inFamous 2 review
There’s nothing at all wrong with shooting for the stars, but announcing that your next game is going to step up to Uncharted 2 levels in terms of quality seems like tinfoil hat-wearing madness. However, that was the faith that developer Sucker Punch had in inFamous 2, not to mention its esteem for Nathan Drake’s treasure hunting series (there’s even flick called Uncharted Love showing at an in-game theatre in Cole’s new playground).
It was a bold statement to make: fail to live up to expectations and the lights could well have gone out on the franchise. Swell news first then, folks: inFamous 2 is a parkour-powered leap from the original we loved back in ’09. This sequel is of the evolution-over-revolution variety, but results in inarguably one of the finest action sandboxes on PS3. Though not completely niggle-free, the gameplay has been tweaked and the visuals in particular have been polished, and the end result comes very close to fulfilling the team’s improbable goal.
Firstly, though, a quicksilver story refresher. (And if you haven’t played the first inFamous yet, you’ve got the chance to pick it up for nothing as part of the Welcome Back programme.) Shorn courier hero Cole MacGrath triumphed over ambiguous antagonist Kessler in the previous game, but now he’s up against something even nastier: a Godzilla-sized nasty dubbed the Beast, who’s on a rampage down America’s east coast.
After a fun but fruitless scrap, Cole (now with tweaked mug and new vocal chords) and pal Zeke scarper to the steamy New Orleans-alike of New Marais in search of something called the ‘anti-Ray Sphere’ – the RFI – to put this new nemesis out of commission. The bad news? Beastie’s heading to New Marais to get them. And that’s not all: the city is under the influence of the Militia – gun-toting, mutant-hating types led by archetypal Southern gent/psycho Joseph Bertrand. Heck, the fall of Empire City was only the start of Cole’s problems.
With this mess to contend with it’s good to know that Cole has beefed up big time compared to his somewhat underpowered previous incarnation. In terms of locomotion, the steroid-boosted engine means motoring about on overhead power lines is a much quicker and smoother experience.
The original was also crammed with frankly dodgy melee combat, but this sequel turns weakness to strength. Cole’s new handheld weapon, the ’leccy-channelling amp (basically an oversized, skull-crushing tuning fork), really ramps up close combat, as laying the smack down builds up the finisher meter and leads to some strikingly cinematic and satisfying takedowns.
Meatier powers like the firebird strike, ionic drain and ionic vortex – in which the skies darken and cars, bodies, street lamps and the like are all flung asunder – will make you roar with a Vader-like sense of power. You really need the extra muscle, mind, as there are some hairy nasties to take down. Sucker Punch obviously adheres to the ‘bigger is better’ school of boss scraps.
The visuals have been given a similar boost. InFamous 2 is a looker, no two ways about it. The cut-scenes are mo-capped masterpieces – simply different gravy to the original – while certain sections (notably the intro) employ neat camera trickery that adds a lush filmic sheen to the proceedings. Chuck in enhanced depth of field and motion blur, plus an eclectic palette that evokes the heady personality of New Marais, and suddenly inFamous 2 is up there with PS3’s prettiest.
In terms of tech, Sucker Punch is doing some frankly incredible things, with boosted physics and comprehensively destructible scenery the two major boons. Thanks to a telekinetic upgrade, MacGrath can hoist anything up to vehicle size and bung it about. This results in notable carnage, and some neat smoke and mirrors will make you feel quite the one-man wrecking ball.