Cole McGrath is back. The snarky star of Infamous has returned for another round of electrifying fun in the sequel to the 2009 smash hit. Infamous 2 starts exactly where the first one left off. After a catastrophic event that leaves Empire City in tatters and imbues our hero with unusual powers, a creature called the Beast is cutting a swath of destruction across town with alarming efficiency. The game's first level is a sort of tutorial that gets the player re-acquainted with the power that Cole wields. It's a short jaunt to the docks to take on the Beast from the end of the first game and send him packing. Which you do. Then he comes back. Then you deal the death blow. Or do you?
It's at the beginning of Infamous 2 that we learn that the Beast was not destroyed. His wrath leaves us drained of our powers and we are forced to retreat and regroup. Cole has been prophesied to be the only one who can conquer this Goliath. So why did he not succeed? We start the game proper with the hero hiding out in the former port city of New Marais asking himself that same question. Just as Empire City is another name for New York, New Morais is an alias for New Orleans. In fact there is a portion of the city called Flood Town that conjures images of Katrina. Basically he is going to hide here until the Beast blazes a trail down the coast to flush him out. And so we use this city to hone our skills and increase our powers, training for the rematch.
We start the game with all of the powers we had to unlock in the first title. This only makes sense as we can't have him re-learning all of those powers. Instead he will learn new powers and increase his strength with the help of gadgets designed to complement his skill set. A gadget labeled the AMP, a sort of cattle prod on bzzzteroids, gives Cole a beautiful melee attack, something that was lacking in the first.
Combat seems a bit different in Infamous 2 than in the first. I found myself using the AMP and close-up combat a lot more often. In the first game the ability to distance yourself from your opponent as your powers grew was an asset. Here you will find the in-your-face personality of the AMP endearing. There's something gratifying about disturbing a mugging in progress and using the AMP to knock skulls like it's batting practice. I'm a bit of a do-gooder that way.
Speaking of good Samaritans, you can travel the evil or pure path in Infamous and the game will play and end differently depending on what you choose. You can choose to heal people or drain their life force. Help the rebel factions or help the cops. Embrace the dark side or blah, blah, blah. This option has been done and overdone in superhero games. I guess no one's satisfied with being the chosen one anymore, now we have to have the choice to take our god-like abilities and use them for our own evil devices.
Game style and structure in Infamous 2 are identical to its predecessor. It's an open-world environment with a main mission and numerous side missions you complete to get Experience Points and build your character's talents or reputation. Many third-person superhero action games follow this same formula. In fact, the way we move through our environment shows shades of Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Prototype, the unique aspect being Cole's ability to turn powerlines into zip-lines. Once he mounts the wire he will surf through town at break-neck speed, allowing him to traverse New Marais from end to end in record time.
Graphics fell into a gray area. At times they were almost stunning. Fluid motion, realistic texturing and good facial expressions. At other times it wasn't quite so smooth. The comic book-style graphics used to carry a large portion of the cut scenes and animations deserve some kudos. Audio and voice-overs were quality, with mildly humorous dialogue and some great sound effects.
The biggest problem with this game is also something shared with many similar superhero titles. The people on the street, the average Joes and Janes, are ponderously stupid. I watched comically from above while one man got stuck pacing between a fence and a crate. Another time some mutant demonic creatures got stuck behind a plant and looked like it was playing peek-a-boo with me. Even in the cut-scenes the crowd is clapping and you hear the noise but if you look (and not even closely), their hands aren't even touching.
As a superhero title Infamous 2 is probably one of the most fun around. The story line is a bit predictable but the way you move and the absolute power you wield put you into a fantasy world where you are THE man. Compared to the first title, Infamous 2 is actually a much better game, although I fear it will be perceived as less by most fans of the superhero and third-person genre. As always I must judge the game based on the "good-time" factor. Just like the original, Infamous 2 is a good time and maybe even a great time.
Score: 3.5 stars out of 5
Genre: Third-person action/adventure
No. Players: 1
ESRB rating: T (Teen)
Contact Tom Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.