With all of the talk about the setting, the new powers, and the holy $#!^ backlash to Cole's redesign and re-redesign, there was quite a bit of buzz surrounding the sequel to arguably one of the best Playstation 3 exclusives. inFAMOUS 2 picks up Cole MacGrath leaving Empire City for New Marais in search of new powers to combat The Beast upon its arrival. Packing some new heat, or maybe giving you the cold shoulder, inFAMOUS 2 brings a slightly upgraded flair to the original while still keeping it fresh in a handful of different ways.
The first thing that really struck me was the writing quality. Not necessarily the story, but the dialogue and how the characters are almost redefined. Cole comes across as a bit more of an average human, less like a rage/confusion-filled superhuman trying to find his place in the world, and that's a good thing. Cole actually manages to crack a few jokes this time around and lightens up from his last outing, becoming a bit more easy to relate to and ultimately more enjoyable to play as. particularly interesting are the occasional cutscenes or bits of dialogue looking back on Cole's past with Zeke pre-Empire City incident. Speaking of Zeke, he gets a very large persona and role makeover, becoming an actual asset and necessary character as opposed to just the mostly annoying friend who happens to be able to make phone calls to people who know things. Nix and Agent Kuo are a little more than along for the ride, with Kuo having a bit more substance to her character throughout most of the game, but both show a surprising bit of hidden depth depending on which ending you take.
The gameplay is largely similar to the of the original inFAMOUS, but with a few tweaks and added elements. The parkour-style climbing has been refined and smoothed out so that there are less "wait I didn't jump toward that" moments and is aided by a pair of unlocked, karmically specific powers to either . rocket you across a stretch of sky in a fiery blaze, or launch you skyward on a pillar of ice; I found the latter to be an invaluable tool to help climbing taller structures, maintaining momentum, and creating some pretty awesome moments. One other addition are the launch rails- charged rails on the sides of some buildings and towers that fling Cole upward and help cut down on climbing times.
Many of the original powers are still there, the Sticky Grenade, the Precision Bolt, and the constantly awesome Thunder Drop, but the newer powers are a bit hit-and-miss. Take, for instance, the Freeze Grenade and Freeze Rocket, both with the effect of freezing enemies within their blast radius, but the freeze doesn't last very long and the radius isn't wide enough to make it a much more effective weapon. Likewise the Nightmare Blast which is a shockwave attack that produces a cloud of smoke around the enemy(ies) as a way to induce a momentary disorientation. The effect lasts a bit longer than the freezing attacks, but it's still not tremendously more useful than a normal shockwave. My personal favorite power was the Bolt Stream- a Hero karma unlockable power than turned you into a lightning machine gun, but at the cost of burning through your power and inflicting slightly less damage with each hit. Overall, the good karma powers were more useful and powerful than their bad karma counterparts, but the ideas and innovation that went into all of the powers shows in that there aren't any "bad" or useless powers.
New Marais is an interesting redesign with as much emphasis on missions in areas of smaller houses as in the main section of the high-rise-filled city. Although the layout of the docks did, at one point, give me an eerie sense of deja vu where there was a large ship docked to the right of a long pier overshadowed by two large cranes, almost identical to and area from the first inFAMOUS. Overall, New Marais provides an interesting backdrop of a ruined city that's had some time to recover and re-establish itself, as opposed to to the completely ruined, isolated, and desperate Empire City.
If there is a flaw in inFAMOUS 2, it's in the conveyance of the story. Starting off on one track, jumping somewhat roughly to another, losing itself a bit in the middle, and swinging a bit too hard toward the end, what begins as a promising quest for new abilities bogs itself down in a very roughly sketched frame of martial law that loses its importance as the focus continually shifts. Without giving anything anyway, one ending makes perfect sense following along its karmic line, while the other tries too many twists and rationalizations, while conversely providing the better gameplay experience.
The feature that really seemed to come out of nowhere before its announcement was the inclusion of UGC, or User-Generated Content. These missions aren't all just cut-and-dry "kill the enemies" missions either, there was an enormous bit of diversity not only among the samples provided by Sucker punch to illustrate what could be accomplished, but also by some of the first community-submitted creations. Ranging from defending a target to surviving an ambush to racing across power lines in a very Spider-Man style ring race, there are quite a few templates to choose from in creating missions. Along with ways to filter content by date or by rating, the number of options in just how to design missions and the creativity shown even so early on will make the UGC a reason to keep coming back to inFAMOUS 2 and was as brilliant a move by Sucker Punch as it was unexpected.
All together, inFAMOUS 2 delivers an exceptional experience, with the gameplay style and the UGC making up for the slight lack of cohesion in the main story. An added perk to anyone who completes the game with both endings, all of the powers become unlockable, which help in hunting down blast shards and collecting dead drops (which continue to serve as a way to flesh out some of the backstory for characters both new and old) and polishing off any side missions you may not have completed. Sucker Punch set out to create a better product than the first inFAMOUS, and they did so fairly well with the core gameplay experience and narrative, but the well-written and voiced dialogue along with the more subtle movie marquee and storefront humor and the promising outlook for the UGC helps inFAMOUS 2 to really deliver.
^ I bet anyone who's played has passed this shop at least a dozen times without noticing.
(Update: Because I started this yesterday and finished it today I forgot it would upload under yesterday's timestamp, so I had to re-post it to get it under the right date. We're all good now.)
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