Saturday, 28 July 2012

Infamous 2: Review

It’s time to once again pick a side, as Sucker Punch Studios’ electricity-wielding superhero takes to the streets of New Marais, with new powers, new enemies and new allies, with some old names thrown in for good measure. But can the sequel live up to the hype from its predecessor?

For starters, you should definitely play the first game if you haven’t already, as the story picks up pretty much exactly where it left off. But even if you haven’t, the opening scene (still in its unique, comic book narrative style) briefly sums up the events of the first game. This time around, the story begins with Cole, Zeke, and Agent Lucy Kuo about to embark on a journey to New Marais, where his scientist pal Wolfe has methods of making him stronger. The Beast, as prophesised in the first game, is coming and Cole needs to be ready to fight it when it does. However, it shows up a little early, and begins to tear up Empire City, and so Cole must dash in and save the day. Unfortunately for him, he isn’t even close to being strong enough yet, and barely escapes with his life. And so the race commences, as you are continually informed of how close the Beast is to New Marais.

The Beast isn’t the only thing to contend with in this game though. New Marais has been overtaken by a cruel Militia, led by the sinister Joseph Bertrand, who is hell bent on wiping out all conduits, particularly Cole, who has been name as the ‘Demon of Empire City’. There are plenty of plot twists to keep you interested, and new characters that you come to care about throughout the game, such as the rebellious, yet lovable Nix. The choices you make heavily impact how each character responds to you, and ultimately decides the outcome of the game.

One neat little feature before you even start the game, is that if you have played the first game, even if you haven’t finished it, you can choose which side you want to start on, good or evil. Finishing the first game merely gives a small bonus one way or another. The choice system in total hasn’t changed much. Some of the quests will force you to decide, do you make things easier for yourself? Or do you do what is right for the rest of the city. Unfortunately, the Karma system isn’t as ambiguous as the likes of Fallout, and most of the choices you make are simply good or evil, with no amount of conscious thought as to which is which. Good is blue, bad is red. These minor issues can be over looked though, in light of the game’s many strong points.

The city of New Marais may not be quite as big as Empire City, but there is far more variety in where you can go. Parks, cemeteries, swamps, construction sites, swamps and urban landscapes make a refreshing change from the slightly dull repetitiveness of the buildings in Empire City. Dotted about the map are side quests, blast shards, and hero and villain favours to be performed, such as defusing a bomb or attacking a bunch of protestors. 

Things are looking good in the sound department too. The voice acting is superb, even if the deep, gravelly voice of Cole that we’ve come to love has been replaced. The music complements the scenes perfectly, whether you’re in an emotional scene with Nix talking about her family, or a fast paced chase sequence where the bullets are flying. The sound of Cole’s powers sounds great, and some of the things that pedestrians shout as you run past are just plain hilarious.

Graphically, this game does not disappoint. The various environments of New Marais all have a distinctive look to them, meaning that it’s easy to find your way around. Climbing to the top of a high structure and looking around the city can be truly breathtaking in some locations, such as the stone monument you pass at the beginning. Some of the creature designs are truly inspired and occasionally terrifying, yet enthralling all the same. Collapsing towers and exploding buildings look surprisingly realistic, and it feels immensely satisfying to watch a wooden lookout post crumble beneath your feet. It is also interesting to see how the city changes based on the choices you make. If you choose the evil path, and become an evil menace that terrorises citizens, you will soon find that the streets become deserted, and the city has a gloomy, destroyed look. However, if you choose the good side, and become a hero to the people, the citizens will be walking about, cheering as you go past, and even helping you out in combat by throwing stones at your foes.

Despite these magnificent feats, some of the people look a little...less than human. The main characters-Cole, Zeke, Nix and Kuo-all look great, although Nix’s hair sometimes disappears into her shoulders. But when you arrive at people who need help, or bystanders in cutscenes, you can see that these minor characters weren’t given much attention. Lip synching is mixed up, sometimes it’s accurate, and sometimes it’s just plain awful. It also won’t take long to notice that the hundreds of people walking around New Marais, are actually just the same ten or so people multiplied.

Where the game truly shines though, is in its gameplay. The game has brought over the same ‘aim and shoot’ mechanism from the first game, and added a few new features to spice things up a little. For starters, there’s a new cover system, which allows you to crouch behind objects to protect yourself from gunfire, allowing you to pop up and shoot when there's an opening, or stay down and regain lost health. You can also switch powers on the fly. As you will gain many powers over the course of the game, you will get more than one per button. If you are in the middle of a battle, and you find yourself needing a different power, you can press left on the D-Pad and press the corresponding button to cycle through the various powers allocated to that button. With many powers to gain and upgrade, the choice of how to fight is entirely up to you. You can shoot off a few bolts to grab the enemies’ attention, then lure them back to a more open or closed space, depending on your preference, or you can stay on the rooftops and rain destruction from above, or you can simply run in with explosive powers. There is a whole number of ways to battle, and the decision is usually up to you.

However, such high standards cannot come without problems. Glitches and bugs are everywhere, many more than in the first game, and sometimes can stop you from getting what you want. For example, after shooting down a bird that had an intel drop attached to it, when I watched to see where it would land in order to retrieve the intel drop, it merely fell straight through the floor and disappeared. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. Also, randomly placed bosses in side missions make for particularly nasty difficulty spikes (one has two bosses battling each other, and it’s your job to make sure none of them win), and Cole’s severe weakness to water leads to some cheap deaths, from massive enemies throwing you off the side of a boat.

Infamous 2 is an incredible game, in most ways, better than the first. Some minor technical issues and irritating enemies should in no way deter you from picking this up-just make sure you’ve played the first game beforehand!

9/10 - Fantastic

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