Refined, fluid, and well-written. What more could I ask for?
Those two simple words were enough to cement my love for inFamous 2. For those who played it and went the route of the angels, you’ll know exactly what I mean. For those who haven’t even touched this game, hopefully this review will convince you.
inFamous 2 takes place fairly soon after the canon “Good Ending” from the first inFamous, with Cole still as powerful as he was at the end of the first game, as the intro’s memorable “supposed to lose” fight with The Beast, who’s arrival was foreshadowed in the previous game, shows. Although you get to fight The Beast with some old friends, like the Ionic Storm power that essentially brings down an entire thunderstorm on your target, The Beast kicks your ass fairly quickly, destroying Empire City in the process and forcing Cole to flee down the coast to the New Orleans Expy; New Marais, where he can build up his powers again, and even get some new ones in the process.
And man, I can’t tell you how happy that change makes me feel. New Marais is a very welcome change from the first game’s Empire City, with far more vibrant colors and a completely different feel, which is even reflected in the soundtrack. There are even random encounters for both sides of the karma meter, such as murdering street performers for the evil side and stopping muggings in progress for the good side. Buildings have some kind of power line that Cole can grapple to and use to launch into the air, thereby bypassing another few minutes of climbing. The game returns to a three-faction system, with more factions coming into play as the story demands it, not because Cole needed some stronger enemies to fight, and each faction has very different soldiers, with standard goons making up The Militia, swamp creatures making up the second faction, and a third faction that I won’t spoil, but I can still confirm that switching your power layout and resorting to different tactics will be a must as you travel from one part of the city to another.
On the story front, the disappointingly one-dimensional villains and side characters from the first game are replaced by interesting and colorful characters, like Bertrand, the (inevitable, in my opinion) anti-Conduit preacher in control of the city, or Zeke, the comedy sidekick from the first game, who has some of the most memorable moments in the entire game, to the point where I could see a spin-off based entirely around his side adventures. And most importantly of all, the story is motivated by a clear goal and looming threat. The Beast’s progress down the coast to New Marais is shown every time you turn on the game, with a black screen saying only “The Beast is 1200 miles from New Marais”, and during the pause screen, which shows a map of the East Coast in flames as The Beast travels down for the final smackdown. The cutscenes are as gorgeous as usual, with the fantastic art style being used a great deal more than the first game, and both endings are motivated by shades of grey morality and mix story and gameplay to an excellent degree.
The gameplay is also improved quite a bit as well. At times, the original game’s melee combat felt like an afterthought, as enemies ran from your attack animations while sniping you with AKs, eventually causing you to just spam your attacks in the hopes that your enemies will be stunned long enough to get back into cover. inFamous 2’s melee is improved by the addition of an “Amp” and Cole’s increased running speed, which allows you to make wide sweeps, taking out enemies fairly quickly if you get into a scrape. However, Sucker Punch has added some more powers that allow Cole to do some serious damage and prevent these scrapes, like the ability to levitate objects like cars, charge them up with energy, and throw them at enemies. Most of these powers are fun to play around with, such as different kinds of Bolts (rapid fire, homing, ect) and an electric tornado (don’t worry, that confused me too) that Cole can use to get rid of most of the enemies in his way. These powers, and the various others, can be mapped by holding down left on the D-pad, and then choosing which power variation corresponds to which button, allowing for a quick change-up on the fly as the game demands it.
Before anyone asks, I have tried out the user-made content, and it felt tacked on, personally. I liked that the developers are trying to have more replay value beyond “Be nastier/nicer and see the other ending!” but I only played around with it for a little bit before giving up and going back to the main story. The missions felt lifeless to me without the previously stellar voice acting and dialogue, but if you’re in the niche group that enjoys User-Generated Content, then the constant stream of updates for it will keep you busy enough. You can turn it off and you really won’t even notice.
The only real flaw I can think of that this game unfortunately regularly wheels out obnoxious boss fights (such as the Spitter and Frost Golems), which become regular enemies you can encounter during sidequests. However, this one flaw really isn’t enough to make me give inFamous 2 any less than the score it deserves. It’s a hell of a ride from beginning to end, and is well worth your time and money, if only to see a great example of a really polished sequel to an already great game.