The lights are on
With Infamous: Second Son coming our way on the PS4 later this year, there’s no better time to take a look back at the series’s previous outing of Infamous 2 and its last time with Cole McGrath. The first Infamous was one of gaming’s finest tributes to superheroes of the last few years and for the most part, its sequel is nearly as good. Finishing my second play-through with it recently, I’ll recall Infamous 2 as a mixed, yet enjoyable experience that nevertheless reminded me why I still love the open-world genre of superhero games.
Only a month after the events of the Empire City disaster and Kessler’s failed plot, Cole McGrath has prepared himself to fight the Beast alongside Zeke and agent Kuo. The Beast easily proves to be more than a match for Cole’s powers and after it levels Empire City, Cole and gang flee to the southern burg of New Marais to enlist the aid of Dr. Sebastian Wolfe in unlocking more of Cole’s hidden powers. There, they find it ruled by the iron fisted dictator of Bertrand III, a militia leader bent on destroying all human conduits. Fighting both Bertrand’s militia and the local mutant population, Cole fights against the clock to develop the powers he needs to defeat the Beast once and for all.
Transitioning from the gritty, New York style streets of Empire City to the swamp towns and southern glitz of Louisiana, Infamous 2’s new town of New Marais is just as fun to explore and wreak havoc in. Clearly taking some cues from New Orleans, New Marais features a gorgeous amount of detail, from the glitz and glamor of its Mardi Gras-like districts right down to its musty swamps and slums. Complete with a large and reactive populace, the city feels lived in and citizens’ activities will provide plenty of opportunities for the player interaction. While it’s environment doesn’t seem to be as reactive to players’ choices as in the previous game, virtually everything in New Marais is climbable. You’ll be able to launch yourself to incredible heights and the great views you’ll see rival that of Assassin’s Creed. Plenty of the town’s cars and verandas are also destructible to boot. Like Empire City, there are loads of side missions and collectibles in the form of blast shards to collect, and combined with the city’s impressive size, there are at least another couple of worthwhile hours to add to your game experience. Lastly, the city plays host to some truly spectacular boss battles with New Marais’s supply of skyscraper-sized monsters.
Infamous would still be nothing without its trademark superhero story-telling, and Infamous 2 makes some strides with that talent, albeit with some steps down from its predecessor. The first Infamous focused itself on a kind of traditional, comic book tale with its regard to Cole’s journey into becoming a bonafide superhero. Infamous 2, by contrast, generally takes a step back from Cole’s part of the story to rely more on the game’s action. The game’s supporting characters are further strained, having a lot less screen-time then I appreciated. Nevertheless, Infamous 2 boasts two engaging endings thanks to its continuation of the series’s morality system. As part of the Infamous 2‘s “Karma,” players can conduct any number of choice-making during missions, having Cole follow either his good or evil sides. Decisions like whether to heal an injured civilian or simply toss them into a lake manages to make the overall plot feel generally worthwhile, and the game is better for it. The final act’s showdown with the Beat is the biggest highlight of the game and its memorable last moments will has me wondering about the status of Cole’s part in the series’s future.
The greatest focus of Cole’s time in New Marais by far is on his new powers. This time around, Cole has access to a variety of combat options beyond just electric attacks. Based upon Cole’s Karma status, players can gain new powers from his allies in the story, including fire, ice, and unleashing crippling electric tornadoes. The fact that your powers key into your choice-making makes them seem all the more rewarding and their gentler or more brutal nature connects you with Cole's in-story attitude. All of them feel even more powerful than Infamous 1’s abilities and are great fun to use, plus they come in mighty handy for the game’s bigger crowds of enemies you’ll fight. Unfortunately, their rapid-fire showing of seizure-inducing color can slow down the frame rate and often makes the screen so hectic you’ll occasionally be struggling to see what’s going on.
Infamous 2‘s enhanced melee combat is just as big of an addition to the series with its own shares of highs and lows. Equipped with Zeke’s new “amp” device, Cole can now smack enemies in much closer quarters than before and charge up a number of diverse finishing moves. Though they get quite scripted after a while, seeing them onscreen is enjoyable to see and delivering them feels satisfying. In particularly hectic battles, however, the camera can get pretty shaky and disorienting, a thorn in the side of an otherwise nice combat system.
Level Creation System:
The most unfortunate of Infamous 2’s features is its unique inclusion of its user-generated content, in which players can create and share their own levels. Each level created can be accessed on-line through the PSN and played by anyone with the game. Although there are a lot of options available to players to design their level’s setting, mix and match in-level objects, and choose a supply of in-game enemies to fight, none of it ever felt very fun. The menu selection is quite clunky and the options available are not quite interesting enough to spend that long tinkering with. Short of being included in getting a few trophies, the level creation isn’t a very worthwhile and at best, it only points to how much more appealing the single-player experience of Infamous is.
Despite being riddled with a few annoyances, these were all relatively minor to my experience with the adventure that Infamous 2 offered. It may be clear that things like story and characters suffer from the game’s action focus, but with so much to explore and such great powers to wield, you won’t really care about what you’re doing due to how much fun it is. With so many superheroes being limited to comics or the silver screen, it’s still refreshing to see such an original and entertaining story like Infamous continue to thrive in the gaming world and I sincerely hope that Second Son is everything that Sony’s press conference teased it will be.
It' is a really fun game. Nice review.