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Infamous 2 review

by Ozzie Mejia, Jun 07, 2011 3:20pm PDT

Two years ago Infamous introduced Cole MacGrath, Empire City's electricity-fueled champion--or villain depending how the game was played--to the world. Gamers not only watched the story of a bike messenger-turned-conduit unfold, but they made the tough decisions that turned him into a force for good or evil. With Empire City behind him, Cole now moves on to a new adventure in Infamous 2.

Taking place directly after the events of the first game, Infamous 2 once again puts players in control of Cole as he ventures out to the town of New Marais. Empire City has been completely decimated by a destructive force simply known as The Beast, whose coming was foretold in the first game. The only hope of stopping the rampaging monster lies in finding Dr. Sebastian Wolfe in New Marais, but Cole runs into heavy opposition from a southern politico named Joseph Bertrand III. Bertrand has the entire town on lockdown and a heavily-armed militia backing his every move. Cole has to find Dr. Wolfe, stop the militia, and quell a sudden uprising of mutants from the nearby swamp before stopping The Beast, once and for all. He’ll have the help of his allies Zeke and NSA agent Lucy Kuo, along with a fire-based conduit he meets along the way named Nix. They only occasionally factor into the playable missions, though. For the most part they are there to help move the narrative forward.

Much like the first game, the big draw to Infamous 2 is player morality (displayed as the game’s Karma ranking) and the way Cole’s decisions ultimately shape the narrative. At several points in the game, cutscenes will play out the dichotomy between the compassionate Kuo, who wants to minimize collateral damage and help as many people as possible, and the chaotic Nix, who wants to wreak as much havoc as possible, consequences be damned. The player must then decide who to side with and that choice affects their Karma ranking. These choices end up affecting more than just the narrative. Siding with Nix or Kuo will also determine the progression of Cole’s electricity-based powers, either turning him into a frozen force of good or a pyro-kinetic badass of evil. This aspect alone makes the game worth playing more than once, just to see the difference between Cole’s ice-based or fire-based powers.

New Marais is a wide-open world of opportunity, filled with side missions and random events. Some of these side missions, though, may be closed off, depending on Cole’s Karma ranking. The random events are also dictated by good or evil choices. Players can build up their good karma by healing wounded citizens, stopping muggings, and defusing bombs or boost their evil karma by murdering protestors, hindering the police, and beating up street performers. Playing out random events are fun for a while, but one thing that annoyed me was that one of these events (a random bomb placed on the street) would start whether I wanted it to or not. After a while, I started letting them explode and, oddly enough, it didn’t affect my Karma ranking. It would stand to reason that letting bystanders get blown to bits would shift Cole towards evil, but that's not factored in.

Side missions are optional, but they’re the only way to lower the number of random enemies that appear on the map. That may not sound like a big deal, but later enemies become irritatingly persistent. Towards the end of the game, I’d frequently get spotted by ice soldiers, one of the game’s later enemies. I would often try to move around them, since I just wanted to move on to the next mission. These ice soldiers often wouldn’t take no for an answer, though, and would chase me mercilessly. Worse yet, sometimes these random enemies would follow me into missions and add to the number of enemies that I’d have to fight off. It isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s definitely annoying.

It would probably be less of an issue without some of the kinks of the game’s combat. Shocking enemies is as satisfying as it gets, but precision is an absolute must, which is often a pain. Often times I shot a bolt or a grenade an inch away from my target and it registered as a miss. Melee combat with Cole’s new staff is always an option, but I couldn’t count how many times I’d be wailing on an enemy with a combo, only to somehow go from that to smacking an ally or a bystander.

Fighting with electricity is enjoyable, but the combat is far from perfect. However, Cole’s unlockable Ionic powers are some of the most astonishing that I’ve seen in a game of this kind in a long time. For example, the Ionic Vortex sees Cole firing a giant tornado at everything in front of him — just make sure no bystanders get caught in it, too. The Ionic Storm, unlocked towards the end of the game, lets Cole call down boss-killing lightning storms that would make Thor jealous. I’m willing to toss aside any complaint I have about melee combat, just as long as I can toss some Ionic Vortexes and Ionic Storms at a bunch of bad guys.

Infamous 2’s missions offer a good sense of variety, but User-Generated Missions bring a lot more to the table as far as extending the life of the game. Sucker Punch has gone all out in allowing players to create different styles of missions, including racing missions, escort missions, and full-blown gang wars. Players can customize these missions right down to character dialogue, through the use of Logic Boxes. The included missions I saw from Sucker Punch offered some fun diversions. One had me strolling down the street and picking off Militia members in an Old Western-style scenario. Another had me fighting off an assault from an evil disco ball.

The only disappointing aspect of the User-Generated Missions is that they ultimately don’t affect Cole’s Karma meter. Considering the big draw of the game comes from tough, nail-biting decision-making, it’s disappointing that the User-Generated Missions feel so linear and don’t incorporate karmic decisions like attacking bystanders. Still, the included missions show a lot of potential and I’m certain that some really creative User-Generated Missions are going to pop up once the public gets a hold of it.

Infamous 2 has a lot to offer both newcomers to the series or devoted fans of the first game. The latter can also unlock bonuses based on unlocked Trophies from the first Infamous. Towing the line between good and evil is an empowering experience, as you hold the fate of the world in your hands. However, know this — being good is a challenge. To be successful it means occasionally playing more complex missions and making sure bystanders aren’t hurt, especially through your own attacks. Being evil makes for easier going. A destructive tear, even if a few innocents get in the way, does the trick. Infamous 2 poses a classic dilemma. Will you accept the challenge of being good or take the evil--and arguably more fun-- evil route?





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