inFamous 2 Review

By Colin Tan on June 18, 2011

The Electric Man. The Demon of Empire City. Cole MacGrath is known by many names depending on the decisions players made throughout the original inFamous. Good or bad, inFamous was a fairly open affair with different paths and events triggered based on Cole's Karma. Even his powers manifested in a variety of ways. The basic premise of the sequel is essentially the same, but at the same time miles ahead of the original in regards to just about every aspect, from powers to traversal, presentation and more.

Coming from someone that wasn't necessarily a fan of the original game, inFamous 2 does a whole lot more to impress. Where the first had the concept nicely fleshed out, the execution wasn't the best. Bugs left, right and centre; a super-powered character that didn't feel all that powerful; a huge open-world that had little charm; the list goes on. The experience simply did not feel rewarding.

Then comes the sequel, inFamous 2, which does everything the first set out to do right and proper, and even more. You're back in the shoes of Cole MacGrath as he hits up New Marais in order to soup up his already souped-up Conduit powers. The Beast is coming and he needs to be ready for when it strikes. Coming to his aid is Special Agent Lucy Kuo from New Marais, she'll be helping you throughout most of the game. To balance things out, there's Nix, New Marais' Swamp Witch. It's not too far off to describe the two ladies as Cole's shoulder angel/devil. Saying anymore will just ruin the fun, you're going to have to play this game to discover the twists and turns it has in store for you. Long-story-short, it's an electrifying affair well worth checking out.

inFamous 2 - Cole MacGrath

As a side note, no longer do you have to locate satellite uplinks to collect dead drops. Intsead, you get to shock carrier pigeons out of the air! That's just awesome. Unlike the original game, Cole will also be facing off with a lot more massive bosses. These occurrences aren't scripted either, at least not all of them, and can happen at random. Be warned, a lot of elements in the game are physics-based, so if a car happens to land on top of Cole, it's lights out and game over for the Electric Man.

The boys and girls at Sucker Punch were wise to leave Cole's core powers alone. Unlike other games, you don't have to worry about some magical, convenient plot twist that takes away all of Cole's awesome powers. That said, his Karma-based powers are gone, but abilities like the Static Thrusters, Shock Grenades and Induction Grind are all there. Unfortunately, Cole won't have the ability to re-energize while grinding across power lines "“ which was one of the better abilities in the original game, but I digress. He's strong from the outset and he's only going to get stronger.

Like the first game, players can unlock new powers based on Cole's Karma. Depending on which side you choose to swing, Cole will have access to new and different powers unique to each Karma. What's new to the sequel are ability trees. While they aren't that big, they offer more than enough variety. New sub-abilities can be unlocked by performing various stunts. And unlike the original, you aren't stuck with a new ability the moment you upgrade "“ in fact, the game lets players mix and match with ease to suit their play-styles. All you have to do is hit Left on the D-pad to bring up the Quick Abilities menu to swap between each different power. Hitting Right will bring up the main abilities menu where you can preview and purchase new powers.

inFamous 2 - Frozen solid

Each core power has its own set of sub-abilities. Bolt powers are divided into Alpha Bolt, Artillery Bolt, Pincer Bolt, et cetera. Same with Blast, Grenades and Rocket powers. Each power has their own purpose and they'll diversify even further based on Cole's Karma. So you'll get even more powerful abilities like Freeze Rocket or Firebird Strike depending on which one of the new Conduits, Kuo and Nix, you team up with. In any case, the ability to swap between all of these new powers is a most welcome one. Mixing things up keeps the experience fresh, but at the same time it also supports whatever play-style players enjoy.In addition to Cole's core powers, he has plenty of active abilities working in the background, which can also be unlocked by performing stunts and upgraded with experience points. These range between Melee Finishers, Ultras, Drains and whatnot, and are always equipped, hence Active Powers.

Some of the really wicked, new powers make Cole feel like the ultimate badass. While he can still be hurt, it just doesn't feel as frustrating now that he can dole out some serious crowd control damage. Powers like Freeze Rocket are the perfect tool for stopping crowds of enemies in their tracks. Even the simple ones like Double Grenade makes life a whole lot easier for Cole. Exploding once on the ground and immediately tossing a second explosive up into the air, much like a Bouncing Betty, ensures that enemies stay down for good.

Cole's Ionic powers won't make a return until later in the game. Regardless, these powers are over-the-top powerful and are just as diversified as his core powers. Aside from Ionic Storm, there's also Ionic Freeze and Ionic Drain to toy around with. The former freezes every enemy within the vicinity while the latter drains the life out of them "“ it's also worth mentioning that it isn't exclusive to enemy units or NPCs, it'll drain just about anything with power, including electronic machinery. To use his Ionic abilities, Cole will have to store Rey Field Energy found on various enemies' bodies. You can upgrade the amount of Rey Field Energy that can be stored the further you progress through the game. It's one of Cole's active abilities.

inFamous 2 - The dynamic duo

The best thing about Cole's new powers is that it makes traversal a whole lot less frustrating. While Induction Grind and Static Thrusters made life somewhat easier in the first game, it was still a pain in the ass getting from one point to the other. inFamous 2 fixes all of that by upgrading these powers while, at the same time, adding even more. The Improved Static Thrusters will boost Cole up into the air as well as send him flying towards your desired destination. Combine that with Ice Launch and you have the perfect way to get around.

What's better, Lightning Tether will have Cole swing an electric rope to any surface, reeling him in towards it. Think of it as Bionic Commando's robotic arm or Spider-man's web-swinging abilities. Depending on whether you have the Hero Edition of the game, Cole will also have access to Lightning Hook, which is essentially the same as Lightning Tether, save for the fact that it acts like a fishing line for enemies, reeling them in for the kill.As far as execution goes, the improvement over the first game is massive. Not only from a mechanical standpoint, as clearly pointed out in the many paragraphs before this, but from a presentation standpoint as well. Despite being an open, sandbox game, Sucker Punch have not neglected the game's narrative. Cutscenes are a mix between in-game cuts and comic-book-style cutscenes. Even the combat looks a lot more cinematic with slow-mo cuts on Finisher moves. The animation is improved a lot thanks to motion-capture and the voice acting is top-notch. Fans may be skeptical over Cole's new voice, but it is definitely an improvement over the original.

Cole and the characters around him feel a lot more human. Ironic, but true. Even Zeke isn't as annoying as he was in the original game. He's trying his hardest to get back into Cole's good graces and it shows. It's almost touching, really. The Karma choices that Cole has to make aren't as black and white either as various elements will play into the deciding factor, like injuring civilians, suppressing the cops and whatnot.

inFamous 2 - Blowing shit up

On top of the main game, Sucker Punch have also thrown together a User-Generated Content portion that is integrated quite naturally into the game. UGC missions are scattered throughout New Marais like main story and side missions. These UGC missions are demarcated with green markers and can be played anytime throughout the game. Think of them as instances in an MMO, except this time it's in a sandbox adventure. It's not inaccurate to say that these UGC missions extend the already long life of inFamous 2.

Players can also create their own UGC missions. It's a relatively simple affair and there are a ton of ready-made templates for you to tinker around with. You can create your very own scenarios from scratch as well, then upload them for the community to play. It would've been nice to include a play-and-record feature like Halo's Forge suite, or integrated tutorials at the very least since the game does nothing to help out new users, instantly throwing them a box of editing tools to use. Sucker Punch does have a dedicated UGC YouTube channel which you can check out through the link. Again, it would've been nice to integrate that into the game. In any case, it's a lot like LittleBigPlanet in that there is a lot of trial-and-error involved. You'll have to play-test your missions over and over again in order to make sure you're getting things right.

Final Thoughts

From Cole's new powers to the game's presentation, just about every aspect of inFamous 2 is ten steps up from the original game. It's an overall fun and engaging experience, but the massive amount of things that you can do in the game just makes it that much better. Upgrading your powers, then mixing and matching to suit your play-style, it's all very intuitive. The narrative is engaging and the presentation is very cinematic. The characters are very human in the way they portray themselves, despite having super powers. The UGC content and just the mere scope of it is mind-boggling. If you're a creative, expect to spend hours on end making new scenarios for the community. If not, players can still expect a whole ton of replay-ability from said creatives. Like LittleBigPlanet, there's just about no end to the UGC. I take my hats off to Sucker Punch and that's saying a lot, considering I was not a fan of the original inFamous. inFamous 2 simply takes all of that and, like Cole, absorbs multiple Blast Cores, improving what's already there while adding a whole lot more to the mix.

All new and improved, not to mention useful, powers, on top of existing ones.
Great presentation and execution. It's like a living comic book.
User-generated content breathes new life into the main game.
Little to no explanation of how the UGC tool set works.
No community-feature integration like play-recording or YouTube uploading.
Instant-death in the deep end of any lake or water body.
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