Infamous 2 Review
In Infamous’ final moments, we learned that Cole MacGrath was destined to save humanity from a powerful being known as “The Beast.” This message was sent from a future version of Cole, who had gone back in time to shape his younger self into an instrument of destruction capable of stopping the threat. This plan didn’t work for John Connor or the robots in the Terminator movies, and to no surprise, it doesn’t work here. When the Beast arrives in the first few seconds of Infamous 2, Cole wastes no time trying to fulfill his destiny.
Their battle consists of aerial combat, narrow escapes, and massive environmental damage – all beautifully framed to show a towering sense of scale. The Beast stands over 200 feet tall, and the trail he blazes leaves nothing but death and embers where buildings once stood. This scene is reminiscent of the opening battle in God of War III, only with a much different outcome. Cole’s electrifying blasts only seem to anger his foe. Cole is not powerful enough to win this fight. The only hope of stopping the Beast now rests in the hands of Dr. Wolfe, a scientist who believes he can amplify Cole’s powers.
This brilliantly designed opening gives way to an unexpected shift in tone, where a great threat looms over the entire story and uncertainty rests in the mind of all of its major players, Cole included. His act of cowardice doesn’t just give this story’s opening a dark The Empire Strikes Back-style tone, it leads to a dramatic change of setting.
Dr. Wolfe lives in New Marais, Louisiana, which is basically this world’s version of New Orleans. This city has a quaint, old-town feel and an inviting allure. Street performers line the sidewalks of the commerce district, and tourists always seem to have their cell phone cameras activated when you run past them. The beautiful craftsmanship Sucker Punch put into this city makes it a sightseeing marvel. Battles erupt in aboveground graveyards, collectible shards hang precariously on the sides of historic neon-lit buildings, and the forgotten flooded districts and dangerous swamplands lie in the shadows beyond. While New Marais lacks the architectural verticality of Empire City, its wetlands make it a more dangerous place for Cole to navigate, mostly because the protagonist has electricity running through his veins. Staying dry is an added challenge in any mission – a problem often solved by running along the tops of drowned fences or leaping and gliding across vast bodies of water.
Cole’s standing in this world, and the tale that unfolds within it, is once again dictated by player choice. “Good” and “evil” options accompany most missions, and portions of the game and story close off based on Cole’s choices – making it a game you’ll have to play twice if you want to see it all. However, this time around, Cole isn’t as emotionally invested in the plot or choices tied to it. His role is that of an organic Mega Man, powering up as he goes. The “Cole versus the Beast” plot hook isn’t handled well and loses its allure as other confusing narrative threads take shape.
Although this isn’t as gripping of a journey for either Cole or the player, the activities tied to both sides of the moral spectrum hammer home the feeling of being “good” or “evil,” and offer up fitting gameplay variations for each. No matter the side, Cole is capable of tearing apart city blocks. He can summon tornadoes, launch lightning missiles, and for the first time, he’s a force to be reckoned with in close-quarters conflicts. The biggest addition to his move set is melee weapon called the Amp, a giant electrically charged tuning fork used for clubbing enemies in overly stylish ways. The Amp changes the combat landscape and is the perfect counter to enemies designed to get up close and personal. Cole clashes against gun-crazed military forces, mutants with razor-sharp claws, a wide variety of super powered villains, ice titans, burrowing creatures, and on occasion, a creature that looks ripped from the pages of an H.P Lovecraft story. It feels like Sucker Punch shoved 100 comic books’ worth of foes and plot twists into this game.
The overall flow is also disrupted by the machinations of other players who are connected to PSN. Infamous 2 comes packaged with a mission editor that can be accessed from anywhere in the game world. These tools, which are reminiscent of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’s, are easy to use and allow players to do practically anything they want, even break the fabric of reality with magical floating objects. I created a handful of arena battles, complete with miniature stories told through text boxes. All user-created levels reward Cole with the same experience points he earns in the main game, which are used to either buy new powers or upgrade existing ones. The level editor is a great addition to this open world experience. In my time with the game, it produced more lighthearted scenarios than the main game. Even Sucker Punch’s dabbling with the editor provides a wackier tone, such as a mission where Zeke uses Cole to help him impress a lady.
The more I played Infamous 2, the more I found myself disengaged with the story, instead enjoying the experience solely for its amazing open-world superhero fights. The game sacrifices its narrative flow for more fantastic elements. This isn’t a necessarily a bad thing; it just ends up being more about the action and random moments than Cole’s journey.