Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Infamous 2 Review

inFAMOUS 2The concept of morality in video games has become increasingly popular in the most recent generation of consoles. For better or worse, 2009’s Infamous was one of the most polarizing titles in this genre, garnering as much criticism as praise. In the sequel, Sucker Punch hopes to squash the negative feedback with a few changes to the game, whilst still appealing to the fans who enjoyed the original. Did they succeed, or is Infamous 2 as negatively charged as its protagonist?

The game begins with the threat foretold in the previous installment; the Beast has finally appeared and is attacking Empire City. Cole attempts to fight the Beast, but is thwarted and flees to New Marais in pursuit of improved powers. The concept of the hero coming up short in the opening scenes of a game is a unique and appealing one to me. Being sent to lick my wounds and prepare for a “round 2” bout is refreshing and shows that Cole isn’t the indestructible mass of power that everyone, including himself, has made him out to be. Starting off the game with a bang drew me into it quickly and had me caring about the characters faster than I had anticipated.

Cole’s abilities have improved since his first outing. 

He’s obtained a new weapon, the Arc, which is in essence a giant, electrified tuning fork. It’s quite fun to beat baddies with the new electric rod weapon, and this experience is magnified by the addition of finishing moves to end Cole’s foes stylishly. My main qualm with the power options in the first game was that most of the power-ups I received seemed damn near useless. For the most part I kept Cole’s power configuration unchanged from the stock as the rest of his powers were simply unappealing to me. This time around, however the choices of power-ups seem to be more thoughtfully composed, including a few that allow easier traversing of the map or quicker completion of side quests. With this benefit, side quests become even more inviting as they can be wrapped up more quickly as your experience grows. 

On the topic of of side quests, Infamous 2 has an abundance of them, and they are far different than those of the first game. Another problem plaguing the original Infamous was its repetitive side quests, and that has been somewhat remedied in the sequel. There are only really four or five different side quest types, but they are presented in different ways, making the fetch quest seem brand new, or an assassination mission feel unfamiliar. Also contained in these side quest are small storylines that flesh out the characters. 

This important addition puts weight on option missions by making you feel as if you’re missing out on parts of the story if you choose to rush through only the main storyline.
The developers have added a User Generated Content option as well that allows players to play through missions made other players. The only UGC levels upon release were developed by Sucker Punch, but the creation of new levels by gamers will soon be open and presumably release a flurry of new levels and mission paradigms. I’m positively chuffed about this idea, though I’ll have to see it in action before I can pass judgment.

Infamous 2 has bugs. 

No, not that kind, I'm talking about glitches. They’re not substantial in size and I’ve yet to see the game freeze, but they exist and they’re bloody annoying. Countless times I’ve been scaling a building only to suddenly be shifted to the other side with no prompt. Other times I’ll pummeled an enemy so hard, he becomes trapped between objects. Most fights go unhampered by glitches, but when they happen, you’re quick to notice and sigh in frustration. In addition to the bugs, the wall climbing just feels hindered, though I cannot say for certain whether this is a flaw in Infamous or rather a disappointment caused by the impossibly high standards set by the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

The story following the game’s opening sequences also needed work. This was a problem also noted in the first game; the beginning and ending of both are intriguing, but while the middle lags with too little information and at too slow a pace. At least the second game has the stories of two new side characters to provide some sort of distraction, but for the most part, Cole is simply collecting powers and hunting down someone who is not The Beast for the entirety of the game. Instead of preparing for the fight with the Beast, Cole’s story focuses primarily on chasing down a dubious preacher named Bertrand. While this storyline is mildly compelling, most of Bertrand’s secrets are revealed in short order and for the remainder of the game you find yourself wishing the Beast would be hastier about his arrival. If there is a third game, Sucker Punch will have to up the ante on the story because I feel I’ve been burned twice over.

The story isn’t the only thing that screams of simplicity. As with the original, Infamous has very straightforward choices about what is right and what is wrong. The decisions to be made are as obvious as day: free a gang of cops to help you raid a base, or light the building on fire and burn the hostages in cages alive. I kid you not, that is an actual choice.

I momentarily hesitated to put this in the “bad” section of this review, however, because I personally rather like the clarity. In other games with a morality system such as Knights of the Old Republic, sometimes the choices you made were in a somewhat grey area and the consequences not immediately known. I enjoyed knowing what the good and bad choices were so I could better make Cole into the hero or villain I wanted. Other players may scoff at this feature, but knowing I was going to be a hero felt reassuring.

Infamous 2 is better than the original, and is generally a fun game to play. As long as you’re not expecting a revolutionary overhaul of the series, you’ll enjoy approximately twenty hours of good, honest fun. I must admit there are things in this game that needed improving, but the fast-paced gameplay, interesting power-ups, and the looming promise of user generated missions make Infamous 2 a good buy.
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