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inFAMOUS 2 Review

Review; Jul. 29, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Kyle James Hovanec
Saving the World is Never Done

It's been said that video games have only the first few minutes to grab the player's attention before it's lost and he ends up not buying into the game or the experience. Games like God of War and Half Life have been known for offering a way to hook the player right off the bat. Whether it's through an impressive boss fight or just a glimpse into the world you'll be playing for the next few hours, these hooks grab your attention and let you know that -- at least for the next few hours -- you're at the mercy of the game, and you're going to have a hell of a time.

inFAMOUS 2 Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

inFAMOUS 2 has one of these hooks, and for players who have experienced the first game, this serves them more than anyone else. The beginning spends little time getting you used to controls and movement through the environment. Instead, your combat skills are immediately tested against a foe so powerful and so destructive the entire focus of inFAMOUS 2 is becoming strong enough to face him again. I don't want to spoil it, but I do want to emphasize your foe is powerful -- it can level entire cities with the force of a thermonuclear blast.

Once again, you're put into the role of Cole MacGrath who, after being defeated by the game's first major encounter, is forced to relocate to the game's new city: the New Orleans-inspired New Maris. With his best friend Zeke and NSA agent Lucy Quo, MacGrath must adjust to living in this new city and find one of Quo's contacts, Dr. Wolfe, who helped design the Ray Sphere -- and who is also the key to becoming more powerful through the course of the game.

Of course, none of this is easily accomplished as MacGrath faces major opposition from wealthy industrialist Joesph Bertrand III, who, thanks to his public speaking skills and powers of persuasion, has commandeered an entire army to combat people just like MacGrath -- people with extraordinary abilities.

If it seems like I'm focusing on the story too much, it's only because the game does such a good job of drawing attention to it. It's a good story, and compared to the recent game crop for 2011, it's easily one of the most well-written. It combines the traditional comic book narrative about being an outcast, learning to control your powers, and the constant back-and-forth of being the hero or anti-hero. Throughout, I felt compelled to push forward, desperately wanting to see the next twist in the plot and new characters. With a ticking doomsday clock counting down until the fateful encounter, to the multiple endings that have a very significant impact on the game's lore and possible sequel, the story was the game's strongest aspect.

Besides, the game itself is fun to play. Just like the first title, your selection of powers becomes more significant as you progress and complete different tasks. Almost like mini challenges, performing different feats while exploring the world or in combat will unlock new combat and transportation abilities. By the end of the game, your selection of super powers is absolutely stunning in regard to how much damage they cause. To further bring this point home, the abilities that MacGrath has earned from the first inFAMOUS are only considered basic moves in the sequel. Soon, you'll be summoning electricity-laced tornadoes and calling down lightning to refill your powers.

In addition to your electricity-based powers, you have the option of adding ice or fire attacks to your arsenal based on decisions made during the game. Both of these powers reflect who you choose to partner with: Kuo who, after being exposed to an unfortunate accident, becomes a female version of the X-Men's Ice Man; or the rogue-like Nix whose eccentric personality reflects her ability to bend and control fire at her will. Both powers are radically different from each other and provide a huge incentive to go through the game a second time to test out other, previously locked abilities. Along with your super powers, melee combat has been introduced through the Amp. Looking like a Tesla coil on top of a riot stick, the Amp is your weapon of choice for melee encounters. The more your swings connect with the enemies, the more your meter rises. When full, a sort of finishing move is unlocked and provides a fast and efficient way to take down enemies. The Amp was a welcome addition to the super powers and a tool I used whenever I was cornered.

inFAMOUS 2

The world of inFAMOUS 2 is very similar to the first game's Empire City -- it's a city in ruins. Buildings crumble, the sick and wounded crowd the streets, and armed guards (and later, mutated foes) roam the streets looking to cause trouble. The environment allows plenty of opportunity to climb and explore your surroundings and includes the hidden items from the first game, including the dead drops (this time attached to flying pigeons) and hidden blast shards.

The game is set in the open world, but missions are activated by visiting their respective position on the map. Like the first game, there are story missions, side missions, karma missions (good or evil karma is rewarded depending on which mission you choose), and new to inFAMOUS 2, user created missions. These are created by both players and developers from Sucker Punch and can vary from race missions to taking part in a tall tale stirred up by Zeke. Completing the missions allows you to rate them and recommend them to other players. You can even create your own missions complete with enemies, NPCs, and dialog choices (although it's not spoken but all in text). It's not as easy to create and manipulate compared to other titles such as Little Big Planet or the Forge mode from Halo Reach, but it is perfectly serviceable, and after a few minutes, it's no major issue in assembling a mission and sharing it with the world.

If there is anywhere the game falters, it's in its characters. While the story itself is fascinating and compelling, the characters -- with the exception of Zeke -- are flat, one-dimensional, and stereotypical. MacGrath is the average reluctant hero whose range of emotional depth involves his interest in getting more powerful. Kuo and Nix are your typical angel-and-devil-on-the-shoulder characters whose constant praise or scolding depending on your actions in the game are almost as obvious as their color schemes. Kuo is blue, and Nix is red -- the comparisons are anything but subtle and become almost laughable when faced with some moral decisions.

This brings up my second complaint: the moral system in inFAMOUS 2 is ineffective and does nothing to make me regret any decisions or actions made during the game. NPCs react differently, and the powers available to you change, but beyond that, all the choices besides the ending ones are strictly black and white. More subtle choices with less pronounced outcomes would have a much greater effect at causing the player to wonder if his actions have truly helped or hindered the city and its people. Morality is rarely so black and white, and a game that could accurately show this would result in an even more engaging experience and drive home the consequences of being in power and taking the law into your own hands. Sadly, this is not a game that does that.

inFAMOUS 2 has flaws, but it's an otherwise excellent and very playable game. The entire time I played I was never bored nor was I ever feeling fatigued over the story. I was compelled to keep playing and constantly racing to see the next plot development. Sucker Punch has done a fantastic job on creating a new super hero lore while at the same time expanding an open world series that is fun to explore. With two excellent inFAMOUS titles out now, I simply cannot wait to see where the franchise heads next.

Comments

Review Score
8.9

Teen

Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

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