June 18, 2011 by Paul Curtin
After playing Rockstar Games’ hit L.A. Noire (review here), which was fun but failed to utilize a true character development system and also failed to take advantage of its open world environment, I was anxious to play Sucker Punch’s Infamous 2. The original Infamous was good at times, but overrated. Sucker Punch themselves have said the original was more of a tech demo that they were experimenting with while learning the true potential of the PlayStation 3, which allowed them to learn from their mistakes and make their best game yet. But is Infamous 2 just another “tech demo” or truly Sucker Punch’s best work yet and the next big open world game?
Infamous 2 starts where the original left off with players once again taking control of the main character, Cole MacGrath — a generic, uninteresting lead character that fails to ever leave a lasting impression despite having unique superpowers. Sucker Punch realized the blandness of Cole early on in the development of the sequel and tried to change up his look to give him more character; unfortunately, the result was a hipster Cole that nobody wanted and left fans of the original furious. Thankfully, Sucker Punch gave in to the complaints and redesigned Cole to look more like he did in the original.
But the problem isn’t how Cole looks normally; I actually like the idea of having a bland character to start as when players begin the game as a neutral Cole (if they don’t choose to import their previous karma) and allowing the good/evil karma decisions Cole makes throughout the game change how he looks physically. The problem is that whether you’re good or evil, Cole basically looks the exact same. Cole’s clothes change colors between red and blue to match his state of karma, but it’s not enough to make him interesting. I played the game evil and was expecting him to turn into a monster, both mentally and somewhat physically, but at the end of my game, it looked like he had been staying out of the sun and just took a break from all the killing to buy some new red clothes at Hot Topic to match his more evil personality.
Without giving anything away spoiler-wise, throughout the game it seemed as if Cole was still somewhat good (although my negative karma was maxed) and the only payoff and true heel turn was at the very end of the game during the final mission. There’s even the option at the very end to not do the last quest right away and spend hours bringing my evil karma back to good by doing side quests. But why would anyone want to do that after just spending the last ten hours killing everything in sight and trying to become the ultimate villain? You’d be better off just playing the game over again and seeing what missions you missed the first time.
Although Infamous 2‘s story and character development is no better than the first, everything else has been improved. The first thing you’ll notice is how much better the combat system is. Sucker Punch has added a new double-pronged conductive pole for Cole to always have and use as a hack-and-slash weapon. The combo system is similar to games like God of War, but nowhere near as advanced.. still, it’s a nice upgrade from the original that keeps fighting enemies enjoyable and gives you a reason to not just constantly shoot electric bolts and spam grenades.
In addition to the improved combat system, the way Cole maneuvers has been upgraded to make activities like climbing buildings or running on narrow objects easy to perform and not make you want to rage quit like in the original. Although the traversal system in Infamous‘ competition, Prototype, is still far more enjoyable and saves you tons of time that you’ll be wasting while button mashing in Infamous 2 and jumping ledge to ledge trying to climb 50-foot-tall buildings.
The actual environment has also been improved with the game taking place in a Louisiana city called “New Marais” that you go to right from the beginning of the game as the Beast chases you out of Empire City. The new city is full of destructible areas, which helps make the combat and city more interesting. Sadly, most buildings are not affected when being hit with objects. The destructible objects are primarily decks attached to buildings, wooden crates, and other objects you’ll try to use as cover. Some walls of small buildings can be knocked down, but it’s rare. Destructible environments in an open world game is a step in the right direction, but with games like Red Faction featuring fully destructible environments, Infamous 2 adding the feature would have taken it to the next level.
There are also little Easter eggs and inside jokes scattered throughout the city that will have you stopping and reading from time to time and admiring the extra effort Sucker Punch has put into the game. For example, one shop is called the “Red Ring Repair Shop”, which the PlayStation developer uses to pokes fun at Xbox 360’s power problems known as the Red Ring of Death. Another area has a bunch of theaters with marquees that are filled with shout-outs to other games like Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid, Epic Mickey, and plenty more.
Missions have also received an overhaul, and you’ll no longer be spending the majority of the game doing the same exact boring sewer missions that plagued the original. The updated missions are more enjoyable and like the first, you’ll have to option to choose between good and evil missions to help add to your karma. There are also big boss fights at the end of some missions, and even mini boss fights randomly spread throughout the city. None are anything game changing, but it is impressive to see 100-foot-tall monsters moving through the streets of an open world game.
Even with Infamous 2 improving many gameplay aspects from the original, the less-than-stellar story is what keeps the sequel in the same ballpark as the original. Despite there being a completely different way to play Cole and a different ending as a result, you’ll be better off just saving your time by going on YouTube and finding what alternate ending you could have had rather than playing through the game a second time. There is an awesome ability for players to create their own missions and share them with others, but with Infamous 2 being so new, there still isn’t anything worth playing. Similar to games like Little Big Planet, there’s sure to be some fresh ideas that spawn from user-generated content, but for now Infamous 2 is only worth a rental and has easily left enough room for Prototype 2 (E3 preview here) to win round 2 of the Prototype vs. Infamous open world hero game battle. Infamous 2 is not overrated and is actually one of better open world games to date, but certain flaws hold it back from greatness. Infamous 2 gets 3.5 out of 5 stars (Very Good).
- Graphics are amazing, if not the best, in any open world game.
- The combat system has been improved to add more depth with God of War-style combos.
- The climbing mechanics have also been improved to make it easier to traverse the city.
- Better boss fights and missions that aren’t as repetitive and useless as the original.
- Even when you pick evil decisions, Cole still remains somewhat good throughout the game.
- Majority of powers are the same that you’ll find in the first game.
- Even with the first game’s story leading up to the sequel, the story seems less interesting here.
- The game plays almost the exact same as the original until the ending.