Thursday, June 30, 2011

inFamous 2

            The first inFamous was a fantastic superhero game.  Taking a lot of the comic book style tropes and putting them into an original character, Sucker Punch created a game that gave you the true feeling of power that you should get out of a superhero game.  The one problem being that the same year, Arkham Asylum came out and easily became the best superhero game period.  Now inFamous 2 has come out the same year Arkham City is coming out.  Is it worth the wait?  Well…we’ll get to that.
            The story follows after the revelations of the first game that I won’t spoil, the important part being that Kessler told Cole McGrath, the electric-powered hero, that The Beast is coming.  So naturally, at the start of this game, the Beast is here, and Cole, his best friend Zeke, and new woman Kuo run from Empire City to New Orleans-style New Marais.  Once there, they have to find 6 blast cores to power up the Ray Field Inhibitor and stop the Beast.  The game gets a great sense of how close you’re getting to the finale.  Any time you hit Start, you’re shown a map of the US with the Beast having destroyed everything in his path from New York on the way to Louisiana.  On the other hand, the plot itself gets sidetracked.  In New Marais, you run into Bertrand, a preacher/politician type character who’s running his own private army.  It might’ve been a good second part of a trilogy, Cole’s powering up while still giving him an enemy to fight.  The problem is that the game makes it pretty clear it’s ending here, or at least this story of Cole’s life, and so the game’s final act feels rushed with the reintroduction and fight against the Beast.  The other big problem with the game story-wise is the move to New Marais.  It should’ve been a completely new environment.  Instead, it just feels too much like Empire City.  The only exceptions are the occasional trips into the swamps, and the flooded part of town.  Sadly, the latter part is absolutely wasted.  It should’ve been a very difficult part, since Cole’s powers damage him the water.  Instead, it’s more just an inconvenience at best, and the enemies stupidly wander into water while you instantly kill them from the rooftops above.
           What still hits me is how wonderfully the powers are done.  The electrical powers not only let you zap people, but have you throw electric grenades and rockets, give you the ability to fly, let you grind along power lines.  If your regenerating health starts getting bad, all you have to do is find a power box and drain it to heal yourself.  And some of your powers only unlock by doing certain moves so many times, ensuring that you’re going to use variety and learn from it.  It really felt natural to learn what each of my powers did and when it was best to use them, and the fact that you’re just getting better as the game goes on means the difficulty curves well, although it can absolutely destroy you at times.  One of the best missions in the game, though, has to be one in the late game, where you fight enemies in the middle of a storm.  You can charge at any time, which brings lightning down on you.  It doesn’t matter how good you are at the game at that point, you get the feeling you can curb stomp anybody that comes your way.
            The mission variety is generally pretty good, tending to be the standard mix of missions you’d expect to find in a sandbox game.  Nothing was too difficult for bad reasons.  Escorts in particular managed to avoid being painful.  The side missions also seem to have gotten a bit more variety, although a lot of them still come down to “There’s about 1000 enemies over there, want to kill them all?”  The worst part of these is the reuse of boss-type enemies.  Besides The Beast, there’s only one fairly unique boss fight in the game, and you still fight him twice (although it’s completely different each time you do it).  It’s a real pain to fight them so many times, particularly since most of them are weakest against powers you don’t get until later in the game.  The missions also sometimes force you to make a karmic choice.  It’s…ultimately pointless.  Like so many other games with a karma meter, the choice basically comes down to “Do you want to help this old lady across the street, or do you want to kick a puppy?”  There’s nothing really tough that makes you suddenly want to switch, and there’s absolutely no reward for being gray, since your karmic growth is tied to the growth of your powers.  I do love the blue and red color scheme to show the choice of paths, though.  It’s especially interesting with the characters of Kuo and Nix, whose powers manifest in blue and red.  They act as the angel and devil on your shoulder throughout the game.  It’s a nice touch for the game to figure out that you’re heading towards a mission for Kuo, and have Nix radio you to talk about how you should do her mission.
            So what is inFamous 2 in the end?  It’s a fun game.  There’s a decent story, there’s enough missions and side missions to give you a good time of playing experience, and the karmic choices will at least give some people a reason to play through the game twice.  Is it a fantastic sequel?  No, sadly enough, especially after Sucker Punch just got better with each game in the Sly series.  But if you liked the first game, you’re going to like this one.

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