Status : Good story route cleared (hard).
One of my most anticipated sequels of the year, Infamous 2 released with some pretty big shoes to fill. The original is one of my favorite PS3 games and with some pretty big changes such as the city you play in and the protagonist, Cole Mcgrath’s voice actor being replaced with some other guy. Another cause for concern was the addition of many online features such as the ability to create missions and share them for all other players via the internet. Did Sucker Punch develop a good single player experience, or did the online overhaul take priority and ruin the fun of the original?
To get it out of the way, Cole’s new voice actor is terrible. Ever watch a tv show or cartoon where the token nerd has a weird speech impediment that makes every “S” come out like a “Sh”? Imagine that guy trying to sound like a badass. I think I heard “YESH” enough times to make M. Bison jealous.
Maybe it’s just me, but Cole seems to magnetize to a nearby surface while jumping much more frequently. I died a couple of times just because I’m trying to jump over something and wind up grabbing an unrelated ledge on the way and hanging like a jackass while dying. Also, if you’re as much a fan of the slo-mo death scenes in the first game as I was, you’ll be happy to know that they make a return, funny noises and all!
Damage scaling is also a little on the strange side (at least on hard it was). Sometimes a single rocket or charge attack would be enough to take me out. Other times it would barely make my screen bloody. There is also a lot of platforming to do around water, so unless you’re great at jumping or quick to settle into the controls, expect to die many times during the early parts of the game.
Our new setting takes us from the grand skyscrapers and tall buildings of Empire City to the relatively lower buildings and swamps of New Marais. This would be the perfect game for Bayou Billy to make a cameo and kick some ass with Cole. With the new town comes a new culture and new enemies. Empire City had different sections each controlled by a different group of people each with unique leaders. New Marais is lucky enough to get by without gang violence : there’s one man in control, and his militia runs rampant around most of the town. They’re a bunch of dicks, but this means that we don’t get the ridiculous outfits to go with our baddies. According to the UGC creator, there are 9 outfit variations and 5 different weapon types for any given militia. The militia also employs the much tougher minigunners who take longer to kill.
There are two other “groups” of enemies : the swamp monsters and the ice soldiers. Generally, there is little infighting between militia and ice soldiers, but nobody likes the swamp monsters, which attack anything in their path. Some of the regular enemies are so big and powerful that they get their own boss bar, such as the Ravagers and Titans. Strangely, New Marais comes off as larger and more varied than Empire City, with four distinct sections instead of three.
Now, before we even begin talking about the User-Generated Content system, four other things need to be discussed : Powers, Missions, Combat and Collectables.
If you recall the first Infamous, various upgrades could be purchased with earned XP in order to do cool stuff with your abilities. Some upgrades were karma exclusive, but in the end, you would have souped up abilities that served a variety of purposes. Infamous 2 changes things up by forcing you to equip abilities that can be changed on the fly. There are various bolt types you can shoot, different grenades, blasts, rockets, ionic powers and misc powers. On the bad side, this means that you need a special equip in order to, say, redirect rockets, but admittedly the game would be pretty broken if powers stacked up because of the sheer amount of things they can do (Imagine a streaming, 3-way-splitting, long range, high powered bolt for example). If this were Contra, it might be cool, but I can deal with swapping powers around. Some of the cooler powers augment mobility such as an Ice-launcher that hurtles Cole in the air with a simple R2 press or the lightning tether which grapples any surface and pulls the player toward it so long as they don’t hit obstacles on the way up. Personally, the ice launcher is my favorite because it can be done outside of targeting mode and doesn’t require a surface to attach to (disregard my ice preference if you’re playing the evil route, not sure about those powers yet). Other powers enhance your draining abilities, but one power I will sorely miss unless it’s on the evil side is the one where you charge up electricity while grinding on rails/wires.
Combat is just like in the first game, hold R1 (or up/down in the case of precision shot/ionic power) for the targeting mode from where you can use your attack powers. One welcome addition is a decent melee system. The original had those gigawatt blades that you could download, but I already finished the game by the time those came out. Early in the game you obtain a melee weapon that functions even if the lightning meter is depleted. It does decent damage, and upon upgrade can build up a meter that allows you to perform a finisher/ultra attack which greatly multiplies the damage done and in some cases can hit more than one enemy, if Cole swings wide enough. My only problem is with the camera which always seems to go crazy while going wild on a bunch of swamp monsters. The Ravager is one monster that takes most of its damage for melee attacks, but it kinda sucks when while doing a combo from behind, Cole maneuvers in front of it unintentionally just in time for its big charge attack which sometimes kills in one shot. It’s even worse when the Ravager is a staple of the game’s side missions.
Speaking of missions, the side missions feel a lot less repetitive than the first game. While a great amount of them involve killing certain enemies, they are usually in a different context and end relatively quickly. Gone are those shitty balloon missions, and the treasure hunt missions are a lot less frequent. The focus seems to stay where it should be : the combat. That might get a little repetitive, but it’s not like it’s quick to get enough XP to unlock all the powers. The story missions have a lot of variety, from taking pictures with a camera to testing out earned powers. There was enough going on to keep me interested. Powering up areas no longer takes you into the sewers, but relies on firing a guided shot from generator to generator, running up to it, and protecting it from hordes of enemies while it powers up.
Collectables come again in the form of dead drops and blast shards. With 305 blast shards and 29 dead drops, you would think that finding all the blast shards would be as painful as in the first game. Surprisingly, they glow a bright blue and are pretty easy to spot without pinging the map. The dead drops are the assholes this time around; birds fly around which you shoot down to collect from their fallen body. They appear on your map, but pinging it doesn’t show their general direction like the first game and because they fly around in circles, are a pain in the ass to spot. Compare that to the blast shard sense ability that you unlock with 60 side missions cleared, which points you in the direction of the nearest blast shard. At least I would rather spend my time wandering around to find a bird that I don’t have to ping for than constantly jamming L3 to find one blast shard, so that’s an improvement.
The game’s trophies aren’t that bad either. There’s only 2 related to blast shards, while most of them revolve around accomplishing a variety of things with your powers. With the UGC focus, I was also worried that like Little Big Planet, I might have to make a certain number of levels or friends or earn favorites…. thankfully the UGC trophies are nice and easy : one for making and saving a map and three for playing random maps.
On to the User Generated Content, like any other level creation community ranges from great maps to a bunch of shit. I tried making a map, but I don’t know a thing about programming logic, and my mission never ends even after killing all the enemies. As for other people, the best analogy that I can make is to the old Doom community. In the beginning, everyone wanted to get their hands into map editing in ’94 and ’95, and because of this, the early days were flooded with awkward missions. There was little attention to detail, it was an experimental period that produced a lot of curious content. This is the exact phase user creation is at in Infamous 2. Platforming involves jumping in the sky across floating cars and other structures, while many combat missions lean toward dumping a ridiculous amount of bad guys in an area and getting a mass amount of kills. The only XP that is awarded during these missions is for regular take downs, which makes sense because people would otherwise have an easy time spamming kills to get all the abilities quickly.
For me, the builder doesn’t look like it has a lot of stuff, with a limit on things you can place and object sets that can be loaded at a time. Also, I see no sign of being able to design your own structures, a feature that I hope gets added so the community and quality of maps flourishes over time. Putting in the logic and stuff goes over my head though, so maybe I’m just not doing it right, but if the missions developed by Sucker Punch are any indication, a more programming savvy user might be able to put together some really creative and entertaining stuff. Hopefully it won’t take wading through a bunch of crap to find those gems though. Overall, I like it. It’s an easy system to turn on and off and only adds to the heaps of things that can be done within the main game.
The story can get on the ridiculous side at times, and the big moral decision at the end feels a little abrupt, but I had fun the entire game, so I’ll let it slide. There are instances of really awesome music during some of the battles, and while a lot of the art takes a different approach, it isn’t ugly or anything. I’m surprised, I think I like this game better than the first Infamous, I really recommend checking it out!
Now let me get back to collecting blast shards… only 21 more for the trophy. See you next time where I tackle the critically bombing yet somehow intriguing Duke Nukem Forever!