inFamous 2 (PS3)

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What sort of person would you be if you had super powers? Would you be the goodie-two-shoes-kissing-babies-and-saving-cats-out-of-trees type? Or would you be the superrich kind who used his powers to gain his wealth? Or would you be a super villain, creating havoc and fear throughout the world and doing whatever the hell you wanted?

These are the questions you get to answer when playing as Cole McGrath in the inFamous series of games.

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In this, the second instalment of the series, the game starts pretty much where the first one left off: Chief antagonist Kessler has been beaten, but has warned Cole about the future that awaits – a beast is coming and Cole needs to be stronger than ever in order to beat it. Dr. Wolfe in New Marais can help Cole get new powers and put the beast down for good.

But before Cole and his friends can set off for New Marais, the beast shows up earlier than he had hoped. In facing the beast with everything he has, and failing, Cole is drained of all his powers. Yet the beast just put itself back together again and destroys Empire City.

And now it’s coming for Cole, and hell follows with it!

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inFamous 2 starts off with a fantastically blockbuster experience when the beast arrives. It serves as a nice little intro into both the game and the storyline thus far. And it only gets better! Cole sets out to gain his powers back and develop them even more before the beast arrives in New Marais. With Empire City destroyed, New Marais is the setting for the game. It’s clearly based on New Orleans with its Mardi Gras feel and a hint of voodoo in places. It also has flooded areas that caused a bit of a stir online.

Unfortunately the Militia has taken over the city and is keeping a tight hold on the city. Anyone suspected of being someone with powers is rounded up – these guys will form the bread and butter of the enemies Cole faces. There are also reports of other monsters lurking in the city. Some of them are massive, slow creatures, while others are small and fast. Then there are mutants with special powers similar to Cole’s. This diversity of foes creates a nice variety and you soon figure out just how to handle each type of enemy, and the combat never repetitive or boring to me.

With great power…

Cole obviously has his powers with an electric undercurrent. He can shoot bolts, blast enemies back and throw electric grenades and rockets. Zeke – his best buddy with a shady past – helps him create a melee weapon that focuses his powers into it, creating create a fine beat-stick in the process.

Controlling Cole’s powers feels a lot smoother than the original. There is no auto aim, so you need to be pretty accurate when you’re shooting bolts or lobbing grenades. Knowing when to use the right power becomes critical to your success. Taking out lone sentries from afar with your fine aimed shot, or lobbing a grenade into a group of them soon becomes second nature.

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The melee fighting is pretty simple but very gratifying. Not only do you beat enemies with a stick, but it’s an electric stick! As you progress you also unlock finishing moves which are a single button press, but look great and creates a sense of really powerful attacks.

Cole’s powers are not all used for combat, though. Using his power to heal sick people gains him the respect of the people (which I will get back to in a moment) or he can use it to disarm bombs. He can also use it to make him more mobile. It can be used to float down gently from great heights or cross greater distances between jumps. He also grinds along faster on any electrified wired, like cables between buildings and cables for trams.

…comes great responsibility!

The population perceives Cole on his Karma level. This karma is either Heroic or Evil. Bringing me back to helping the sick, Cole can perform many tasks in the city that will give him a reputation. Healing the sick, disarming bombs, saving kidnapping victims and freeing innocent prisoners all give him a good karma rating, while actions like silencing protests, mugging people for their blast shards (again, more on that later) or attacking street performers because you don’t like their type of music all give you an evil karma score. You also choose if you want to kill fallen enemies or restrain them with an electric arc.

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As Cole’s karmic alignment changes, so too does the feel of the game. Become more evil and Cole’s electrical powers turn red and dark, his clothes turn more black and his scars and tattoos change. Being the ‘Good Samaritan’ gives him a healthier glow, with shiny white clothes, a clean shaven face and healed scars. It stops short of shooting rainbows out his hands, but his electrical powers become more bluish white.

The choices and their accompanying changes are more than cosmetic though. Some powers are only unlocked if you choose to progress down a certain path. The evil powers seem to cause more havoc in a bigger area and affects innocent bystanders, where good powers are more focused and have little to no collateral damage.

The dilemma of choice also brings with it difficult decisions in the plot. Often you will have to side with one of your companions at the risk of alienating the other. This will also affect some of your powers later on when Cole gets stronger.

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Unlocking more powers is a double experience system. Firstly you will need to unlock a power by performing a specific attack a certain amount of times. For example, shoot a flying enemy while in the air ten times and you unlock a stronger power – now you can purchase the unlocked power with your XP points. These points are awarded for completing missions and performing karma events. Where Cole starts out as a pretty powerful super person (he might be a hero or villain) he soon ends up with extremely potent powers.

Not the brightest spark.

Moving around the city is good enough, but is not anywhere as slick as games like Assassins Creed, which has really perfected the look and feel of Parkour movement. Cole will often jump and slide up and down the side of a building, or fail to climb up a simple ladder. Part of the problem is that every move requires a jump action, and hence a jump button press. If a button could be held down to start climbing and crawling up the side of a building it would have been a lot better. And trust me on the ladder thing. Cole will feel as clumsy as a toddler.

As part of the plot, Cole needs to collect Blast Cores to gain more power, and smaller blast shards are also found all over the city. These are very similar to the Crackdown collections where they give you more power. Finding them is easy with Cole’s pulse radar sense that shows you where to find them on the mini-map.

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As Cole uses his powers, his energy depletes, and he needs to fill up his energy levels from electrical outlets. These can be any electrical device like a television, a car battery, or a lamp post. But this also has a negative effect. Cole is pure energy and water does not sit well with electricity. He can thus not swim or he will electrocute himself. As a bonus, you can electrocute enemies who stand in water, which comes particularly handy in some of the flooded levels.

Some missions are played off the grid where you can’t refill your energy levels, and careful planning should be used to save some of the energy for when you really need it.

Cole can get these areas back on the grid, however, by linking sub stations to each other with an electrical harpoon that he can control, kind of like those missile-cam videos you see on CNN. This slowly brings areas back and Cole then has access to more energy. He can expand on his energy store by collecting the previously mentioned blast shards.

If you build it, they will come

The last feature that adds a lot of replay value to the game is the User Generated Content, or UGC. UGC allows users to create their own missions in the game, share them with everyone else, and play others’ missions. These can be from roof-top races to elaborate story missions or even short mini-games. Sucker Punch has done a great job of adding this feature in a slick way by only making certain missions available by default. The other missions can be downloaded if need be. The ones available are all of high quality and recommended by Sucker Punch itself.

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The interface for creating missions is very detailed and can take hours to perfectly craft your dream mission. Expect lots of dedicated websites jumping up all over the place with detailed tutorials, as well as hints and tips on how to create this extra content. It’s not quite as detailed as LittleBigPlanet, but still adds lots of value.

inFamous 2 is also graphically very good. I thought it looked pretty similar to the previous game, but when I stuck the original inFamous into the PlayStation 3 it was pretty obvious that the sequel is far superior. The animation is really well done, and the in-game cutscenes look fabulous with brilliant shadowing and lighting. There are also small touches, like Cole flicking his fingers after using a power, or performing a little spin when jumping up onto a ledge. It’ss becoming clear that exclusive titles have the freedom to really push the envelope of their platforms, and inFamous 2 proves my point.

The game does sound a bit empty though. After saving some people they will visually cheer, but you can’t hear them at all right next to you. Some of the powers also sound a bit flat and weak, but visually they look very destructive.

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If you played inFamous you will love the sequel as I feel it is better in every way. It has better control, better story, and better graphics. Playing the first game really helps you understand the world Cole finds himself in, but is not required to enjoy inFamous 2. You can even import your save game from the first one to give you a bit of a head start on which way your karma is swaying.

With its few small faults, inFamous 2 is a must play for every PS3 owner. It’s fun, loaded with action, gives you choices to play the way you want, and if you grow tired of the provided missions you can create your own fun with UGC – so what are you waiting for?

The beast is on its way!

The good: Stunning animation and setting; great powers; solid story; choice is not just cosmetic
The bad: Movement controls are slighty sloppy; sounds a bit weak and empty at times;
The ugly: Cole can shoot lightning from his hands, but the ladder climbing takes too much concentration.