By bombarding you with XP and new powers like an eager congregation showering a bride with confetti, inFamous 2 rewards you better and more frequently than most games. With over 50 powers to unlock— and dozens of side objectives to encourage you to experiment with Cole McGrath’s parkour skills and superhero/anti-hero weapon set—the campaign is also very well-paced, never leaving it too long before throwing a new challenge at you, or giving you further reason to experiment and explore the gorgeous city of New Malais. In almost every way, this electrically-charged, open-world action adventure is better than its predecessor.
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, the first game in the series saw bike messenger Cole MacGrath turn into an electric superhuman after Empire City suffered a devastating attack caused by an explosive device hidden in the package he was delivering. To cut a long story short, and avoid spoilers, MacGrath ended up on the chase of an evil, glowing entity called The Beast, choosing a “Good” or “Evil” Karma path, using his new-found powers to restore order and building up his strength for the fight against the monstrous creature.
inFamous 2 unsurprisingly picks up where its prequel ends. This time, however, The Beast is clearly in sight – 1,500 miles away to be precise. The bad news, however, is that the slate is wiped clean in terms of Cole’s powers. Once again you need to earn XP, collect Blast Shards and build up Cole once more into the ultimate hero or villain with an expansive range of powers to make him strong enough to take down The Beast in the final showdown. Though the ending is predictable and the characters and references to the first game will be difficult for newcomers to understand, it’s a typical over-the-top, comic book-style narrative that should appease fans of the original. inFamous fanboys may also be pleased to know that you can reap rewards if you played the first game by starting on the “Good” of “Bad” karma path from where you left off, gaining perks for the trophies you unlocked in inFamous.
Once again, inFamous 2 features the same “Good” or “Evil” choices from the original. Two new characters, Kuo and Nix, represent these two paths and your good and bad conscience. While Kuo represents good, Nix represents evil, with both NPCs appearing in cut-scenes to tempt you into a morality-based decisions. They also appear in-game helping you in combat to defeat enemies more efficiently. Though Nix’s over-the-top voice-acting really grates after a while as she shouts out "Blast them, man!" for the dozenth time, the two characters are a decent new addition to the series and represent some fun moments— when Nix helps you, for example, to tip oil barrels from the rooftops onto banners dotted around the city square and then you get to set them alight and send enemies dashing for safety.
Throughout the game you can partake in numerous good or evil missions, where the decisions are as black and white as choosing to either save civilians or kill them. There’s no middle ground, and it’s slightly disappointing that you can’t pick up a mix of good or evil powers during the game—instead having to play through the good and bad paths independently to get the whole inFamous 2 experience. Nonetheless, this is an action game and not an RPG, so these clear choices do ensure that you’re entirely focused one way or another on being a badass, or a do-gooder—killing innocent street performers for no reason whatsoever, or choosing to help the cops tackle a bunch of terrorists. Either choice still gives you access to an impressive arsenal of powers.
Shooting bolts of lightning into a gang of militia, picking a car up with your Telekinesis skill, or conjuring up an Ionic Storm to cause utter devastation are all visually impressive and enjoyable to execute. One of the joys of combat is the freedom to experiment with a combination of powers and the stunts that you have to perform in order to gain XP, such as having to hit five enemies with one Blast attack or attaching a sticky grenade to an enemy. It can be difficult to lock onto enemies efficiently, while jolting camera angles occasionally dampen the experience, but combat is intense, enjoyable and rarely disappoints.
Enemies play their part in creating this intensity, largely consisting of big gangs of tough-to-kill militia and mutants. There are a number of missions where you’ll encounter vast numbers of enemies, which can make it very challenging (especially if you haven’t tried to unlock new powers), but that challenge rarely manifests into frustration. Some exciting – and a few truly tedious – boss battles offer a nice break in pace, and it’s very clever how Sucker Punch has created an environment that more often than not plays a part in these skirmishes. Water, for example, can be used to electrify enemies, while zip lines throughout the city can be used to move swiftly to chase down a target. Once again, McGrath uses the environment to siphon electricity, and the brilliant addition of the vertical launch poles send you high in the air, allowing you to see the city from a different perspective. Overall, there’s a mass of different ways to traverse New Malais and dozens of creative ways to kill enemies.
Despite the comic-book aesthetic, New Malais, which is based on New Orleans, looks drastically better than Empire City did in the first game. Neon-lit streets and towering buildings, designed to be climbed, sit pretty among the incredibly fine details of shop fronts, while street furniture and mass of citizens make the city spring to life. Level design is impressive as you zip across this huge game world on electric power lines, shimmy up drainpipes and leap across rooftops battling enemies causing carnage with your powers. While inFamous players will have done the majority of it before in the last game, New Malais is an exciting, more glamorous city to explore and much slicker to navigate than Empire City.
Missions are varied, too, and there’s plenty to do as you collect blast shards in order to gain access to bigger and better powers, or search for audio logs which help to build up the storyline. The biggest addition to the series, however, is the ability to create your own content via a comprehensive mission editor. Though it would have benefited from a tutorial mode, this is really where inFamous 2 stands-out from its predecessor and indeed other games of this ilk. The content creator is incredibly in-depth, allowing you to create the likes of event triggers, place NPCs anywhere you like and even manipulate the environment. You can create a wide variety of mission types, and depending on your patience and willingness to get to grips with the toolset, you can create some real masterpieces that give other players in inFamous 2 more than enough reason to keep coming back to more once the campaign is complete.
For all its good points though, inFamous 2 does have a few negatives. As you hit the second half of the game, combat starts to get a little repetitive, bosses repeat and the fact that you have to pummel every enemy numerous times to kill them can get a little draining. However, the good most definitely outweighs the bad, and it’s that feeling of progression and constant reward for your efforts that will keep you upbeat and keen to reach the final outcome, which ends up being well worth your efforts.
inFamous, praised for spawning an impressive new breed of super-hero in the electrically-charged Cole MacGrath and then creating an extravagantly designed open-world city for him to ply his trade, was one of those games that demanded a sequel. Stereotypically, sequels are never as impressive as their originals, but inFamous 2 improves in many areas to deliver a smooth-flowing, enjoyable and explosive ride. As for the user-generated content, well, that really pushes this particular genre to a whole new level.