Platform(s): PlayStation 3
Genre: Action
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment (EU), SCEA (US)
Developer: Sucker Punch
Release Date: June 7, 2011 (US), June 10, 2011 (EU)


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PS3 Review - 'inFAMOUS 2'

by Dustin Chadwell on June 25, 2011 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Cole MacGrath makes his electrifying return in inFAMOUS 2, taking the franchise to all-new heights in an immersive open world action adventure that offers a more visceral, emotional and powerful take on the true superhero experience.

inFAMOUS remains one my favorite titles for the PlayStation 3, and along with the Uncharted series, it's easily one of the best reasons to own the system. It made open-world superhero action fun again (after a couple of stale attempts from other developers with licensed characters from the Marvel and DC universes). inFAMOUS 2, the follow-up by the same developers at Sucker Punch, looks to build upon the success of the original. In that regard, it definitely refines a lot of things from the first game, but this sequel isn't without flaws of its own.

The story for inFAMOUS 2 picks up shortly after the end of inFAMOUS, and you can let inFAMOUS 2 read your inFAMOUS Trophy data, so you can get an early boost to your karma level for good or evil Cole. Depending on the Trophies you unlocked in the first game, you'll get bonus Blast Shards and extra experience points. Also depending on the key decisions you made at different junctures in inFAMOUS, having those unlocked Trophies will make slight changes to dialogue throughout inFAMOUS 2 when you're referencing past events. If you opt to start without carrying over a save file, you'll be good Cole at the outset, but you can quickly make your first split decision to set the tone of the game.

Cole has seen a minor overhaul in inFAMOUS 2 and is voiced by a different actor. He's also a little more vocal than I remember, and he seems to have developed a better sense of humor, which is a little groan-inducing at times. It develops him more as a character, and it is certainly a nice break from the angst-ridden character in the original title. Granted, Cole's actions still haunt him, but he's more willing to pal around with some constant companions than he previously was.

Also returning is Cole's sidekick pal, Zeke, who has been toned down from the original game. He's still a crass, beer-drinking, wise-cracking guy, but he's also dealing with a lot of remorse for some of his actions from the first game. He's often apologetic and is insistent on helping Cole throughout the mission, constantly placing himself in danger. It's a nice change from the first title, and since he doesn't chime in nearly as often as he did in inFAMOUS, he doesn't feel as annoying as he once did.

The game begins in Empire City, where Cole and Zeke are with a new character, Lucy Kuo, who is an NSA agent with ties to the NSA agents from the original game. She's offered to help Cole prepare for his battle against The Beast, the threat that was unveiled in the first game and the current driving force in Cole's life. Things go bad quickly as Cole, Zeke and Kuo prepare to board a boat to New Marais. The Beast pops up early and razes Empire City to the ground.

This kicks off the rest of the game as Cole prepares for The Beast to arrive in New Marais and focuses on retrieving Blast Cores to power a device that can be used against The Beast. As you play and advance the story, you'll get constant updates on The Beast's progress to add a foreboding atmosphere to the game. You're not timed, but it adds some urgency to everything that you do.

New Marais, your superhero playground for this title, is based on elements of New Orleans. At one point, they even reference a large flood that occurred in 2004, and there's a submerged section of the city that's called Flood Town. The opening section of New Marais is typical city fare, with large buildings, parks, shops and a lot of vehicle and foot traffic. As you start to unlock more sections of the city, which is divided into four distinct areas spread across two islands, New Marais evolves into an industrial, factory-based town with large steel girders, pipes, generators and other structures. The variety in the city design from location to location is done pretty well, and since Cole is a natural parkour runner, you'll have plenty of opportunities to climb and leap around different heights.

The climbing mechanic of inFAMOUS 2 hasn't seen a great deal of change from the first game. Cole automatically grabs on to the nearest object, making it almost impossible to accidentally fall while leaping from place to place. If you've played any of the Assassin's Creed titles, you typically need to hold down a button and run toward whatever you want to climb, but in inFAMOUS 2, you simply need to jump toward an object to mount or grasp it.

You'll also be able to scale any building that you come across in the game. There isn't am ability that you need to unlock halfway through that'll allow you to grasp something that's out of your reach at the onset. I appreciate this, and the amount of detail in each building you climb is staggering. I can't imagine how much time and thought was put into modeling some of the smaller details and etchings you'll find on building walls that allow you to progress upward, but I never had a single issue finding a point on a wall to grab and climb.

The simplicity of the climbing mechanic offers up some unique problems, though. Cole is essentially a magnet, so if you jump toward a building, he'll grasp for the nearest object. A few buildings would place different things close together, like a windowsill next to a pipe, which in turn is close to a grate. If I jump toward the pipe and hope to climb up, I would instead focus in on the grate or windowsill. This can be a little frustrating, especially when one of the new elements in the game is essentially an electrified pipe that will rocket Cole upward when he grabs it. Every time you see one of these yellow pipes in the game, you'll immediately want to go for it, since it will cut your climbing time significantly, but I often have trouble getting Cole to grab on to it.

From a visual standpoint, the game looks fantastic and definitely improves upon inFAMOUS. In the sequel, the developers have implemented some new motion capture tech, which in turn helps breathe a little more life into Cole, Zeke and the rest of the cast. During cut scenes, all the characters can emote much more and with improved animation. If you do a direct comparison between the first game and the sequel, you'll notice a huge difference. During gameplay, there's also a visual upgrade; Cole's powers are a little flashier this time around, including new Ultra abilities that allow him to summon a tornado, call down lightning, and two others that are tied to brand-new abilities. These powers end up causing a lot of impressive destruction by tossing cars, people, monsters and other objects into the air.

There are technical hiccups when it comes to the frame rate, which tends to be pretty solid until you get into larger fights later in the game. When you start fighting against two other factions that are also warring against one another and then toss in explosives like rockets and grenades, the game occasionally slows to a crawl. It's a momentary thing, but it's really noticeable and jarring. I haven't seen massive slowdown like this in a while, and while I realize the game is certainly pushing things pretty far at times, it's tough to not be disappointed when it occurs.

Another returning element is the heavy focus on karma, wherein Cole needs to make decisions that'll either make him a hero or be labeled as "infamous" by the city populace. Heroic acts involve not killing civilians, preventing random muggings, binding enemies instead of killing them, and other key story acts that pop up. On the flip side, Cole can opt to use his powers with no regard to the people around him and can even leech the life from innocent bystanders or fallen enemies. These were all familiar elements from the first game, but there are some more optional good and evil choices here.

Still, inFAMOUS 2 suffers from some repetitive mission design, especially when it comes to the side missions. Like the first game, side missions are key for securing different sections of the city. If you complete a side mission, a chunk of the city map becomes safe, nearly eliminating the presence of random enemies, and making it easier for Cole to travel without getting into fights. The missions begin well enough, providing more different things to do and thankfully cutting back on some of the awful escort quests from the original game. However, once you hit the second island, you realize that you start to repeat mission types, with the medic missions being the worst offender. You'll end up retrieving four packages from different locations, battling enemies around the package first, or you'll need to pick up and throw one big package to another location across the map.

Other repetitive missions involve chasing down three enemies before they escape or being called on by a local citizen to jump into a gang war between two of the three enemy factions in the game. Some of the returning missions are also featured pretty heavily, like being tasked with finding a package by receiving a picture clue taken from the perspective of the package location. I would've loved to see more mission types featured, and I would have enjoyed all the missions being unique. Just because the enemies I encounter or the map location is different doesn't mean doing the same quest over and over again is less of a chore.

The enemy selection in inFAMOUS 2 is more varied, providing you with three factions that have a large number of enemy types. Your first major fights are going to be against the militia, a group of basic soldier characters that are aligned with the main villain of the game. Your initial encounters are against militia members who are armed with standard weapons, like hand guns and assault rifles, but they quickly escalate to rocket launchers, riot shields and sniper rifles. They're not particularly difficult to deal with in small numbers, but you can be easily overwhelmed in larger battles. Thankfully, they don't have the pinpoint accuracy of the enemies from the original inFAMOUS, so your ability to dodge-roll will feel useful here. Your visual indicators for damage are also very noticeable, and there are almost always plenty of electrical points that allow you to regain some health. You still need to be smart about the way you approach most fights, but you can definitely take a few hits before needing to retreat and repair.

The other enemy types are ice conduits and monsters. Ice conduits are kidnapped people who were forced to wield ice powers, which have driven them mad and make them constantly mutate. These guys are way more mobile than the militia and can easily keep up with Cole when it comes to fighting vertically. They can leap great distances, so you can't just climb up high and snipe at them below. They also have a little more variation than the militia, so some can run extremely fast or instantly create pillars of ice. Some mutated forms can even chuck ice boulders or create ice spikes from the ground beneath Cole. They're also tougher than the militia, so a lot more damage is needed to take them down.

Finally, you'll encounter the monster group, which mostly consists of melee enemies that give the player reason to check out the improved melee combat. Cole is equipped with a weapon that harnesses his electrical powers, and it's certainly more effective than the simple fistfights from the original. Melee still isn't spot on, though; some of the cinematic flair given to your finishing moves can warp the camera to bad spots. This prevents you from tracking the enemies around you, leading to some cheap shots being landed against Cole. The melee fighting doesn't feel fluid, and it's almost impossible to effectively chain attacks from one enemy to the next because Cole doesn't seem to lock on to nearby enemies very well.

I have one gripe about the combat, and that's due to the introduction of the monsters and ice conduits. These guys are first introduced as boss battles, but they're used as basic enemies later in the game. They're great as a boss fight in that they have a health bar, and you can track damage and make use of the typical tropes of a boss fight, with distinct weak points and a variety of moves. When you encounter them in the midst of larger battles with basic enemy types, fighting these large beasts can be a little taxing. It's not the added challenge, but because it takes so long to kill them. As I neared the end of the story, I groaned each time I got into a battle against a large group of enemies that also featured one or two of these large enemies; I knew I'd be in for a fight that would be a lot longer than I wanted it to be.

With the mission creator tool in inFAMOUS 2, players can create side missions using a variety of preset mission types, or they can build missions from the ground up. While you're playing the game, these missions appear as green spots on your minimap, and you can jump into any that you encounter. They'll reward you with experience points that can be used to purchase your powers in the game, and the sheer number of tools at your disposal for mission creation is pretty impressive. I ran through the Sucker Punch-created missions and some of the player-created missions, and they were pretty fun as optional challenges. There are some rough ones out there, but you can rate each mission you try and filter the missions that appear by a variety of standards. It's a pretty neat addition to the game, and I'm curious to see what some of the more talented users will come up with after a couple of months with the feature.

inFAMOUS 2 has certainly managed to improve upon the original, and that's no small feat considering that the first game was pretty fantastic. This sequel isn't without a few problems of its own, but I don't feel like the issues I've detailed above detracted much from my enjoyment of the game. This is still an excellent follow-up, with a clear improvement on combat, visuals and story mission design. It's also filled with the other elements of the original game that I enjoyed, including all the little collectibles that I spent an obscene number of hours collecting. This is definitely a title that's worth picking up.

Score: 8.0/10

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