Reviewed: June 21, 2011
Released: June 7, 2011
When Infamous arrived spring of 2009 I was completely taken by surprise; not so much by its arrival mind you, but rather how amazing the game actually was. Looking back, it is still one of only a few PS3 titles to earn a perfect score since the system launched, although in retrospect, if we were to review it by 2011 standards, the game would score closer to a 9.0 At the time, the closest thing to Cole MacGrath’s wall climbing, powerline-grinding, and other superhero abilities would have been Spider-Man or one of the X-Men games. Playing as a normal delivery guy and the unlikely recipient of superpowers definitely put a unique twist on the genre.|
Infamous 2 is a direct sequel to the original game, and while you will be better prepared to immerse yourself in the compelling storyline if you’ve played the original, you can still enjoy this continuation even if you haven’t. Then again, the original Infamous is totally free as part of Sony’s “Welcome Back” program so there is no reason not to experience the first game before tackling what is arguably the stronger of the two titles, plus you can import your character status from the first game into Infamous 2.
Infamous 2 makes great effort to improve and enhance every element of the original game and does so magnificently. From the massively detailed city and level designs to the fluid movement, intuitive controls, upgradable superpowers, and the whole internal battle of good vs. evil based on your mission and casual encounter choices, Infamous 2 grabs you from the opening prologue to the epic final boss fight and never lets go. It's as if Sucker Punch was testing the waters with the original, and now they have completed their masterpiece making the most of what they learned.
The story picks up right after the first game ends. Cole has all these awesome powers and he learns that he is being groomed to fight the ultimate evil; a gigantic being known as the Beast, who you will get to battle very early in this game. After he thoroughly defeats you, Cole, and his best friend Zeke, must retreat south to the city of New Marais – not to be confused with New Orleans despite overwhelming similarities. Zeke has built a new device called the Amp, a giant tuning fork device that amplifies Cole’s inherent powers to deliver some stunning melee attacks, combos, and finishing moves. Of course these pale in comparison to the mighty powers you will unlock and upgrade throughout the game. Just wait until you hurl your first tornado.
The whole karma thing is back, for better or worse, allowing you to superimpose your own morality onto that of Cole. I played the first game as a good guy and saw no reason to turn to the dark side for the sequel. There are several key missions that are clearly good or evil and when you choose one the other is locked out until you start a new game. Side missions can be good (stop a mugging, save some hostages) or evil (kill some cops or hassle some street performers). There are even more minor karma tweaks for healing injured people or draining their life essence.
Playing bad means you don’t have to worry if that car you casually tossed kills anybody other than your intended target, but I just didn’t find the evil style - at least the two hours I played - that enjoyable. I loved all the shouts and cheers when I would run around as a good Cole. People would even apologize to me if I bumped into them. It was a lot more fun than having everyone shriek in terror and cower in fear, plus it seemed more in character with the story. I mean, who is going to try to save the world from the Beast but be a total dick while he earns the power to do so? Even so, there are two distinct endings and enough unique content to warrant a second playthrough.
Even if it does go against character, the evil side does offer some tempting powers, although most are merely visual variances of the same ones you get as good Cole. Your whole color scheme goes from blue to red and powers resemble fire more than electricity. Either way, the game plays out pretty much the same with the exception of those clearly defined karma missions and the ending. Another unique twist to the story and the gameplay are two new female interests for Cole; Kuo, the FBI agent who represents good, and Nix, the voodoo swamp witch who tempts Cole with bad choices, but even those moral choices aren't always clearly defined.
Gameplay continues the open-world tradition of the original with a huge city divided into sections that are slowly opened up. This time you have the main city and the flooded slums, and the industrial section that offers its own unique set of challenges for the latter half of the game. Keep in mind that Cole is basically made of electricity then put him in a world that is almost completely flooded, and you can imagine the fun. There are night and day cycles and missions specific to each. There are dozens of recorded messages attached to homing pigeons called dead-drops, hundreds of those orb shards to collect to increase your energy bar, and with dozens of story missions, side challenges, and casual encounters, you can expect a solid 20 hours to complete Infamous 2, and another 15 to do it a second time.
But the fun doesn’t stop when the game is over. Embedded right into the core story mode are dozens (soon to be hundreds) of user created missions and content. Sucker Punch has created a mission editor that allows you to pick from a host of choices to create some impressively original content ranging from full-on missions to carnival-style mini-games. During the initial week after launch this content was almost exclusively created by Sucker Punch but now, as of this review, there is all sorts of player-created content appearing on the map, as noted by green icons. You can play and rate these missions as well as recommend your favorites to your friends. You can also set restrictions and guidelines to help filter the available content.
I messed around with the content editor, and while it was interesting and fairly easy to get the hang of, I really didn’t think any of my designs were worthy of public consumption, but for those budding game designers out there who want to strut their creative side, this is a fantastic addition to the Infamous franchise. Who knows…Sucker Punch may be using this as a hiring tool to find some new talent.
Infamous 2 looks amazing. I dare say it might look as good as the Uncharted series when it comes to overall visual style. The CG cutscenes are pure perfection, the animated comic book art style is trendy and cool, and the gameplay graphics are flawless. The city is huge and diverse, and while I’m sure there was some repeating architecture in there somewhere, it was spaced far enough that you never saw it within the same view. And just when you got tired of the main city area you get to explore the flooded shanty town, and then onto the industrial complex with factories and train yards. I never got tired of looking at or exploring New Marais.
Whether you choose the Dolby Digital or the stunning DTS 7.1 mix, Infamous 2 is going to amaze you with some awesome sound effects, great music, subtle environmental noises, and quality voice acting. Cole is now being voiced by a new actor, but unless you just played the original you won’t even know, and this new guy does a great job. Zeke, Nix, Kuo, and the evil Bertrand all add immensely to the immersion and storytelling. I highly recommend listening to all the idle chatter from the population of Mew Marais. There are some real audio gems just waiting to be discovered if you listen close enough.
Don’t let our final score fool you. Infamous 2 is clearly a major improvement over the original even if it is scoring lower. It’s like adjusting for inflation. With a bigger story, larger city, more engaging characters, and seemingly endless gameplay opportunity thanks to the user–generated content, Infamous 2 sets the bar extremely high for third-person action games in 2011 and is a clear contender for a Game of the Year nomination. Combined with the first, the Infamous saga is some of the best action gaming you can experience, and it’s exclusive to the PS3.