The original inFamous posited a pretty straightforward question to gamers: if all of a sudden you gained super powers, how much of a bastard would you be? If the interactivity on your average gaming forum is anything to go by, for most it seems the answer is “a pretty big one”.
Funny then that the introductory cinematic to the sequel paints returning antagonist Cole McGrath as a wife-beater-clad, motorbike-fork-wielding hero. Cole is a man ready and eager to face his destiny as the chosen one who will take down the world-ending threat of ‘The Beast’.
Sucker Punch’s first sandbox started with a capable superhero template but a grim back story took much of the spark from the storyline. inFamous 2 opens with Cole getting thoroughly stomped by The Beast – the creature he was created to destroy – and the utter destruction of Empire City. Yet far from getting hung up on his failures, the newly-peppy Cole quickly moves on, and south, to New Marias to lick his wounds and bolster his abilities before taking on The Beast once more.
The comic book-style cinematics return but are much less common. Most of the plot is delivered through cut scenes. Happily, that story is more engaging this time around; the characters are more appealing, the narrative has more intrigue and relationships actually matter.
As a setting, New Marias is on par with Empire City. Streets are teeming with pedestrians to inspire or terrify, militia to explode, and collectables to find. Dead drops return but in a new Pigeon-holding-data format. This means is that if progressing the story isn’t something you feel like doing you can spend a pleasant few hours zapping and collecting Pigeons for back story, or gathering blast shards to increase your energy stores.
New Marias has everything one could want in a stereotypical Deep South environment; from sweltering swamplands to large plantation manors. Churches abound and roving gangs of ‘militia’ yell hurtful anti-powers insults at anyone slightly different from the norm.
The environment is also more interactive. Snipers, or groups of enemies, can be quickly dispatched as balconies collapse under continued assault, while cars can be employed as huge electrified missiles, or converted into trampolines with the right application of your powers.
This interaction makes navigating and traversing New Marias one of inFamous 2’s highlights. With magnetic drainpipes, an abundance of wires to electric-grind across, with Cole’s parkour abilities as formidable as in the first game (and visually more impressive), you can quickly hoof your way around the city. Scaling buildings and bounding from roof to roof is heavily reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed. Though, again, Cole’s need to find a foothold in every surface can occasionally lead to annoyances mid-combat.
While the combat system has been improved, it the additions aren’t as noteworthy as other features in the game. Adding a bit of brutality to Cole’s attacks is a new melee weapon, the Amp. Put together with motorbike parts by Cole’s friend Zeke, the Amp is a dual-pronged club that channels Cole’s electric energy to create devastating melee attacks.
To begin, Cole will have a selection of the best electrical abilities from inFamous to play around with. The grenade, the blast, and the aerial boost are your opening abilities with a mix of bolt attacks, grenade alterations and super-charged ionic powers to follow in short order. After these – and depending on your Karmic leanings – more intense and destructive abilities, such as turning into a living homing missile, are there to play with.
Whichever Karmic path you take there is plenty of explosive fun to be had, and constantly popping up through the game are events to help power up either your good or evil karma. Often within a mission you will be given a moral choice. For example, early in the game you’ll need to use your electrical abilities to power a machine in order to lower a bridge. Give it just enough juice and the bridge will move into position, overcharge it and the resulting explosion will clear the area of enemies and civilians alike.
Simply roaming through the city will throw up moral choices too: help the lady being mugged? Kill ‘em all? It all adds to your Karma. Each of these paths will eventually lead to a distinct and satisfying conclusion.
User generated content is something that will doubtless help to keep inFamous 2 and New Marias fresh as, over the coming weeks, players will have the ability to get themselves involved in some home-made side-quest action. Popping up as green waypoint markers on your map, the creator tools are capable of creating set pieces, plot twists and bosses – as well as the less intricate fights and race setups. While there is a steep learning curve with these tools with a little time behind them those with a creator’s mindset will be helping increase the scope of the experience.
inFamous 2 compounds on the original. Subtle tweaks, fixes and refinements create an altogether enjoyable experience. The result points to a license not just coming into its own, but one that is moving from strength to strength.