In 2009, Sucker Punch ditched the cartoony, Ocean’s Eleven antics of its mainstay Sly Cooper series in favor of a grittier, ripped-from-the-comics style of Infamous. Cole MacGrath’s journey from anonymous delivery boy to hero (or villain) of Empire City received much praise for its fun electrical powers, addicting collectables and a comic book plot that didn’t feel paper-thin. Two years later, Infamous 2 is looking to draw on its predecessor’s success, keeping much of the original’s gameplay mechanics, while simultaneously expanding its color palette beyond the drab blues and greys of Empire City. Does Infamous 2 provide a spark to the summer swoon, or fizzle out?
Infamous 2’s story picks up not too long after the conclusion of its predecessor, and, without spoiling one of the coolest tutorials in recent memory, Cole must make his way down south along with formerly annoying-as-hell sidekick, Zeke Dunbar and Lucy Kuo, a government agent looking to help Cole become more powerful as a mysterious new threat draws near. Infamous 2 employs a morality system similar to the original, though the decisions put before Cole aren’t nearly as hokey as the “be an angel or a dick, and nowhere in between” quandaries found in the first game. What’s more, Cole’s powers reflect his choices far more, reaching such a disparity between precision and chaos in the latter part of the story that they feel like two completely different games. The powers and parkour truly are the heart of Infamous 2’s experience, making up for a story that, while cooler in concept than the original’s, really begins to drag by the last third. In addition to the main story and side missions, Sucker Punch has also included a level creator and user-created content throughout the world. It’s a nice distraction from the story missions, but doesn’t serve as anything more than a novelty.
By today’s standards, Infamous 2 isn’t exactly the prettiest game on the block. Other than the main characters’ faces, the graphics can look anywhere from decent to embarrassing, particularly on close-ups of pedestrians, who reach almost Wii-levels of bad. However, if you’ve played Infamous, you’ll instantly feel some good ol’ southern comfort as the series swaps out its faux New York in favor of the colorful New Marais - though why they don’t just call them New York and New Orleans is mystery, considering that the game specifically mentions other real U.S. states. Regardless of its name, New Marais is a beauty to look at, with neon signs, old forts and a flooded suburban area that equates to a “the ground is lava” scenario, which makes traversal even more challenging and fun.
Infamous 2’s music clearly reflects its new-found southern roots, with a heavy emphasis on drums during action and meandering strings during exploration. The problem is that the game is far too inconsistent about when it plays, with intense battles or long stretches of traversing the city in unexplained silence. This exposes another of Infamous’s shortcomings. Much like the original, the game lacks any kind of ambience. Cars silently glide along and the hussle and bussle of New Marais is equatable to a mime walking on tip-toes. The only exception being occasional pedestrian chatter as you pass by, and the sweet(?) saxophone or fast-paced beat of a makeshift drum played by street performers.
There’s no doubt that Infamous 2 is better than its predecessor. Sucker Punch largely fixed the problems of the original while creating a sense of identity and originality that Infamous never had. However, the series’ audio problems really detract from the experience and the story is awfully anxious to move through the neon district and bayou that set it apart from other open-world games, in favor of a more generic industrial district. The user content feels bolted on, and there are so many side missions already that the user missions feel like an unnecessary attempt to extend the experience. Sucker Punch’s second crack at Infamous is a mixed bag, most of which is great. At the very least, Infamous 2 is worth a rental, but if you’re into action, comics, or just want to go crazy in an open city.