This video game review looks at the sequel to the popular InFamous franchise.
The expectations for any sequel are typically high, and the expectations for a great game can be even higher. Most follow-ups hope to catch lightning in a bottle by reproducing the ‘x-factor’ that made the first installment such a success. More often than not, most follow-ups fail not only in exceeding the first one, but even in matching it. Whether, its movies, albums, books or even video games, no one is safe from the Curse of the Sophomore. Now if I had to rate InFamous 2 in terms of movie sequels, its not exactly Hangover 2, where just about everything is recycled from the original in the most unoriginal way possible but it certainly isn’t The Dark Knight either, providing players with a seamless and near flawless progression of the character and story.
Now I don’t know about you but I happen to love games like this, there’s a plot to be sure but there’s just enough freedom to allow gamers to explore and develop their abilities at their own pace. Yet it’s not so aimless that you feel like your sitting around waiting for something to happen. But it’s not exactly Grand Theft Auto with superpowers either, which is a good thing. Now if you’re a video game purist, then I would definitely recommend that you – at the very least – check out the original first. It’s a very cool game that, quite frankly, is still the better of the two but not by much.
InFamous 2 begins with the main character of the first game, Cole McGrath, who just so happened to get a butt load of cool powers from a Deus Ex Machina device called the Ray Sphere. At the end of the first game, Cole gets quite a spanking from the end boss of that game, the great and powerful Beast, (not the most clever name, I know) who was wreaking havoc all over Empire City (New York City), which is under quarantine. Cole retreats to the Deep South to spend his time recuperating and developing his abilities for the inevitable rematch with the Beast in the Big Easy themed city of New Marais.
Much to its credit, InFamous 2 does shine in the areas that its predecessor did – the story and the gameplay. I did have issues with both, but at worst they’re irritating rather than all out frustrating. Let’s start with the story – what brings Cole to New Marais, I’m not exactly sure (now I slept through most of my French classes in high school, so I have no idea how to pronounce that word, but I’m sure it sounds something like Orleans.) Whatever the reason, the new locale is an interesting and exciting departure from the original setting of Empire City. Even the most jaded of game players would be hard pressed not to find the deliciously colorful and drastically different neighborhoods (or parishes) to be vastly entertaining and rewarding. Each of them has their own unique feel and plenty of secrets to discover.
While the layout of the city may only be thinly veiled parallels of New Orleans, seeing the seediness of the downtown red-light district and nearly submerged yet aptly named Flood City, definitely adds a texture of realism to the game play that I don’t think existed in the last game – particularly Flood City, where citizens sit on top of nearly drowned, spray-paint covered shanties, shares an undeniable resemblance to the Katrina ravaged-9th Ward. I have to admit I was quite surprised to see such a real-life tragedy portrayed this way in a video game but after a while, its inclusion feels almost necessary.
Now onto the game play; this is in a word – stunning. The natural progressions of Cole’s abilities remain intact from the first game, which is crucial. Nothing is more frustrating in a game than when you feel like the character’s skill set starts out from scratch. Cole’s parkour and superhuman abilities handle smoothly and are just as cool as they were in the first game. Just like at the end of The Matrix when Neo develops his abilities, in the sequel you get to see how those abilities have matured, and the same is true here. So the goal in InFamous2 is to sharply hone these abilities and fighting skills into butt-kicking precision. Two points of criticism here are the camera movements, which at times can be distractingly herky-jerky, and many of the side battles feel like filler, merely thrown in padding that don’t move the plot or the game play forward much at all. I’ve read that there’s something like 20 plus hours of game play with each play through and you quickly realize that it doesn’t need to be that long…at all.
One final point of contention is the morality aspect to the game. In the first installment, your decisions felt more ambiguous, giving Cole more gray area to play around with while navigating through the game. Now, there’s actually an ‘angel/devil on the shoulder’ aspect making Cole’s decisions seem more deliberate instead of organic or spontaneous.
Overall, the game is very engaging and fits in nicely with the overall story arc of the character. The gameplay, while extraneous in certain parts, certainly feels connected and fits in with the scheme of things quite well. InFamous 2 boasts superior visuals (which is, of course, to be expected) but where the game really shines is the gameplay mechanics open-world structure of the story mode. I know many people may find this more frustrating than cool but I always thought it was better to cut my teeth on incidental battles than the ones that really matter. Besides, ignoring the side battles will only hurt your ability to score more fighting skills which are littered throughout New Marais, which will only hinder your overall gameplay experience in my opinion. Finally, while InFamous 2 ultimately fails to catch lightning in a bottle, it still is a solid action game with hefty gameplay, appealing characters and an impressive storyline. So if you’re a fan of the original or just in the mood for a cool way to kill a weekend, then InFamous 2 is your game.