- Street Date:
- June 7th, 2011
- Reviewed by:
- Daniel Hirshleifer
- Review Date:1
- October 10th, 2011
- Game Release Year:
- Sony Computer Entertainment
- Sucker Punch Productions
- ESRB Rating:
- T (Teen)
It must be tough to make a video game sequel. When you’re making an original IP, you have the benefit of presenting something entirely fresh to audiences. If your game becomes popular enough to warrant a sequel, you have to execute a tough balancing act. Stray too far from the previous game and you anger gamers who want a familiar experience. Make it too similar and then people complain they’ve played it all before. Only the best sequels end up leaving a really good impression on the people who play them. At the risk of spoiling my whole review, I’ll let you know up front: Infamous 2 is not one of the best sequels.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Players of the first game will certainly remember Cole McGrath, the witless courier who gains electrical powers that make him both venerated and feared in his home of Empire City. At the end of Infamous we learn that Cole must use his powers to stop an oncoming beast of unimaginable power. Infamous 2 opens with Cole squaring off against said beast…and getting his ass handed to him. Failing in his duty to save Empire City, Cole retreats to New Marais (essentially New Orleans), where he discovers he’s not the only super-powered person around town. Now he has to deal with other super beings, plus the local gangs and the ever-looming threat of the beast.
Infamous was a really strong game. It was open world without feeling like a Grand Theft Auto clone, dealt with super heroes in a way that felt distinct from any Marvel or DC game, and the good/bad system meant it was worth playing through at least twice. Infamous 2 feels like a retread. Although things are bigger, they are not necessarily better. The story feels less grounded, the characters less developed, and the game is, on the whole, less fun. Even the powers seem less creative. In the first game, as you progressed you got access to increasingly powerful abilities. Here, even though you can now combine powers with other characters, none of it stands out the way the powers did the first time around.
The new characters, Nix and Kuo, highlight the problems with the game. The pair of them are boring and pedantic, coming across as even more judgmental than your nagging ex-girlfriend from the first game. They’re written without an ounce of humor or any quality that would make us care about them. And they each represent a side of the moral coin that is so firmly black and white that it doesn’t feel like much of a choice at all.
One of the big advertising points of Infamous was the karma system, where your choices affected your powers and your relationships with the other characters (not to mention the normal denizens of the city). Smartly, most of the decisions in that game had positive and negative consequences, and even if you thought you were doing what was right, you may still receive negative karma for it. It made each decision a true moral dilemma. Here, the choices are so obvious that you won’t be wringing your hands trying to decide which way to go. If you want to be good, the good choice is immediately obvious. If you want to be bad, that path is also very clear. Nix and Kuo are often around to force the issue, making them even more annoying.
The big selling point of this game is user generated content, or UGC. Users can create new missions that pop up during the story, allowing Cole to step away from the main story briefly. At the time I originally played the game, most of the UGC was from the developers themselves, and mainly consisted of Cole running a gauntlet of enemies until he fought a tougher boss-type character. Minimal dialogue was provided by subtitles. This feature certainly has potential, although the game itself wasn’t satisfying enough for me to revisit it and see if a healthy UGC community has sprung up.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
While Infamous is better than its successor in most respects, one area where Infamous 2 steps things up is in the graphical department. New Marais is far more graphically varied than Empire City, which at times could be bland and lacked in variety. New Marais fixes things by giving each neighborhood a distinct look. New Orleans is the obvious touchstone, with areas resembling the French Quarter, the swamps, etc. Little details pop out, like wall graffiti or wreckage from a disaster that had already befallen the area. At the very least, it’s much harder to get lost here, due to each area being so different from its neighbor. Most controversially, Sucker Punch also redesigned Cole himself. Cole’s less harsh, now with hair and a nicer face. I never really got used to it, and still prefer the old Cole.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Infamous 2 doesn’t stray far from its predecessor in the sound department. Cole’s powers, even after having been augmented, sound exactly the same. Not that this is a problem, as his electric abilities allow for quite a range of sound effects. The city itself is alive with pedestrians, monsters, birds, and other elements that contribute to a tapestry of sound that weaves its way through the game. The big drawback is the voice acting. To go along with his visual redesign, Cole also has a new voice, much more gentle than his gruff vocals from the first game. Quite simply, I didn’t like it and never bought him as Cole, killing much of the sympathy I had built up for the character. Nix and Kuo also get terribly annoying throughout the game, both due to the flat writing and also the poor voice acting. This is one of the few games where I longed for an option to cut off the voices and just get the dialogue by subtitle.
Infamous 2 is designed to be played through at least twice. You go through it as good or bad than you go through it again playing the other side. There are missions that you can only accomplish if you are aligned one way or the other, enticing you to give it one play-through. The problem is, the game is so thoroughly unsatisfying the first time around that there was no way I was going to play it a second time.
Infamous 2 looks good on the surface, with new varied environments and expanded powers. But once you sink your teeth into it, you find poor writing and acting, repetitive gameplay, and the general feeling that you’ve played this before, only it was better the first time. For every legitimate step forward the game takes, it takes another two back.
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