changed out for the better. He wasn’t bad in the first one, but his gravelly voice has been replaced with someone able to evoke a personality into the electric hero. Cole may not have the suave of Uncharted 2‘s Nathan Drake, but I grew attached to him more and more. Zeke also returns and has changed to be more respectable. I liked him a lot more as he ditches being slightly annoying to being a comic relief and good overall pal. Besides one side villain, everyone else falls drastically short of being likeable in any way. Serving as karmic conduits, you can team up with Nix (evil) or Kuo (good). Cole spends a great deal with these people so it is tragic that neither of them are fun to be around. Kuo’s lines are very poorly delivered with emotion feeling forced and corny. Every time she opens her overly dramatic mouth, that is your cue to cover your ears and read the subtitles. Nix falls into the same trap, only also failing to be the “bad bitch” she tries so desperately to be.
Karma was a big hook for the original inFamous and it makes a return. Cole had an emotional attachment to some of the story missions in the first game, making choices hard. Here, it is purely two dimensional. Story missions rarely have choices to make and only random events scattered throughout the world and good or evil exclusive missions serve as boosting your karma. I only picked what side I thought would allow access to the cooler powers, not caring about the repercussions. The lack of severity didn’t negatively impact my experience, it is just a field I’d like to see a sequel take more seriously a la Mass Effect 2.
A super powered hero is only as good as his best powers, and Cole has many at his disposal depending on his karmic stance. Some powers do overlap but the best ones are locked to one side, forcing you to choose. In inFamous 1, the evil powers almost always belittled the good ones. Do you want a rocket that instantly puts the enemy in a electric handcuffs (yay?), or do you want a rocket that explodes into five more rockets? inFamous 2 clearly recognized this problem by giving the boy scouts some kick-ass powers to match and exceed the evil choices. I heartily enjoyed both my red and blue abilities, but being good seemed to house more of the greater powers. Electric machine gun anybody?
Upgrades have been handled slightly differently as well. Rather than having minor upgrades on a single base power, you get to choose multiple different attacks mapped for that button. Each power has a half-dozen or more variants, all with spins on the core idea. For example, you can have grenades that freeze, cluster, explode twice, stick, and more. A menu that is shocking not cumbersome helps with changing your powers on the fly. It doesn’t break up the action too much so changing powers is not a hassle. Feeling immensely more expanded than the original in this department, I was thoroughly pleased about every change as it allowed for differentiation and choice.
Monkeying around on rooftops and using the bad guys as a lightning rods never ceases to amuse as it remains the highlight of the inFamous experience. Combat is as riveting as ever, with later missions feel mighty and expansive to combat your great power. Rather than having a poor frame rate plague the combat, one hit kills and stun locks do. Cole can get juggled around helplessly because most attacks cause him to stumble, leading to a death that was caused by one wrong move. It happens more frequently on hard difficulty, but it can ruin your wonderful parade of electricity regardless of what setting the game is on. I had to get those out of the way because everything else about the combat is rock-solid. Fighting is still a joy as battles are explosive and fast with mixing powers and parkour to make fun, unique scenarios.
Getting around in open world games can be a pain, but not here as it still retains the same, satisfying feel while scurrying about. Certain powers combine with other electrical wires make getting around the city faster and more fun than last time. Static thrusters have more kick, grindable power lines are everywhere, and one late-game power in particular could shame the blue and red spandex off a certain famous spider-like hero. Blast shards also make an addicting return and serve as an incentive to climb every last building to get all of the 305 shiny, blue collectibles.
I never really thought the original inFamous looked ugly, but popping it back in after playing the sequel made me realized how dated some aspects were. Character models look vastly superior, with sharper details, and there is better lighting throughout the new city along with more diversity. inFamous 2 is a legitimately good looking game, open world or not. Animations have been smoothed out too. Other Sucker Punch games relied heavily on comic books cutscenes and for good reason; the facial animation was rough. Not only have the comic cutscenes taken more of a backseat to the regular in-engine ones, but the facial and body animation has been improved exponentially. Wooden faces and awkward body movements are tossed to the curb and will remain in the past.
The sound in inFamous 2 is great… when it is there. Most times there is no music playing which robs the game of added mood during traversal or firefights leading the game to feel overly quiet at times. Ambient music and sounds would have added more atmosphere and personality to the world. Tunes sometimes kick in and are appreciated when they decide to play, but sometimes the only things you’ll hear are zapping and gunshots.
Rather than toss competitive multiplayer into inFamous 2 to add replayability, Sucker Punch decided to think outside the box and add user-generated missions. These missions seamlessly populate the world with a green mission marker so menus don’t clutter up the process of discovering what people have created. The tools liken a bit to LittleBigPlanet 2, as you can usually create something fun within a couple minutes by dropping enemies in the world as you please. Switches, sensors, enemies, and much more give the freedom to create some pretty distinct levels with some going outside of inFamous 2‘s comfort zone of action. Of course, there are user missions that are broken and complete garbage, but I’ve already played a few good ones worth going back to and I see this as a welcome feature to have. A couple playthroughs with different powers (with both side’s powers being unlocked at the end of two completed runs) along with endless user missions gives this game long legs.
Weak side characters aside, there is no denying that inFamous 2 improves in just about every area over the already-superb original. It retains just about everything right from its predecessor, but only adds on to the formula to create a game packed with content and, more importantly, fun. inFamous 2 may not judge you for your decisions outside of the game, but you are sure to rack up bad karma points for not playing this gem.
+Traversal is still a blast
+Combat remains strong
+Story is good with memorable, different endings on each side
+A lot of replay value
+Graphics and cutscene animations are much improved over the original
-Supporting characters aren’t interesting
-One hit kills and “stun locking” is annoying
-Karma could have been more meaningful
-Ambient sound is absent most times
Final Score: 9/10