inFAMOUS 2 – Playing With Lightning

I came late to the PS3 party, as I got mine just a few months ago. Having come from the Xbox 360 and the PC worlds, the games I am really interested in are the PS3 exclusives. inFAMOUS was high on that list, and so I played it a few months back. It was good, but didn’t really stand out from other third person shooters or open world games, and it really didn’t shine when I held it up to games like Saints Row 3 and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

Granted, that’s not exactly fair. inFAMOUS was released in 2009, and I’m comparing it to games 2 years newer than that. Still, those were its peers when I was able to play it. As the first game was good, but not great, I hadn’t even really planned on playing inFAMOUS 2 until I got a Playstation+ offer I couldn’t refuse. The first game left an impression, but I was really kind of annoyed by a few bits of it, specifically the combat and Cole’s methods for getting around the city.

I mention these elements as they were still the first thing that struck me about inFAMOUS 2 when I first started playing it. For a game about the “next evolution” of mankind, the game really starts off feeling as if it hasn’t evolved at all from its predecessor. Cole’s got most of the same moves and animations, and although the “New Orleans” environs are significantly different from the “New York” mashup of the first game, when you’re climbing a brick building in search of a doodad or to get to the next mission, they feel surprisingly similar.

To be fair, there are a few new things from the outset – for instance, in addition to high voltage cables that connect certain pairs of buildings, there’s also high voltage cables on the side of buildings that catapult you upwards, saving you a decent amount of climbing time when they’re available. Still, the focus on travel via predetermined paths and somewhat less responsive climbing mechanics (as compared to the AC series) make getting around more painful that it needs to be.

Combat and Cole’s initial abilities are largely unchanged from the first game. Cole shoots lightning bolts, has a “force push” type move, and eventually he learns to throw grenades and fire rockets. The issue with his attacks is that there’s no aim assist or lock-on mechanic. This is fine on the PC, where you can get more or less exact control via a mouse and keyboard, but the controller on the PS3 makes exact attacks difficult. I found hitting anything at any sort of range to be problematic, but the AI seems to be able to hit me from across the map if they have even the slightest line of sight.

Thankfully, though, about halfway through the game you unlock a whole new set of powers. What powers you get depends on the choices you’ve made (to be “famous” or “infamous” as the title suggests). You can’t have your cake and eat it too, so I picked the “good” power set. There’s a couple of new movement abilities that make getting across the map fun instead of feeling like a chore. Additionally, they give you some combat abilities that make the lack of aim assist much easier to swallow. Some attacks fire rapidly while recharging your power on-hit, which makes the twitchy “basic ranged attack” into a fire hose of electricity-based death. There are also multiple “homing/sticky” attacks which are fire-and-forget, making taking fleeing and distant enemies down much easier.

The moral choices you can make aren’t so much black or white as they’re just silly or sadistic. Will you destroy an entire village of innocents to save yourself the trouble of killing maybe 12 bad guys? Will you deliver medical supplies to a potential ally, or terrorize them into fearing you and therefore obeying you? There’s really no redeeming qualities to the “infamous” Cole, and the choices he gets to make are just psychotic. It’s not even “I want to watch things go boom!” but “I want to kill as many innocent people as possible!” which feels… not fun, but wrong. Nix, the “evil romantic interest” in the game, is transparent and shallow. She just comes off as something less than human, motivated by transparent animal impulses.

Still, though, the story manages to keep the tension high and the game’s motivation flowing. Cole’s a good (pro/an)tagonist, and seems more observant than most. This isn’t one of those stories where you’re yelling at the TV for the idiots on the screen to just figure out the damn obvious solution to the mystery already. The twists and turns feel good, and add to the story’s depth rather than making it feel cheap.

Overall, the game feels like a strong step forward, and I’m glad I took the chance on it to see where they’re taking the series. It’s not a game I feel compelled to get every last trophy for, but playing the campaign through once was a lot of fun.

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