The original inFAMOUS 2 was one of the PS3’s best games when it was released two years ago, and was one of my initial must-haves when I first bought the system. It was technically a very good game - it looked fantastic, had a pretty epic storyline, gave you the choice to be good or evil with various rewards and consequences for each, was well-acted, animated, and controlled wonderfully. However, it was greatly held back by a frustrating level of difficulty caused by cheap sniper fire. Sucker Punch gave you an awesome city to explore on-foot, but made it a chore to do so due to the snipers.
inFAMOUS 2 is a rare sequel that is truly better than the original. This is the game I wanted the first one to be. It’s got the high-stakes storyline, plus the controls are tighter, and the game as a whole just feels bigger. Part of that is due to how it begins - with the most memorable opening sequence since God of War II’s giant gold statue battle. Only here, instead of facing a statue, you’re facing a screen-filling living volcano called the Beast who is out to destroy you, and the world. Mainly you though - conquering the planet seems to be a means to an end for your destruction.
Aside from a brief sequence to show you the basics, you’re instantly thrown into a battle with the Beast. It’s just versus this skyscraper-sized behemoth, and all you can do to defend yourself is shoot him from a behind-the-back perspective ala Space Harrier, and fight for survival every step of the way. After damaging enough to make him retreat, you and Zeke flee to the New Orleans-esque New Morais, and find that the newly-enraged Beast’s path of destruction now includes wiping Empire City off the map. It’s quite the epic start, and the fact that Empire City is destroyed means that unlike Crackdown 2, you won’t have to worry about the sequel feeling like a reskinned version of the original game.
The world of New Morais feels a lot different than Empire City. Whereas the former was filled with the screams of fallen citizens, this one is more populated by street performers, mimes, and sax players. There’s also an entire section of the map that is partially underwater called Floodtown that will really test your jumping skills. However, while the setting is different, the gameplay is largely the same. You’ll still use Cole’s parkour skills to leap up and around buildings to find blast shards to increase your possible power usage, upgrade your powers, and defeat as many enemies (or civilians) as you want. This isn’t an altogether bad thing - Sucker Punch didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken before, and they did fix the few parts that were.
Not only did they take away the snipers, but they also finally gave you a mid-range weapon. Now, instead of having to just use lightning and fisticuffs, you can now use a giant electrified tuning fork called the Amp to hack and slash your way to victory. This may seem like a minor change, but it really does give you a lot more options than the original because of its range. For short range, you only had hand-to-hand melee attacks and long range attacks were lightning-based - now you’ve got a good mid-range weapon that does a lot of damage very quickly and allows you to strike faster than your opponent without taking a chance of getting too close. Being able to always glide in the air and grind on power lines instead of having to wait to upgrade them like in the original is another small change that makes a big difference. In this case, it instantly speeds up the pace of the game, and prevents going around town from seeming like a chore to series newcomers used to riding in cars to get where they want to go in a sandbox game.
At their very core, inFAMOUS’s stories are morality tales. Evildoers can try and take over the world for their own selfish desires, but may find that their myopic focus alienates them from those they care about the most. Choose to be good, and you’ll find that while many things go your way, nothing is ever quite as it seems, and you’ll wind up having to make truly difficult decisions as the game plays out. To aid you in your decision making, you’ll be given a pair of sidekicks - Nix, who tends to represent the dark and evil side, and Kuo, who is the angel on your shoulder telling you which mission to tackle for the greater good. Each side makes a compelling case for their viewpoint. Also, while the storyline takes some really dark turns, there is some comedy thrown in - like a jab at the Xbox 360’s RROD, and some nods to LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted, along with a lot of funny interplay between Zeke and Cole.
inFAMOUS 2 doesn’t look a whole lot different from the first game. Character models are more detailed, as are the environments. This isn’t a bad thing though, as the graphics were solid then, and are decent now. They won’t knock you dead, but there also isn’t any slowdown despite a lot happening on-screen. The environments look fantastic, with well-detailed buildings, parks, and tons of neon signs that add a lot of realism to the game’s world. The partially underwater Floodtown section is one of the most memorable locales in the game, and gives you a striking visual example of the damage the Beast has caused to the world around you. The sky is also full of ominous shades of dark blue and red that strike some fear into you, but are also strangely beautiful. Character animation, like the original, is fluid, and hit detection is remarkably accurate given that you can climb up and latch onto pretty much everything in the environment.
The original inFAMOUS had fantastic voice acting, and that trend continues here. While Cole’s role was recast, the new actor does a good job with it and the more gruff voice fits the slightly older, more jaded Cole. Like the original, Zeke is a great sidekick, while Bertrand sounds exactly like the sleazy propaganda monger that he is, with a small amount of Southern huckster thrown in for good measure. The new characters of Nix and Kuo are performed well, and most importantly, since they act as Cole’s temptresses of good and evil - have credibility. Each one has a tragic story that has made them who they are, which comes out in their voices. The soundtrack is also instantly memorable, and the music ranges from joyful sax and peaceful violin orchestrations, to people banging on pots in the street, to some of the creepiest fiddle music you can imagine. Of course, during big boss battles, expect some faster-paced music to get your blood pumping.
Beyond the obvious replay value that comes from replaying the game on the side of either good or evil, inFAMOUS 2 brings with it a potentially endless supply of missions thanks to the new User Generated Content feature that allows players to craft their own missions. You can make them objective-based like you’d find in the game, or just have ring races or even tricky platforming sections. Templates for each are provided, which you can tinker with to make your own missions, or you can start from scratch using any of the game’s available characters. As someone who is not very good at making levels in the LBP games, which are tailor-made for that purpose, I was a bit worried about this mode, but it wasn’t too hard to use it and change up one of the template areas and add my own tweaks to it. Some more in-game documentation and help would be nice though.
inFAMOUS 2 isn’t perfect, but it has fewer rough edges than the original. The camera is this game’s only serious problem, and it’s never enough of one to drive you away from the game. The new UGC system has the potential to be tremendous, even if player-created mission selection is a bit sparse now. The game controls like a dream, has some impressive visuals and voice work, and some intense music. If you loved the first game, snatch this up ASAP. If you’re like me and liked it, but didn’t love it, still give this one a shot because the sequel fixed the original’s problems.