Gamersyde Review: InFamous 2
Ask most players to give all the Playstation exclusives that come to their mind, they will almost always think of the following titles: Uncharted, Killzone, Gran Turismo, Motorstorm, God of War, Heavy Rain, LittleBigPlanet, or Ratchet & Clank. Quite an impressive list of successful franchises to say the least. Oddly enough, very few people mention InFamous although it was an excellent game when it was released in 2009. True, Sucker Punch's new IP had to face Prototype at the time, but they still managed to deliver a very solid title whose ending was both great and unexpected. Though 2 million copies have been sold so far, InFamous is still poorly known and surely deserves better, but the arrival of InFamous 2 this week could very well make a big difference for the franchise. I give you now our full review, so you find out how Cole MacGrath electrified the super hero genre.
Note: We should not have been late on this one but we had a few problems with our HDMI splitter, hence the delay.
Let's break a habit by starting this review with the overall presentation of the game. It seems pretty clear that, because the first game did not look particularly pretty, it had a lesser impact on the players. Quite logically, a lot of effort has been put in enhancing the graphics engine so it could match the best ones out there. The first thing that you will notice is that indeed, InFamous 2 looks way better than its predecessor in every department. The game is a lot more colorful now and the draw distance has been increased a bit. There is of course still a blurry effect in the background but it allows to hide the lack of details on the distant buildings.
Empire City clearly lacked colors but rest assured that New Marais does not. It is also a lot more varied in terms of architecture and design, with an impressive cathedral, bell towers or a flooded neighborhood for example. InFamous 2 still does not feature a real time day/night cycle, but it's because the passing of time is deeply connected to the main plot. Depending on when in the story you are, you will wander around the streets of New Marais by night or by day, at sunrise or at sunset. A good occasion to witness the very nice lighting effects, whether they come from the burning sun or the neon lights of the city's hot cabarets. InFamous 2 proves how talented Sucker Punch is, but it also shows that they realized their game needed a real overhaul in the graphic department to be on par with today's standards.
As for the framerate, there is also great improvements in that area, which sometimes even gives the impression that the game runs at 60 frames per second. Sometimes only though, as there are still a few slowdowns here and there when things get hectic or when Cole grinds at high speed. It never gets bad however, and considering this is an open world game, it is rather impressive to see how smooth it is overall. Animations are great and fluid too, and you will quickly notice that Cole now moves a lot faster than before. As a result, the game requires some getting used to, especially when it comes to climbing a ladder, which is sometimes more difficult to do than climbing the walls of a building. After a little while, you will do pretty much everything you want to do with Cole, and it definitely feels great!
Cole's law-abiding team
After the surprising ending of the first game, I must confess it was hard not to be really excited to find out what was going to happen in the sequel. When launching InFamous 2 for the first time, it was also hard to get used to Cole's new voice (Eric Ladin ), which, to me, is clearly anti-charismatic. I know it is probably a matter of taste and some won't mind at all, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss his original voice (Jason Cottle). Thankfully, the rest of the cast does not feel out of place and though Eric Ladin somehow changes the main character's style, he nonetheless delivers a good performance.
After a short comics-style cutscene summarizing the events of the previous game, Cole witnesses the destruction of Empire City by the Beast. Helpless in front of such a powerful Nemesis, Zeke and him do not have much choice left. They must go to New Marais with Agent Kuo in order to meet the man who can help them get ready for the final confrontation. A whole new playground to discover then, with new characters, but before we talk about the game's content, I'll let you watch the 2D introduction cutscene so you can get a feel of the game's quite unique atmosphere.
InFamous 2 is built on the same structure than the first episode, with main missions and optional side quests you can pick and choose on the city map. You're in constant radio contact with your team, but they will also take a more active part in the fight from time to time. I'd like to say more, but that would be against our principles, so to know more, you will have to play the game yourself. Secondary missions are pretty similar to those of InFamous 1, so you will have to save some inhabitants, clear an area of its enemies or follow a guard or a monster to his base/lair. Sometimes you are also asked to find a hidden package thanks to a photo you have found, but again, nothing really new. However, the presence of monsters (it's all justified in the scenario don't worry) and helicopters armed to the blades are new, and they will often force you to transform the city streets into a real battlefield. Though not as varied as we'd like, these optional missions are very useful as they will make you gain more experience and unlock new abilities. More on this in a bit.
Main missions are more diversified and even better paced than in the past. Each of them generally starts with an in-engine cutscene during which two different approaches are proposed to you. Just like in InFamous 1, the decisions you take and the way you play will affect your karma and either make you a good Samaritan or a lawless son of a bitch. Will you decide to bring medical supplies to the rebels to convince them they should rally you? Or will you send one of your allies disguised as a bad guy so she kills a few rebels to make them pissed and want to join you? It is entirely up to you. Not only are you given some free will, but also a good replay value, which is always nice these days. As you progress into the story, new areas are unlocked like in all open world games. More places to explore, new enemies to deal with, more powers, and more and more difficult choices.
The power of love vs. the love of power
At the core of gameplay are obviously Cole's famous electric powers. Much like in the previous episode, they will grow in time as you gain experience. Each mission or action will come with a certain number of EXP points you can use to upgrade your abilities. Before it can be done though, powers need to be unlocked by achieving specific types of takedowns. For example, you will be ask to divert a rocket, “sticky-bomb” 10 enemies or make them fall to their death from a rooftop. It reminds a bit of the trophy system but it's a nice idea as you are rewarded for using the multiple ways you have to spread your love for order, or chaos.
The big new feature of this sequel is the addition of new types of powers, unrelated to electricity. You can indeed acquire either ice powers or fire ones, depending on the decision you make at some point in the story. There are also some sorts of cooperation system when you fight alongside a mutant friend, which obviously means you won't be the only person gifted with powers in the game. I won't say more though, as it's probably best if you find out why by yourself. Each power is assigned to a button (or a combination of buttons), and you can switch between them very easily in the middle of a fight, in real time. Of course you can expect to see some more and more impressive special effects as you become more powerful, like for instance the tornado power that will send enemies and cars flying (showcasing the physics engine at the same time). Whether your karma is good or evil, the powers you unlock vary, which, again, gives the game a good replay value.
What would be an InFamous game without the vertiginous stunts you can pull when jumping from rooftops, grinding electric cables, or climbing on top of the world? Cole is then more agile than ever and he now moves at a much higher speed than before. Let me tell you that once you upgrade your “levitation” power (not to mention other cool stuff), it won't be long until you feel like the offspring of Superman and Spider-Man. The subway has given way to tramways but you can still grind around the city at very high speed. New electrified poles have been added to the facades of some buildings to make climbing even more dynamic. So once again, the level design is absolutely praiseworthy as you can grab just about anything you see. You will spend a good amount of time looking for blast shards; first of all, because it's always a blast to find one, second of all, because they are good for your health. Well, Cole's actually.
Better looking, better paced, more spectacular, InFamous 2 has clearly improved on the first game's formula in every possible department. Beating the game once will take you a good while (especially if you want to get the 100% rating), but you will undoubtedly want to try a second run to do things differently and make other decisions. And if you think that's all InFamous 2 has to offer, you are sadly mistaken; for the same price, you also get a creation tool that permits to build your own missions and share them with the community. Still, some might think the game has pretty much remained the same in terms of gameplay, which is partly true I guess. But who's to say it's a bad thing? Sucker really created a great universe that would perfectly fit to the big screen - provided they improve the plot though. But until some Hollywood producers decide to give it a go (and probably blow it), we get to be the super hero and feel all the power that comes with it like never before in a video game. PS3 owners, this summer is going to be hot, so you don't want to miss the first refreshing thunder storm of the season!
About the game
Moonwalker @nostradamus: I honestly did not hate that area :) (1 Hour ago)
nostradamus @Moonwalker: f*** blightown. (1 Hour ago)
MrWhite Yeah, there's some citing the frame drops as a stick to beat the game down with. Those people must not have had much fun back in the 5th and 6th gens. If they were around that is. (2 Hours ago)
Moonwalker it's in no way a dealbreaker for me. Hell....Dark Souls comes to mind with Blighttown and i still loved that area anyway. (2 Hours ago)
Moonwalker There hasn't been a word about visuals on Wii U yet but Edge mentioned some framerate problems when heavy weather effects happened, sometimes into the teens...hmm. (2 Hours ago)
Moonwalker @MrWhite: Yeah i honestly had not expected that. I've always believed we would never get the impact of a Mario 64 anymore or OOT, but if we go by Edge......damn. But i'll believe that when i see it:) (2 Hours ago)
MrWhite That is some seriously high praise. It's lifted my anticipation through the roof. (2 Hours ago)
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