Horseman's Infamous 2 Review
Despite it's flaws, wonkiness, and weird design decisions, Infamous was a fantastically fun and interesting experience that no other open-world game provided at the time. I was extremely excited about the release of Infamous 2, expecting a game larger in scope with better powers, graphics, characters, and story. Infamous 2 improves on Infamous 1 in some ways but it also doesn't hold up as well in other instances.
The first major change anyone who played the first game will notice, is the change to Cole. A new look and voice actor was given to the character to broaden his appeal. Around the net I've heard some mixed reactions to Cole, specifically in regards to the new voice actor. I find his more raspy smoker voice to be far more appealing than the semi-Batman voice of Infamous 1. His visual aesthetic doesn't really bother me, nor does it excite me but I think the voice matches the look of the re-designed character.
Another change that you've probable heard about is the addition of new powers. By going "good" you obtain ice powers, and by going "bad" you obtain fire-type powers. I played as a good character so my experience only relates to ice. This is where my first complaint comes in. The new "ice" powers are very very weak, not exciting, and the only one I found useful was the ice spike (can't remember the exact name). By pressing R2, you generate a large piece of ice out of the ground to give you lift. The other powers seem to be minor deviations from powers in the first game and don't really feel unique because of this.
Visually, Infamous 2 looks much better in some ways but worse in others. There is far more detail in Infamous 2 than in Infamous 1. Textures, bumpmapping, and animations are very much improved and going back to play Infamous 1 can be quite jarring. However the environments feel very very bland and "samey," even more-so than in Infamous 1. I also notice many instances of framerate drops which can get distracting at times. Although I like the character models in general, the enemy models aren't really diversified (I remember Infamous 1 being much more diverse than Infamous 2). While the better textures and detail are nice, I would have liked more diverse environments and characters. The other area, visually, that Infamous 2 disappoints is in regards to the story elements. The amount of comic-book style segments is definitely decreased which I really liked in the first game. Overall presentation in regards to story and setup, while doesn't look as crisp as in Infamous 2, is also better and more exciting.
Control in Infamous 2 is almost the same as infamous 1. Controlling Cole feels very natural and easy. Shooting though, seems to be a bit toned down in regards to speed. Going back and playing Infamous will show a clear difference in speed. This doesn't just relate to shooting but moving around environments as well. Traversal is pretty similar to Infamous 1 but I found at times that the fluid traversal of previous was lost on Infamous 2. It doesn't seem as if there are as many power-lines to slide on, nor do the trolly's have the same amount of electrical lines to slide on as the train in Infamous. Another issue is that there isn't the same level of verticality as in the original game. Most buildings you jump from and to are between 3 and 5 stories, rather than the 5 to 10 stories in the original. This makes it less tedious to climb up a building but once you get up to the top, you'll notice a pretty big difference in scale. I don't think a clone of New Orleans is the best place for this series. Perhaps a clone of San Francisco or Los Angeles would have been preferable. Traversing just feels just a bit slower than in the original game; however, it's still fun to use your powers to navigate around the world.
This leads me to one of the games major problems, the combat. The minimal selection of enemies and weak powers produce a pretty boring experience. The melee combat with the baton is also not at all satisfying, and I rarely ever used my amp unless I accidentally got up close to enemies. The mid-bosses or higher level enemies are exactly the same. And I mean exactly the same. You will fight the same four higher level characters over and over again which can get extremely tedious.
Side-missions are also very tedious. Although almost every side-mission is different, the same formula is present in all of them; traverse to an area, kill the enemies, and maybe collect something to bring back to the quest giver. I did about 30 side-missions and decided to stop after that as I started to get very very bored. Except for getting some extra XP, and very little of it, side-missions don't do a whole lot except give you access to certain special powers like draining electricity quicker. It doesn't help that it looks like Sucker Punch took the complaints about enemies shooting the crap out of you to heart. . . too much to heart. When not in a mission you will rarely find any enemies to fight and because of this, the world feels empty. So to fill your time, you can shock birds or collect shards to increase your power orbs or gain some insight into the story. I've never been a fan of collectible stuff in games, so this bothered me after about 5 or 6 hours of what is in effect, grinding.
Technically, the game is ok but I experienced several irritating issues. When fighting multiple enemies close to buildings, the camera will sometimes clip into the building, not allowing you to see or move for several seconds. When close to water, enemies will bump into you, leading you to inevitably fall in the ocean to an instant death. I also noticed far more issues with Cole not grabbing onto ledges when I am very close to one that I should be able to grab; far more of this than in the original game. Another issue I experienced fairly consistently is sound cutting in and out during "key" moments in a mission or story. Sections where I believe music should be playing are completely absent and sometimes when music was playing, I couldn't hear my powers or footsteps; this wasn't a big issue but is another example of a technical problem.
The story is fine, nothing special, but fine. Infamous 1 had a fairly large assortment of "good" and "evil" actions to choose from that made some impact on the story. Infamous 2, I believe, besides the "good" and "evil" side-missions had about 4 which was a downer. Sure the stop to a cut-scene and talking to yourself about whether to do an evil or good thing was kind of cheesy in Infamous, but now that I played Infamous 2, I miss those elements. Story-wise there's no real great story-arc, there's no emotional investment in any of the characters, nor is there anything surprising that happens during the game, sans close to the end when there's a decent "twist.". It works, but isn't anything you're going to care about once the game's over.
I was on the border of giving Infamous 2, two stars, except that it isn't necessarily a large step-down from Infamous 1. I like the new Cole and Zeke, the world is still fun to traverse (even though it's not as well designed as in Infamous 1), the game looks very good, and the story can get interesting towards the end of the game. I also had to consider that Infamous 2 still controls very well, much better than most 3rd-person shooters out there. Unfortunately, it's not a great game, but nor is it a bad game, it's just not as good as Infamous 1.