Product Type: Sony PS3 games
Newest Review: ... special effects (mostly noticeably those involving ice) to appear horribly blocky and pixelated. Perhaps we've become accustomed to the gl... more
inFAMOUS 2 (PS3)
Member Name: tom1clare
inFAMOUS 2 (PS3)
Date: 09/01/12, updated on 12/01/12 (55 review reads)
Advantages: Strong shooting and platforming elements; solid mission design; distinctive endings
Disadvantages: Lacklustre visuals; user-generated missions are rubbish; a little too familiar at times
After opening to a battering from the gigantically destructive entity known simply as "The Beast", former courier turned walking-electrical-conduit Cole MacGrath heads for New Marais (loosely modelled on New Orleans), in a bid to strengthen his powers. The city is controlled by a righteous militia, overseen by zealot and part-time megalomaniac Joseph Bertrand. Block by block, Cole must loosen the rebels grip on New Marais, and win over the people - either by earning respect, or instilling fear.
It'll all be familiar if you've played the first game. Being "good" means using the arc-restraint to arrest enemies, healing wounded civilians, avoiding an excessive amount of collateral damage, saving hostages, and defusing bombs. But if gaming has (possibly) taught us anything, it's that it's both more fun and more profitable to be "evil". There's no need to worry about civilians stupid enough to stick around during the more explosive fire-fights, and some of Cole's upgradable, evil abilities are great, especially the potent Hellfire rockets and the summoning of beasties to help do your bidding. Cole's Karma rating affects his appearance, and also little touches within the city; inspire civilians, and they'll help you fight the militia. Cause them grief, and you can expect the fools to throw rocks at you in a futile show of defiance.
On the whole, the story missions aren't quite to the level of its predecessor. They're still really good, but on measure, there's fewer standout boss fights, hectic train-top chases or generally memorable segments. The story throws in a few nice twists to spice things up however; there's the juicy love-triangle involving Cole, Agent Lucy Kuo and fearsome swamp warrior Nix (two of a raft of characters enhanced through strong voicing), who come to symbolise opposite ends of the karma moral system underpinning the game. At certain points, you'll have to choose whose plan to go along with; the former offers logical solutions to problems, the latter more sadistic but straightforward ideas - both are nicely conceived and of a similar standard and difficulty. You have the choice at one stage to meld your abilities with one or the other - resulting in Cole attaining additional ice or fire powers. There's evidence the developers have learned from past mistakes too, as the way the way in which the dual endings are handled marks a big step forward. Whereas the original featured two endings but essentially the exact same final boss, things are radically different this time around depending on which final mission you wish to undertake. The Evil ending in particular is a fabulous spectacle to behold and arguably the game's best passage of play.
Combat remains one of its strongest assets, and continues to mark the series out from other open-world games. It more or less mimics Uncharted's shooting system, with less reliable covering but significantly more potent "weapons". As well as being able to channel a stream of lightning bolts, Cole can chuck electric grenades and use forceful blasts to fling enemies from rooftops, a trick that never seems to get old. With a litany of neon-sprinkled casinos, a towering cathedral and a spooky cemetery, there's a diverse bunch of locations that all seem strong fits for battle, and on this score the developer delivers once again. Crucially, Sucker Punch never lost sight of a fundamental point - that playing as a superhero, above all else, should be fun. Cole is awesome; he's more than human and in every facet of his control, you never forget his superiority.
It's fortunate looks aren't everything though, because inFAMOUS 2 isn't going to win any beauty contests. The original looked just-about-acceptable in 2009, but two years down the road, the graphics were starting to show serious signs of age. Admittedly, Sucker Punch didn't have a GTAIV-sized budget at their disposal, but a certain standard is still to be expected from a first-party PS3 exclusive. New Marais itself is alright (albeit suspiciously similar to the New York-inspired Empire City of the first game) and the gameplay as a whole runs without any glaring technical issues, but close-up objects and scenery appear basic and sparse-looking, whilst civilians are low-rent and don't move at all convincingly. Worst of all is the lack of anti-aliasing, resulting in visual distortions that cause certain special effects (mostly noticeably those involving ice) to appear horribly blocky and pixelated. Perhaps we've become accustomed to the glut of technical powerhouses coming from Sony's development houses in recent years, but there's a roughness that makes inFAMOUS 2 seem somehow plainer than its sparky gameplay deserves.
Every game has its gimmick, and here Sucker Punch opted to jump on the "Create and Share" bandwagon, with User-Generated Content (UGC) missions. In principal, the idea was mouth-watering: gamers devising and creating their own levels and uploading them for others to play, thus creating a lengthy stream of free content. In practice however, it's an out-and-out failure. Proving that its level editor isn't very intuitive and that the majority of gamers are frankly no good at making games, the UGC is plagued by unfinished or broken/glitched levels as well as a whole host of seconds-long missions designed simply for XP farming (so as to attain new abilities faster) or a cheap means of changing your Karma alignment quickly. I ended up abandoning - for a whole host of reasons - more than half the missions I started, and the whole process became mind-numbing very quickly. Even the very best creations come off a distant second-best to those of the main game.
Like its predecessor, inFAMOUS 2 isn't especially lengthy but will have no trouble keeping you hooked for two solid playthroughs, which amounted to a couple of weeks in my case. That the good and evil endings are more pronounced in their differences helps in this regard, whilst the trophies similarly encourage you to try the diverging paths, as well as the Hard difficulty setting. This isn't too tricky but does require that the player is less gung-ho in their approach to the bigger battles, so is recommended for more experienced gamers.
There's always room for improvement, and looking ahead, the series could certainly stand a new lick of paint. But graphics are no substitute for gameplay, and few games this generation can match it for sheer unadulterated fun. Though it's not the game its predecessor was, it still offers a more varied, more imaginative and more enjoyable sequence of events than 99% of open-world games available. The UGC missions, intended as the icing on an already-sweet package, fail to hit the mark, but for the duration of the story at least, inFAMOUS 2 is sure to have you glued to your PS3.
Summary: A couple of ideas miss the mark, but still a good sequel to a great game
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