“The Beast is 1250 miles from New Marais.”
This sentence greets you every time you turn on Infamous 2, counting down to the time when your hero, ‘electric man’ Cole McGrath, needs to face and defeat the monster he is fated to tackle.
“Not difficult”, you may think, at first – Cole is still the badass superhero of the first Infamous, and powered up to the hilt.
That is until the Beast arrives early, destroys Empire City (which gamers fought so hard to defend in the first game), strips Cole of the majority of his powers and sends him crawling to southern coastal city New Marais, to rebuild his strength, discover new powers and generally do good (or evil, if you’re so inclined.)
Likes its predecessor, Infamous 2 is a sandbox-style adventure game with some brilliant combat, ramped-up powers, comic book-style cutscenes and endless fun. In this aspect then, it would be fair to say that the game doesn’t really mess with the formula set down by Infamous, correct?
Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean the game is at all ‘bad’. Not by a long shot.
Like the first game, the majority of Infamous 2 features Cole free-running, power-line riding and electrifying his way around New Marais, which is modelled on New Orleans, complete with flooded, run-down, abandoned city blocks (bit close to the bone there, guys!), and an interesting selection of red-neck militia types who hate anyone who doesn’t conform.
Before long all hell breaks loose, and Cole finds himself fending off the militia, monsters of varying sizes – from exploding zombies to huge, eight-legged horrors – and the occasional supersoldier.
Unfortunately, however, there is very little explanation of where the monsters came from, once they break into the game, making Cole and co look a bit silly as the city disintegrates around them.
(Honestly! Right after fending off a pack of slavering monsters, Cole has an introspective moment about one of the women in his life – and doesn’t think “where the bloody hell did they come from?!” It’s weird.)
From then on, the game pretty much follows the formula set down by the previous game.
An interesting variety of missions await you, be it demolishing a house full of bad guys, racing from transformer to transformer to down a comms network, or throwing supplies off an offshore barge.
Add to this the exploration aspect, as you crawl over the city looking for blast shards to boost your battery-like body, and a selection of new powers to unlock and level up, and there’s plenty to enjoy about Infamous 2, even if it is mostly combat-oriented.
Thankfully, then, it’s a good thing that the combat is still great fun, allowing you to zip around, hurling lightning from your fingertips, summoning ionic storms of blistering energy, picking up and throwing cars across the street and generally floating around like some kind of crazed messiah on thrusters of energy.
Added to this is an enhanced close combat system, using a massive tuning fork called the ‘Amp’ as its weapon. Using this two-pronged death-dealing nightmare, Cole can smack ten bells out of anything that comes near to him, finishing off with a few cool finishers to boot.
All the powers can be upgraded through usage and completing certain activities and before long, your powers are varied and great fun to use, and skating along on a power cable while hurling exploding lightning grenades becomes second nature.
That said, Cole is not immortal, and the monsters and militia alike can bring him to a sticky end, fast – rocket launchers are especially guilty of this.
This difficulty, while often irritating (militia rocket troopers will happily shoot when you’re a metre away…) makes you use your powers wisely, and is all the more fulfilling for it.
Being close to death exposes another fantastic addition to Infamous 2 – a clever, creepy score.
While your screen greys out, the discordant hum of off-key violins pulls on your guts, making you want to run for the nearest health-restoring lamp post.
Aside from this, the game’s score includes a wide selection of banjo-strumming beats when you’re out in the bijou, saxophone solos as you clamber up a skyscraper and a decent selection of soulful rock as you dispatch your enemies (or innocents).
The game’s moral system also makes a return this time around, but seems far more polarised. The endless grey of Infamous’ world has been shunned in favour of clear ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’ choices, and it’s pretty obvious which is which.
While this comes in useful if you’re trying to unlock some of the dark-side powers, for example, it makes the moral choices that little bit more laughable.
Graphically, Infamous 2 looks great. New Marais is a fantastically varied city to explore, ranging from red-light districts (with cheeky nods to other games: ‘Coming soon: ‘Assassin’s Need’’) to the bijou, packed city streets, run-down tenement blocks, and acres of slums.
The animation is smooth, for the most part, and the enemy AI is as good as you’d expect (the swamp monsters just charge you, for example), though the camera does have a habit of fritzing out now and then – when you use one of the fancy melee finishers, it will often zip around to give you the best angle on the action – and ruin your grasp on the battle at the same time. It’s a double-edged sword.
Cole is also a bit of a spider-monkey, and will often grab onto the nearest climbable object, no matter if you were aiming for something else entirely. This is only a minor irritation, and it doesn’t take long to get used to his style of movement.
Overall, Infamous 2 is not particularly trend-setting. Building on its predecessor, the title delivers another slice of superhero action, with some fantastic set-piece battles, a suite of cool powers and a decent plot to tie it all together. Though it doesn’t add a lot to the series, if you enjoyed the first game you’re bound to enjoy the second, and if you’re new to the series, come play one of the best superpower sims around.
Varied selection of powers
Comic book stylings are always cool in cutscenes
Not so good stuff:
Occasionally naff camera
Plotholes are an irritation
More of the same action
Cole’s voice actor has changed