A good sequel, much like an average DeLorean or a bad death row inmate, must be crackling with 1.21 gigawatts of awesome if we're going to be impressed by it. Developer Suckerpunch has understood that expected output, and has amped up their IP accordingly.
Firstly there's a whole new suite of powers that let you choose how you want to approach and defeat problems in your own fashion. User Generated Content (UGC) has also been added in and it allows a creative player to join the game’s mission-building community and become famous for their efforts (or, given how UGC and penile creations go hand in hand, infamous). Last but not least, the defining system of the series, karma, is back and the process of being a super nice guy or an extreme jerk is much clearer.
...this is one shockingly good must-buy for any PS3 enthusiast.
After his super shenanigans in Empire City, everyman hero Cole MacGrath retreats south to New Marais. It's not just the promise of getting munted at mardi gras that beckons him; rather the enormous entity called The Beast is in pursuit and Cole needs to buy enough time to power himself up. Ultimately this quest can be boiled down to acquiring 7 “Blast core” pieces set across forty odd missions of fun, fetch and adventure.
Along with the companionship of pudgy Elvis wannabe, Zeke, Cole's morality choices are also personified in a love triangle between two feuding female conduits. There’s some serious static between Nix (a fiery uber-bitch), or Kuo (an icy goody-two-shoes). Given what High school Science has taught us about the elements; the ménage option is out here.
Each karmic path is represented in three tiers on your HUD and which way you go is determined by both your minor actions taken in errand missions and the major plot decisions. You really ought to undertake all that community service crap too, as the major missions aren't enough to take you into the highest tier (and gnarly extra movesets) of your chosen karma. That’s right, woo the right girl and you can be freezing your redneck foes into ‘hick-cicles’ or melting them down into trailer trash stew.
Thankfully all the sidequest deeds only take you five seconds out of your way at a time. Good deeds include stopping muggings, neutralizing bombs or zapping citizens back to life like some sort of friendly neighbourhood Defibrillator-Man. Conversely, the more dickish hobbies include capping the po-lice, murdering hippy mimes (makes sense), or attempting any of the good deeds but plain ol' killing everybody.
Like a loot system in an RPG, Infamous 2 creates a strangely addictive cycle of bouncing all over the city to reap rewards. Every errand offers you either morality points, XP to buy moves, ‘ammo’ upgrades or just the pure intrinsic joy that comes from murdering carrier pigeons for bonus intel. There are also neat gameplay challenges that unlock moves if you approach your combat in a certain way (e.g. kill 5 enemies with a certain power in a specific manner). Honestly, we found our journey between each of the main mission points to be constantly, and quite happily, postponed.
Making detours with Cole is a pleasure too. His movement feels buttery smooth and the parkour system still has that habit of keeping your flow going by second guessing your thoughts. Admittedly for the first fifteen minutes it can feel like the system sometimes does so incorrectly until you learn to ‘compensate for it as it's trying to compensate for you’. It's quite an odd sensation that goes away in time.
Compared to Empire City, New Marais is much prettier, culturally diverse and Sucker Punch has capitalized on the coolest traversal ideas. Along with branching arteries of tram lines and rooftop lines you can also quickly fire upwards on vertical power poles to ascend buildings like a spider-monkey on ecstasy.
Enhancements to the melee have been met with less success. On the one hand Cole beats down baddies with a metal club, electrified head-butts and enough Dutch camera angling to give Adam West an erection. As cool as that may look it really means 'no lock-on'. You can quickly lose sight of a mob and be shot down like a dog. You'll still have to approach this sequel as a third-person shooter and remember to exercise caution and keep your head down.
This is mainly because Sucker Punch constantly introduces super villain fodder to keep you feeling out-numbered and on the backfoot. Mantis mutants stalk you up buildings, redneck rocket snipers constantly slap you down and freakin' ice-powered mercenaries murderise you with a nifty combination of AKs and nearly invincible ice-shields.
Just on that last point: as an individual who is singularly obsessed with increasing his offensive capabilities, why does Cole never use his own powers in conjunction with the many free RPGs and miniguns left lying about? After your tenth rocket to the pancreas you' may find yourself asking the same question.
Instead you must rely upon Cole’s quick-select powers (electro-blasts/grenades/rockets) that may be easily switched via a d-pad flick. Sucker Punch is to be commended for not busting us down to zero powers; many of the core abilities like grinding and hovering show up very quickly. You soon get access to some seriously gnarly skills too, such as localised thunderstorms and cyclones. Many times we caught ourselves grinning as our electric-man didn’t so much leave a responsible carbon footprint as he did stomp both feet into Mother Earth’s arse.
Other improvements to the Infamous 2 formula include a wider variety of mission types. Sometimes you’re lighting up powerless sections of the city by launching a controllable cruise missile of electricity between one distant generator to another. Other times you’ll undertake some light stealth as you do some photojournalism. Our personal favourite was having to punt a huge physical object from one end of town to the other, like a big lethal golfball.
As mentioned earlier the UGC system is probably the coolest standout addition to the game. The toolset is simple to use, offering you full access to the city and the ability to drop in virtually any obstacle/ AI/ parameter imaginable. The creative opportunities aren’t quite as endless as the ones seen in LittleBigPlanet, but they’re certainly expansive enough to raise a few hairs and will keep this game chock-full of replayability.
Beyond that, there’s not much criticism to level at Infamous 2. The worst we saw in it was that the sandbox civilians are dunderheads, some of the mid-bosses are repetitive and the voice actors can switch their pronunciation of the antagonists name, Bertrand ("Burt-rund" or "Ber-tran"). Those are little things that can’t be unseen or unheard by a few, but the majority of players will be having too much zapping to care.
Whichever way you look at it Infamous 2 is an electrifying sequel that consistently improves upon every single facet of its predecessor. Couple this with the near-limitless, free DLC potential of the new UGC system and this is one shockingly good must-buy for any PS3 enthusiast.