I'm a sucker for sandbox games and solid third-person action titles, but Infamous didn't intrigue me leading up to its 2009 release. Superheroes and comic books aren't my thing, and I figured I would be just fine ignoring it while waiting for something more alluring to come through. But I was wrong. Having been tasked with writing the IGN Guide for Infamous, I jumped into an experience I thought wouldn't interest me and ended up loving every second of it. I beat Infamous four times. No matter how many times I played, Infamous never got old, and it quickly became one of my favorite games of the entire generation.
I'm happy to report that, in many ways, Infamous 2 is even stronger than its predecessor.
Tangible allusions to Infamous are scarce in Infamous 2, and there's an expectation that you're already familiar with the events of the first game. So you should definitely play the former before you play its sequel. Having survived his time in the quarantined metropolis of Empire City, Cole MacGrath -- with powers imbued to him from a mysterious device known as the Ray Sphere -- finally faces off against the prophesized Beast. He gets his butt kicked and retreats to the American south to lick his wounds and follow-up on the very real possibility of becoming more powerful in the town of New Marais.
Infamous 2's story is a deep, character-driven affair -- Cole's best friend Zeke is back and joined by a new foil named Bertrand and his anti-Cole Militia -- but what good would it be without great gameplay to accompany it? Infamous 2 plays nearly identically to how the original played, and that's a good thing. You'll once again control the electric superhero (or supervillain as you get to choose your moral alignment) in third-person. You'll once again have the ability to use his superpowers as well as take advantage of his increased melee capabilities thanks to a weapon called the Amp. And experience points can be used to unlock new, more powerful attacks, allowing Cole to inch closer and closer to the strength necessary to take on The Beast.
All of this boils down to gameplay that is superb. Cole handles smoothly, and better yet, he feels powerful. Cole in Infamous 2 is a continuation of Cole from the original, so he should feel like a powerhouse, and he does. Certain skills you had to learn in the original Infamous, such as the abilities to float and grind, are already learned as Infamous 2 gets underway. The goal here is simply to make Cole even more outrageously powerful than he already is, as opposed to starting again from scratch. This is definitely a nice touch. And while melee combat isn't as strong as it could be (and in fact causes Infamous 2's most serious problems in terms of a wonky camera), fighting is still incredibly satisfying.
Aesthetically, Infamous 2 pleases both the ears and eyes. Sucker Punch has created a telltale art style that fits perfectly in this series, and the game's overall look, including animations, is improved from the original. The sounds of New Marais are also great, from the basic sound effects of a bustling city to the voice acting. I certainly miss Cole's original voice, but the voice acting in Infamous 2 is still top-notch.
New Marais is a totally unique location that is a more living, breathing locale than Empire City ever was. There's real diversity in New Marais from the neon-lit red light district to the Katrina-like devastation of Floodtown, and it is all there for you to explore with the game's trademark parkour and climbing moves. Plus, there are plenty of enemies to fight, with a more robust cast of foes in both type and size. There are normal pedestrians who will rebel if you go the evil route to massive ice creatures looking to pulverize anything and everything.
Naturally, working your way through New Marais fighting enemies with no objectives is fairly pointless, and that's where Infamous 2's primary focus comes into play. Heading through Infamous 2 requires you to work your way through a plethora of main missions as well as a slew of optional side quests. Main missions advance the story, and completing side quests will eliminate hostile threats from a small section of New Marais. As you work to complete both types of quests, the city will become progressively safer, and you'll work further and further through the main story. Completing certain quests in certain ways will also allow you to become closer to Kuo or Nix, two female characters that represent Cole's best and worst instincts. Befriending one or the other through your actions will eventually lead to the use of her special fire or ice-based attacks to add to your electrical arsenal.
Infamous 2 Mission Commentary
The hallmarks of Infamous 2, like the original, are its freedom and decision making points. To see everything the game has to offer, you'll have to play through it twice, making completely different decisions each time. Decisions are at times made on the fly, while at other times you'll get to carefully consider what you're going to do. Having the option to make choices that affect the game's outcome is pretty awesome, especially when it gives Infamous 2 inherent replay value and two great (and extremely different) endings.
But what Infamous 2 does best is give you a feeling of progression. There's an incredible amount to see and do in New Marais, and all of it will keep you busy for at least 20 hours per playthrough. In addition to the aforementioned story missions and side quests, there's simply much more to do. To increase Cole's power meter, you can find hundreds of Blast Shards strewn around the city. Like Blast Shards, audio diaries called Dead Drops make their return, though you'll find them on pigeons this time around. Stunts are back, though instead of doing them simply for experience points or Trophies, you'll do them to unlock special powers for Cole to purchase and use. Even your progress in the original Infamous carries over to Infamous 2.
Additionally, User Generated Content (or UGC) is introduced in Infamous 2 and gives the game what can be perceived as endless replay value. Any gamer with a copy of Infamous 2 and access to the PlayStation Network can create his or her own special missions, share them online, and see other creations pop up around the map along with primary missions and side quests. When a UGC mission is undertaken, gamers can earn experience points and rate the mission, which will allow the best content to rise to the top. Though I wasn't blown away by any of the pre-loaded UGC from Sucker Punch, this is an awesome addition to Infamous 2 that has virtually unlimited potential. I'm very excited to see what the Infamous faithful do with these tools, even though they can be extremely cumbersome and will require some technical prowess and a whole lot of time spent learning in order to use them effectively.