Let’s be perfectly honest, who hasn’t dreamed of being some sort of superhero at some time or another? I think that we all have; everyone has tied a towel or blanket around their neck like a cape and take off running, just to feel the wind hit your face and blow the cape into the air, at some point in their childhood. For some reason I cannot explain, there is an inherent draw in every child’s imagination to be “super”. I have been there myself and I am sure may of you have too. It makes sense that a videogame which allows you to do just that, become more than a mere-human and become an actual superhero, would strike a chord with the masses. That happened with Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS back in 2009
Superhero video games are / were nothing new, but inFAMOUS was different of game. Instead of putting the player into the shoes of an already established super-persona such as Spider-Man or Superman, inFAMOUS chronicled the story of an ordinary man who became extraordinary. The game was about more than just having powers but the struggle to understand those powers and to relate to a powerless world around you once you receive that “gift”. The game received praise from both critics and fans alike and has earned a spot as one of the PlayStation 3‘s best titles to date. Considering the success of the first game, the idea of creating a sequel was pretty much a no-brainer. Here we are, nearly 2 years to the date of the first game’s release and inFAMOUS 2 has launched for Sony’s PS3.
There is something “special” to the inFAMOUS formula of a superhero video game. Rather than just hand you a set of powers and set you free in a world to do as you will without repercussions, the game added in not only the struggle(s) to develop your powers but also the moral and personal dilemmas that stemmed from their usage. Sure, you could wipe out that legion of enemies marching your way down the street, but what about the bystanders and the collateral damage that you would likely cause? Not only did such decisions have an impact on your present situation(s), they also impacted the future in your game. You had to live with your decisions and so did everyone around you. inFAMOUS 2 takes everything that made the first game great and refines it to an almost perfect formula. If it wasn’t broke, Sucker Punch did try to fix it and if there were issues or complaints, they did their best to address every one of them.
I need to emphasize the benefit of having played the original game when it comes to starting this new adventure. The experience of the original inFAMOUS is important for a number of reasons. First off, the storyline of the new game is based heavily on your knowledge of the previous events. The game gives you a short refresher course at the start but there are many, many gaps that are glossed over. Sure, it explains that you have received your powers from a horrible accident and that you confronted a man named Kessler and took him down to save the city. What it doesn’t tell you is the fine details of the first game’s excellent story which includes the fact that YOu are really Kessler and have gone back in time to prepare you for what is to come. inFAMOUS 2 also allows you to continue your save from the first game when you start a new adventure in 2. Choosing to import your original save opens up a slew of bonuses and features for players including additional perks and missions that aren’t not present in “fresh” games. The perks and missions are all based on the trophies that you collected in the original game; certain trophies will trigger different bonuses such as increased starting experience and power points as well as the availability of particular side missions throughout the game. It doesn’t ruin the experience if you don’t have a save to import but having one definitely adds some benefit(s) to the game.
inFAMOUS 2 picks up shortly after the end of the original. Cole has defeated Kessler and must prepare for the arrival of the “Beast”, which he was warned about. In the interim Cole is introduced to a government agent who goes by the name of Kuo. She is from the same agency which recently attempted to hunt Cole down but is now here to help him prepare for the Beast. As soon as you take control of Cole you will be facing off against the Beast and will soon learn that as powerful as you are, it just isn’t enough to take down the monstrosity that is coming for you. In order to further refine his abilities and to increase his power, Cole and his crew, consisting of Kuo and your best friend, Zeke, will head down south to New Marais. Unfortunately, New Marais has its own set of problems that Cole and company with have to deal with.
Returning players will notice almost immediately that the game feels and plays just like the original. The city of New Marais is your playground. You can go anywhere you want, scale any and every building or structure, and investigate every crack and crevice of the Southern city. In a move that is rare to sequels, Sucker Punch doesn’t take away any of the powers that you obtained in the first game... well almost. Cole doesn’t have to re-learn everything that made him a bad-ass before, he can shoot lightning, fly through the air, and throw electric grenades at will from the start. The only thing missing from his report-aire and the game as a whole is the ability to absorb electricity as you glide along power lines. I am not sure why this ability was taking out and I definitely missed it throughout this adventure.
While Cole may start off with a full arsenal of powers, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have anything to work for this time around. This time around you will be working towards refinements and variations of your powers. Instead of the standard grenade, you can work your way up through sticky grenades and ice grenades; the same advancements can be found in your other powers as well. Sucker Punch did a great job of taking Cole’s template of powers and using them as groundwork to build upon. These powers aren’t just handed to you along your adventure though, at least not all of them. Players will have to purchase their upgrades by spending the experience points earned from completing missions and defeating enemies. Earning the experience points is just half of the battle though as you have to unlock the abilities before you can purchase them as well. Most of the new powers will require players to complete a variety of stunts before you can access them. This gives players something to work towards and helps you to experience the game with approaches that may not have thought of previously. Some require you to sneak up on and take out enemies without them noticing you or perhaps knocking down ten bad guys from a distance with head shots. I really like this aspect because it gives you incentive to possibly alter the way you play the game.
While you work on unlocking the new powers, you will notice that Cole has a new “element” to your power set / weapon to focus on called the amp. The amp is basically a portable lightning rod that was crafted by Cole’s best friend Zeke. The new weapon brings with it a new focus on hand to hand combat in the game. While the first game featured the ability to go head to head with your enemies using your fists, the Amp brings with it new features such as branching combinations and finishing maneuvers. As you evolve and grow in the game, from a “power” perspective, you will see benefits and bonuses that stem from getting up close and personal and on more than one occasion, these abilities saved me when I was on the brink of death.
The core gameplay focus of the game remains the same as it focuses on moral decisions and balancing the pros and cons of each of your actions. Everything that you do in the game has a consequence. Who you help, how you help them, and who you align yourself with will ultimately decide the path that lays itself out before you. inFAMOUS 2 is filled with a variety of missions, some are required though most of them will be laid out as optional tasks that you can use to prolong your adventure and to give yourself more experience. You have to think when you take on a task or mission though as it can have either a positive or negative effect on your “karma”, which is what the game uses to judge you as good or evil. It is up to you to decide on which direction you will drive your karma but you should know that each end of the scale has its own benefits and detriments. Depending on where you rank on the karma scale, the world around you will also react accordingly. Early in the game, you will roam around New Marais seemingly unnoticed; bystanders ignore you and pay you absolutely no attention, that is unless you use your powers in front of them. As you gain a reputation though, be it good or bad, the will react accordingly. When you are a bad guy, the general public will run at the sight of you and you will be assaulted with verbal abuse by the braver folks. As a good guy however, people will begin taking pictures of you with their cellular phones and crowds will begin forming behind you.
This is part of the charm of inFAMOUS 2‘s visual presentation. The environment is literally alive. You really get the feeling of existing in this in-game world and the world will continue to turn during your time within it. This detail is only enhanced by the incredible lengths that Sucker Punch has gone to bring it to life. The city is massive and detailed; you will find all of the various districts and areas throughout the adventure that you would expect to find in a real world, urban setting. There are ghettos, shopping districts, parks, plazas, industrial areas, and even multiple religious complexes. Each one is alive and moving with its own inhabitants and subculture with workers in the industrial areas and whatnot. It also helps to strengthen the world that you can interact with nearly everything. Buildings can be destroyed, environmental objects such as cars and signage can be thrown about and you leave your mark on just about everything that you touch.The game does a phenomenal job of not only presenting you with this world but also sucking you into it and making you want to stay and be a part of it.
The overall adventure is much longer this time around than before, and that isn’t even counting the numerous, optional side missions available to you throughout the game. The base adventure itself, just focusing on the required missions will run you anywhere between 6-8 hours but once you start embarking on the optional adventures the time begins to just fly by. I easily put close to 16 hours into my first play through and according to the game’s tracker, upon completion I had only touched about 50% of the optional and additional things in the game. In addition to optional missions, players will also see a return of both the collectible blast shards and “dead drops” that were experienced in the first game. Once again, both are optional but are their to extend and strengthen your experience. The dead drops in particular are useful in giving you a ton of background information on the story of the game. They aren’t stationary as they were in the last game though as now they have been attached to carrier pidgeons which you must chase down across the various rooftops of New Marais.
There is a ton to do in this game and even more when you dip your toes into Sucker Punch’s new User Generated Content system. Players are now able to create their own missions using an extremely robust mission editor that lays over top of the main game. Unless you choose to disable it in the options menu, the UGC system is “always on” Throughout your adventure you will encounter missions marked with a green marker which indicates that it is a UGC mission. Players can approach these missions and participate at any time and even remix and alter them to make them their own. The options are practically endless however I found the system to be a little intimidating and not exactly user friendly at first. There are a ton of options and aside from giving you a variety of templates to base your mission(s) off of, little is done to explain to you just how the system works and what you can do with it. Players will need to take things into their own hands and set out to learn about the creation system in order to get the most out of it and I truly hope that they do. I am thankful that I did and found that it adds nearly endless “replayability” to the game but I can imagine that the lack of tutorials will turn many users away.
inFAMOUS 2 is the kind of game that just begs to be played again and again. I have already embarked on my second play through of the game in an attempt to see things from the other (bad) side and am finding it to be an almost completely different experience. The game is spectacular from top to bottom; from the tight controls to the engaging story and the incredible visual presentation, Sucker Punch has knocked it out of the park. The gritty comic book style translates well and does an excellent job of sucking you into the story and never letting you go. inFAMOUS 2 is a no-brainer for anyone who owns a PlayStation 3.