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Snap Judgment – inFAMOUS 2 (PS3)

The follow-up to Sucker Punch’s 2009 title, inFAMOUS, is better in just about every conceivable way.  inFAMOUS 2 offers higher stakes, better voice acting, improved graphics, sweeter music, and far more interesting karmic choices compared to its forebear.

I don’t want to spoil anything about either inFAMOUS game, so I’ll just say that the sequel takes lead character Cole McGrath from Empire City (i.e. New York) from the original title, to New Marais (i.e. New Orleans) in this 2011 game.  In many ways, this is a vast improvement because Empire City itself felt highly repetitive, architecturally, whereas New Marais offers greater variances between its five districts.  The stark contrast between, say, Ville Cochon (an upscale area) and Flood Town (a disaster zone that was destroyed by a hurricane before the start of the game) is perfect.  There are also a number of great landmarks, like St. Ignatius Cathedral, St. Charles Cemetery, and dilapidated Plantation homes for you to explore.  Each is highly detailed.

The characters themselves are quite a bit more complex and sympathetic, even the ones who are cast in the roles of antagonists. A couple of new friends Cole makes early in the game end up providing the different karmic paths for you to follow; one will almost always suggest a heroic route while the other a villainous one; and boy do they not get along.  Also, a returning fan-favorite character from the first game provides much of the game’s comedic moments and endows inFAMOUS 2 with its heart.

One of the biggest improvements is something that initially sent fans of the original title into an uproar: Sucker Punch replaced the voice actor for Cole.  (Any other returning characters retained their original actors.)  While Jason Cottle provided good work for inFAMOUS, one which many fans grew attached to, Cole came off as one-note and gruff-voiced, exhibiting little emotional range.  In inFAMOUS 2, Eric Laden created a Cole with a lot more depth and variety, portraying a playfulness in some lines that really bolstered the cutscenes.  Even without the gruffness, his Cole still displayed a wonderful dose of menace.  The chemistry between this Cole and the other characters is far better realized than was achieved in the first title.

Mechanically, inFAMOUS 2 features a higher polish.  Traversing New Marais felt a lot more comfortable than Empire City, and the new powers unveiled in this sequel complemented this well.  Just about every frustration I had with inFAMOUS was addressed in the second game.

That’s not to say that the sequel is perfect; it certainly has its rough edges.  Its attempts to rope you into playing user-generated content missions (a neat idea in itself but a largely forgettable one) are a bit of a nuisance, though you can disable them.  One of the antagonists could have featured a bit more development — Sucker Punch teases you with a tantalizing realization about one this bad guy, that for all the terrible things he does, he takes those ill-gotten gains and uses them to improve the lives of the citizens of New Marais.  Sadly, the studio never pulls that thread all the way out to really flesh out the character.  Instead, Cole ends up brushing all of this aside.

In any case, inFAMOUS 2 is a brilliant follow-up to what was already a pretty great achievement.  It does something rare in video games (or really any other medium): it delivers on the promises and foreshadowing that the first game teased, and then wraps a big bow on it all in a way completely satisfying way.  The vision of both of these titles culminates in an incredible conclusion to Cole McGrath’s story.  A

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Written by Michael

5 September 2015 at 12:43 am

Posted in Games, Reviews

Tagged with ,