Sunday, July 3, 2011 at 1:43PM
I debated with myself for the past week on what to write about Infamous 2. I wasn’t particularly fond of the first game. I saw the merit in it being a single-player game existing this ever-growing gaming culture, where single-player-only experiences are dying faster than the hype around the Playstation Move.
In the original Infamous, Sucker Punch managed to design an open world game that felt like a huge playground. A barren and emotionally devoid playground. A playground rife with missions upon side-missions that affect how the main character, Cole McGrath would mature. I’m using the term ‘mature’ loosely. The newest fetish in single-player narrative is designing games that give the illusion that the player has a choice in how their story concludes. In Infamous’ case, the player has the option of playing good or evil.
Nothing could be further from the truth and Infamous 2 is an example of that. If you finished the original game then you know that there was a [generic] evil and a [well-defined] good ending. However, in Infamous 2 it’s quite clear that there was only one-true ending. A little confusing? The player can continue on with their evil karma, but the events in the original game do nothing dramatic, but allowing your reputation to comically soldier-on in a game with a much weaker script.
Infamous 2 is a better ‘game’. The mission structure isn’t as claustrophobic and ADHD-oriented. Gone are the seven icons that would pop-up on your map while distracting the player from a “storiented”* mission. Now there’s, like, four icons. This would be where I could slide in an Infamous 1.5 joke, but the major technical changes to the game are pretty beneficial.
The original Infamous hosted an Empire City which had a great deal of graphical slow-down when fights with cops and Reapers met a fever pitch. Infamous 2 seems to be an experiment in how to evoke emotion in an open-world game. Rarely does the game deliver, but at least the game runs better when Cole is shouting macho lines.
Sidenote: what happened with Cole? To his detriment in the original Infamous, we had a much more subdued and, arguably, ‘emo’ character. At the start of Infamous 2, Cole’s all about “smashing in some faces” and “getting more power.” Maybe this was one of the sacrifices made in order to make a heroic player and evil player seem feasible to the storyline.
The problem here, in regards to the story’s narrative running parallel to the game’s design, they never mesh! If you decide to make nothing but heroic decisions, which usually means siding with your pal Kuo; Cole still flirts with Nix, who notoriously represents the complete opposite of what Cole wants.
Awful script aside, Infamous 2’s voice acting has taken a hit for the worse. I am [possibly one of the few] that loved the voice acting from the original game. Zeke was annoying, but in a way that grew on me. Bertrand continues to be the most interesting character, because of the stellar voice actor whose name escapes me. This being said, there’s nothing worse than listening to voice acting in a video game and envisioning the actor reading off of a script. Maybe it was ADR and bad sound engineering, but Kuo and Cole both sounded like they had a lisp and brand new dental veneers. The character Nix was so ‘on the nose’ with the obvious allegory on how we have forgotten about Hurricane Katrina victims. It made me sick. But that could have been my motion sickness from playing the game for too long.
There is a game in Infamous 2. It’s quite fun. Collecting Blast Shards and doing dead drops never felt so, powerful. It should be old now, given how quickly this gaming generation evolves past certain gaming tropes. Taking down large hulking beasts and large crowds of enemies [or bystanders] is still, oddly, freeing.
There are still small control issues. Occasionally the camera gets away from the player and seems to tilt in an obstructive manner. I haven’t seen any reviewer write this, so I must be the only one that thinks the platforming and ‘snap-to’ environment mechanics in Infamous 2 has gotten worse.
Climbing and descending from buildings has gotten marginally painful to do. I’m guessing as a fix from the original game, where mashing the ‘X’ button got severely tedious; Infamous 2 will have Cole getting stuck in environments the player didn’t intend on sticking on. Cole will engage in animations that the player can’t break him out of, this is mostly prevalent in the close-quarters combat sequences. Sequences that work 90 percent of the time, but that lingering 10, usually result in the player dying from being shot by enemies off-screen.
There is a case that this Infamous game is the more digestible. Boss fights are bigger and more interesting than the original. Though I was partial to the enemies in the first game, the enemies in Infamous 2 do apply to the story’s setting. Though I feel the story is lacking in some of the character depth department and voice-over work, the city, itself is interesting to inhabit. This is a game after all.
There are new Fire and Ice powers depending on which karmic side you choose. All of which aren’t necessary to get Cole through the game. This is a good and a bad thing. Why introduce powers that seem, at best, tangentially integrated with the powers Cole already possesses? At the same time, this generation of gaming is all about giving the player too many choices. So I guess, it’s a good thing you have the option of playing the game in a variety of ways that I’m not losing sleep over.
I think this wordy review is the highest recommendation I could give a game that barely held my interest. Cue stock reviewing trope, “if you loved the first one, then you’ll, REALLY love...” but it’s true, so I shouldn’t joke. People who like games like these intrigue me. I found my brain turning off somewhere around the 70th Blast Shard I collected. There is something about a game that you put in, after a long day, and your mind just goes on auto pilot.
It’s really a great game to study how well the carrot and stick method works on the average gaming brain. You’re always encouraged to traverse, collect and smash in Infamous 2. That’s endearing, because sometimes, that’s all I want to do in real life. In game form though? Infamous 2 ain’t for me, but it does deserved to be played. Though it may not show, I’m actually kinda happy I played it. Too bad they introduced time travel and teased a sequel at the end. This would have been a good one to end on.
I give Infamous 2 …
The "Smile If You Love Sequels Device" Award