Beyond the ravaged streets of the dilapidated Empire City, there lies a place of substantial diversity; a bustling and cultured land of light and dark, of wealth and disrepair, of hope and fear. This is New Marais, where citizens are held beneath the tyrannical boot of a power hungry Militia, and just as chaos has now come to claim the city as its own, so has grizzled protagonist Cole MacGrath – the only being capable of challenging the destructive force that looms on the horizon.
In many ways, New Marais is just as welcoming to Cole as Empire City was, with tall buildings, scalable steeples and abundant power lines playing to Cole’s parkour and electrical strengths respectively. Getting around the city is a breeze for the most part, although things can get touchy when you’re aiming for something specific thanks to the stickiness of his moves; this is something that usually works in your favour, especially when trying to escape a dangerous situation in a flash. Of course, it won’t be long before the Militia –a fanatical and bullish group formed under their twisted leader, Bertrand – begin to take pot-shots from a distance. Cole’s very existence is an affront to their core beliefs, so you’ll want to deal with them swiftly and effectively.
As Cole progresses and makes an impact in the city, he’ll gain access to a host of new abilities and optional upgrades which become switchable on the fly, such as a few useful variants on his standard bolt attack. Unlike in other sequels, you won’t feel depowered from the original game, and the additions to your arsenal makes you feel even more like the consummate super- villain or electric saviour, depending on moral standing. Those who played the original will immediately feel at home, with newcomers able to pick things up quickly thanks to the opening cinematic and accessible storyline. Synching your original save file won’t carry everything over, but it does add to the feeling of progression and cements the canon as an arching tale where the polarising choices you make genuinely leave a lasting impact.
The morality system is still one part of Infamous that (from a storyline perspective at least) doesn’t challenge, or at least won’t ask you to answer any tough questions. There’s always one good path and one evil with the complete omission of a grey area, although this does mean you’ll know exactly which decisions to make on your next playthrough should you wish to experience the other side of the moral spectrum. There’s reason enough to do this if you enjoyed the game the first time, as just like in the original Infamous, Cole gains access to new powers and a different look depending on his actions. Citizens will also react differently to his presence, either heralding him as a hero or despising him as an icon of evil.
Missions themselves show a decent level of creativity and make deft use of the world in which they are presented. While it’s true that certain side missions, such as taking pictures with a camera, or clearing an area of enemies aren’t always inspired, there will be a few that stand out on occasion. Completing these side missions may not always be desirable, but doing so not only nets you experience to spend on Cole’s abilities, but it also rids that area of the enemy’s control, making the city safer to explore in the long run. The main missions are where the game often shines, with multi-staged, objective based goals that progress the story. Blasting enemies while searching safehouses in a swamp can be thrilling, as can the all-out assault that soon follows. The next mission may have you attacking a convoy and ripping an enemy chopper out of the sky, so there’s always something explosive waiting for you around the next corner. Even so, generator defence is not among the game’s strong points, filling in here for the dark yet enjoyable sewer trips of old.
This can lead to one of Infamous 2’s greatest problems. Although imbued with electrical, almost God-like powers, Cole is far from indestructible, and despite being able to land unharmed from a great height, a few well-placed bullets are enough to put him down for good. This is especially problematic given the game’s hectic nature, with abundant foes swarming into the area and filling your mini-map with an almost endless supply of little red dots. It can all get a little too much at times, so be prepared for some frustrating moments where Cole’s mortality – as well as the saturated grey screen that results – stand in the way of progression for a while.
Characters are amusing without ever really being memorable; Cole is a toned down Jason Statham, Zeke serves as the overweight sidekick while the fiery Nix and ice-cool Kuo present further moral choices in how selected missions can be approached, in turn adding new pyrokinesis or cryokinesis powers to Cole’s arsenal. Zeke himself provides Cole with a superb item from the start of the game, handing him The Amp – an electrical device perfect for tearing through the ‘corrupted’ hordes that reveal themselves a few hours in. Try to tackle a few standard grunts in the same way and you can expect to be gunned down in seconds, meaning that this welcome melee weapon isn’t appropriate for every situation. Much of Infamous 2 can be considered tactical, but when all is said and done, this is an action game with a heavy focus on lighting-based warfare, so you’ll always have a good idea of what’s expected of you in regards to the combat.
One aspect of Infamous 2 which is guaranteed to give the game legs once the campaign has been conquered is the inclusion of a mission creation tool. It can be a daunting task to come up with any worthwhile designs, particularly if you’ve never toyed with the complexities of the LittleBigPlanet series or find yourself lacking in spare time. Such people should fret not, as hopping online presents a range of user generated content for you to mess about with. Those interested in lending an inspired hand will find hours of enjoyment here, with objects, behaviours and other options all made available. This is an aspect of the game that will live or die by its community, but given the depth and breadth of the system players have at their disposal, it’s also one that is set to grow in the coming months and hopefully become more user-friendly with future instalments.
As a free-roaming title intent on affording gamers the experience of a supercharged, structure-hopping badass, Infamous 2 succeeds in a variety of ways. The addictive nature of climbing and collecting shards has returned in full force, as have the accessible thrills of learning new abilities which add to the sense of empowerment. On the other hand, this sense of empowerment rarely lasts long due to uneven pacing and some questionable difficulty spikes. Infamous 2 is a worthy sequel to its beloved predecessor, but fans shouldn’t go in expecting things to be quite so fresh this time around, even if it does build on what came before graphically, technically and artistically as well as providing a new mode for creative types to get stuck into.
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