The first InFamous was a great debut for Sucker Punch studios on the PlayStation 3, featuring a new and interesting character with a free-roam, grimy city to run around in with your electrical powers, and a story that was both engaging and well told with a nice twist at the end, mixed in with the karmic black and white choices that made the path ever so slightly different depending on whether you were an ass or a bro. With that said though it had its moments of inconsistency, primarily in its mechanics where things could feel repetitive real fast, and the parkour, while mostly pretty sweet, had its frustrating moments of utter failure. So now that inFamous 2 is finally out and about, one would expect them to abolish the issues of the first and continue with the excellent story, right?
Kinda. InFamous 2 is a good game, but it seems to have lost its footing a little in a couple of areas as well as improve in many others. For starters, the story this time around doesn't feel as polished or well told as the first game. It begins with Cole getting his electrical backside kicked pretty bad by 'the Beast' that was predicted to arrive in Empire City in the last game, and then eventually escaping off to New Marais to find someone who should be able to help him further increase his powers and eventually be capable of destroying the Beast.
Initially it starts off quite decently, with the return of many older characters such as Zeke and the introduction of some new ones such as Kuo and Nix (who both happen to be the metaphors of being a goodie and a baddie, respectively). However, the story tends to lose itself a little bit during the mid-section and fails to keep interesting as things become muddled quickly, eventually making you feel indifferent to much of what's going on. The karmic choices do make a return and also affect gameplay, but the actual choices themselves aren't as well pronounced like in the first game. Some evil decisions are borderline ridiculous in set up and idea, so half the time you kind of want to just go the good guy way because the choices make far more sense and don't feel disproportionate to the storyline. It's almost as if Sucker Punch ran out of ideas with some of the choices and just threw some in to accommodate the karmic decisions, which is a shame as it's a stark contrast to the solid decision making in the first game. Thankfully, characterisation and development is actually quite good, with personalities being distinct and well expressed, and not to mention both the bad and good endings are great sights to behold. You do actually have closure this time, and not a cliffhanger that hints at 16 other games and four spin offs.
Apart from the inconsistent storyline, the typical mechanics of InFamous now return albeit with more spit and shine, particularly in the dynamics of combat and movement. A problem in InFamous was that while parkour was interesting, it was also somewhat difficult to get around some places efficiently and speedily, which caused a problem for some people. This has been mostly abolished with the introduction of some new powers and architectural designs that Cole can now use, such as electrical vertical rails on the side of buildings that propel you up a building rapidly, and an upgrade to your static thrusters (gliding) which allow you to boost through the air extremely fast. Combine this with the original graceful parkour style movement, and you've got a very slick and polished feel when it comes to moving about the city of New Marais. There are still a couple of inconsistencies in the parkour where you'll randomly slide down buildings not being able to climb anything because Cole suddenly goes ape, but it's a much rarer occurrence this time round and you're in for a much smoother ride.
Combat has seen some immense improvements as well, yet still retaining the electrical bombs and bullets style that Cole is accustomed to. Throughout the game Cole will acquire several new abilities to assist him in combat, and many are unlocked through pulling off certain combat stunts with your current arsenal and then are purchased with experience points earned in combat. It works really well, because every fight you get into (and there is a lot of fighting) you're rewarded with experience points and if you were stylish enough or met the requirements for an unlock, you are rewarded for it. It's a solid system and it encourages creative play. You'll also unlock things other than electrical powers, but much of it is separated between karmic decisions. If you go pure good, you'll be granted access to the power of Ice eventually, which are similar to the electric powers, but you'll also get some other extra cool abilities such as boost jumping into the air by forming a jet stream of ice under you.
On the opposite end you've got fire powers on the bad side, which gives you very fast dash attacks and other such powers at your disposal. It's nice to have this variety as it also encourages multiple play throughs through different karmic choices, though they could've been a tad more creative with some of the abilities given to you when gaining access to these powers. Most of it is pretty much the same thing your standard powers give albeit with another element added in, so it's somewhat of a shame to see a limitation in creativity here. However, this may have been for balance purposes. But realistically, who cares about the balance? You just gained another element to your arsenal, this should be rewarded with an insane amount of power. It's this lack of empowerment that can hurt the gameplay, though it's not such a big deal in most cases as set pieces in the game are designed around the idea of giving you much more power and flexibility. In these areas, the game really excels.
But while for the most part the combat is great, the problem that arises with it is inconsistent pacing and difficulty during the course of the game. There will be moments where you're flying around blasting people and being a total boss, then another where you will be absolutely bombarded by an insane amount of enemies and you're resorting to pot shots and hit-and-run tactics. It can result in a frustrating kind of experience as the onslaught of enemies that also happen to have near perfect aim makes it a tricky endeavour to pull much apart from minor shots off. It's not that it's a difficult area, it's just that it's poorly designed and the layout is not well thought out, especially considering you have to continually recharge your powers while running about. These aren't common however, so it's not something that happens all the time, but when it does it can be off putting.
On the presentation side of things, InFamous 2 is nothing but improvements, with a much more polished and beautifully rendered city with a lot of colour to boot. The annoying jaggies from the first game have been mostly removed and replaced by some nice Anti-Aliasing, and fillrate seems to have kicked in a little more with much more vibrancy in the world. It might just be the city, but New Marais is certainly a lot prettier than Empire City was. Texture work has picked up a fair amount too along with special effects, so Cole's power usage looks much better than before. It's nice to see that karmic choices also significantly affect Cole's look even more now, with total colour shifts happening in appearance and even an entire change in outfit and facial appearance. The first had the same thing albeit less pronounced, so it's nice to see it even more well defined this time round. It's a good looking game with great art, and holds a distinct style to it that separates it from similar titles.
Sound is about on par with the original game with good use of sound effects and a nice, more poignant musical performance in the background which tends to kick in at the most opportune of moments. We have to admit the voice acting was a little weird at first, as a lot of characters tended to sound like they had some kind of a lisp going on at random points, but for the most part it's expertly delivered and each voice (even the new one for Cole) fits the characters perfectly.
InFamous 2 is a game of ups and downs and interesting design choices, and it seems like Sucker Punch have taken some steps forward but also a few back, effectively putting them in the same spot they were in before. The addition of the UGC (a User Content Creation tool) is great and helps extend the value of the game a significant amount, and the plethora of side missions and the return of crack-infused blast shards to collect will keep you glued for quite some time, but what the ultimate issue behind InFamous 2 is the lack of consistency which holds it back from true greatness.
For every excellent mission, there is a not so excellent one, and for every memorable combat encounter there is an annoying one. It's definitely a big improvement from InFamous gameplay wise, but also a step backward in the story department as it just doesn't seem as well defined. It is still a very good game, excellent even, but there's a hint of stagnation and a few blemishes stemming from inFamous 2 that hold it back from becoming an amazing game.