Hypnotic reviews: inFAMOUS 2

So first off, I loved the first inFAMOUS. Before you play this, make sure to play that one. Partly because it's free thanks to the welcome back package, partly because the story in the second one builds heavily on the first one, partly because you get some small bonuses in inFAMOUS 2, but primarily because it's a much, much better game.

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I should probably explain. My biggest quarrel with the second game is its story. Both games rely heavily on the morality system. A system that got the first one some criticism for being too binary. The first one still made it work, partly because it was a superhero game and the binary system was therefore justified, but mostly because the binary choices still managed to be impactful. The first one was about losing your humanity and how to deal with that, whether to use your powers to help yourself or others. It managed to keep things down to earth despite the fantastical setting. This is about some dude with powers and his two girlfriends. These were characters I already knew and loved, and they still managed to make me stop caring.

The story starts shortly after the first one. The beast mentioned in the ending of the first one is finally here, and is after Cole. After a short fight with him, you're off to New Marais to train and become strong enough to beat the beast. The ruler of New Marais is Bertrand, and as he's a leader he must be evil. That's the way the inFAMOUS universe works, apparently. His backstory and motivation is actually quite interesting, but he himself is boring. There's a great story behind him, but Sucker Punch fail at telling it, and he completely fails as an antagonist. In New Marais he eventually meets two women who each represent good and evil. Neither or them are well developed and their motives are arbitrarily motivated to fit their karmic alignment. At around the middle-point of the game you're forced to choose which of the two women to bond with and gain their powers. It's a great excuse for why karma influence your powers, which was just a big mystery in the first game, but no matter who you choose neither of your relationships with them will be impacted and it's completely pointless to the story. You will never so much as kiss any of the women and the one you don't choose will stick by you until the end. In fact, throughout the game none of your karmic choices have any impact whatsoever on the story, which makes the morality system feel hollow and pointless. They even go to the trouble of having branching choices and missions, but they're all basically the same, just with different motivations. The entire morality system is worthless, right up until the very end, where you're presented with an actual dilemma, a real morality choice! ...But you're only allowed to choose the option that fits your current karma, which is such a stupid design decision it's baffling.

The new city, New Marais, is about the same size as Empire City, which is pretty big. It's divided into 2 islands with 2 sections each. In order to power up the new sections the underground levels have been replaced by a flight simulator. The flight simulator is shallow and it all comes down to fighting a bunch of enemies, something that the underground sections used to provide a welcome change from. The train has been replaced by a tram, which is much slower and generally misplaced. One of the sections is flooded, which makes the combat more interesting. Water damages Cole, but makes his enemies vulnerable, and learning to use that to an advantage is a lot of fun. The environments are varied and well designed, the ambient noises, sound effects and the visuals are nicely done. It's nice to see the environments change based on your decisions, however I feel like design has been allowed to trump function in some places. Even though the setting is nice, you'll still get bored of it after enough time spent running around all over town because movement isn't fluent enough.

The key to making a great sandbox game is accomplishing two things. The first is to make the world active and make sure that there's always something to do, and the second is to make it fun to explore. The first point has been helped a lot since the last game by implementing random events with moral alignments. There's always something to do and there's no need to fear doing something different from your karmic alignment because there's always something else to balance it. There are also over 60 side missions and user generated content, but they can feel a bit short at times. The side missions are generally too combat focused, and the variety from the first game is somewhat lost, but there are a lot of inventive user missions, so it evens out well.

To make the world fun to explore, however, is a failure. There are great rewards for exploring, like story elements and collectibles. The collectibles increase you maximum electricity, which is used as ammo, and that's really impelling to search for, since you somehow never have enough. There's a new upgrade that makes it a lot easier to find all of the collectibles, which is a great help, but the story elements don't have this upgrade, and if it's much easier getting all the collectibles, but not the whole story, there's something's wrong. The fun rewards for exploring are hampered by the fact that going to get them isn't fun. The movement is altogether awkward. There's a noticeable lack of electricity compared to the first game. There are electric lines just like the first game, but they're much rarer and usually only go in a straight line in stead of branching paths like the first one. The climbing was a low point in the first game, and there's not much difference in the new one. Sure there's an electric pole added that propels you upward, but they're very rare and never where you need them to be. Any time I needed to climb a building, and it happens a lot, much more than the first game, I would just spam the jump button and push up, thinking about something else until I was at the top. That is bad design, and it makes my thumb hurt. There's a desperate need for a manoeuvring speed upgrade, but it never comes. One of my favourite time in inFAMOUS 1 was riding on the train, so it was a big disappointment that the train was replaced. When you find a line to ride the sense of speed is exhilarating, the only problem was that there was never a line to ride.

Rockets!

The combat has a seamless mix between first person shooting and third person melee. Your enemies will be composed of shooting dudes, rocket dudes, melee dudes, shield dudes, rocket dudes, big dudes, huge dudes and rocket dudes. There are aggravatingly many rocket dudes, and they one shot kill you if they get a clean hit. Fortunately the rocket dudes suck at aiming, but sometimes if you're close enough they'll kamikaze, killing both of you. In general, you'll meet a group of smaller enemies accompanied with one or two big ones. The challenge comes in managing a group of enemies, since one on one they're not much of a threat. You'll have a variation of a machine gun, grenades, rockets and sniper at your disposal, but they're unlocked at a very slow pace. Where the last game had a very complicated control system with direct upgrades, in the new one there are several branching upgrades all mapped to one button, which you toggle between in an uncomfortable quick-menu. In order to unlock the upgrades you'll have to wait for the story to reach a certain point, complete a little mini-quest by killing dudes in a certain way, and then buying it with XP. Having to wait for a certain point in the story is a good choice, but it happens too few and far between. It would be better to have a more extensive mini-quest, since that's really fun, but is over instantly. The XP is one of the best implementations I've ever seen, there's always something you can't afford at the moment and you'll have to work for it.
All of the really impactful attacks cost a lot of electricity. You can recharge your electricity through any electrical source, but they're a bit too uncommon compared to the last game. Cars no longer give you any worthwhile amount, and there are much less air conditioners on the roofs. The only really good place to recharge is the light poles, and they're all on the ground. Luckily you can drain beaten enemies to completely fill your electricity, but it leaves you open in the middle of a fire-fight. The enemies take a lot of damage to take down, especially the smaller ones when put in relation to the big ones. When you hit someone, they get stunned, so even though they're not dead yet, they're no longer a threat, and to continue shooting is just a waste of time. It may seem like a small complaint, but the melee is insta-kill, which begs the question of why even bothering shooting?

One of the biggest changes since the first game is the addition of melee. It's a welcome change, since it makes the game a lot more active and direct. It also opens up opportunities for new kinds of enemies that are more melee focused. Melee can feel a bit over-powered since it insta-kills any enemy in 3 hits, but given how annoying some enemies can be it's a good thing. Oddly enough, for a third person game it seems curiously inept at third person camera. Previously all the combat had been in first person and it was hard to notice, but with the addition of melee the camera will get on your nerve if you ever have an enemy behind you. The new city is designed for two height-levels of fighting, the ground and the roofs. That works well with shooting since you can always shoot up or down, but when melee is introduced it becomes awkward. Eventually most enemies end up on the ground one way or the other, and you're forced to go down. If you then try to move up again the awkward climbing mechanics will kill the flow and excitement of combat. You will of course naturally make your way to a high point, but the whole strategic point of them is to keep others off. All this means that most of the combat will be on the ground, and the exciting multi-levelled combat is never fully realised. All of these complaints are just nitpicks, there is still a lot of variation to the combat and it's always fun. Something very rare is that all attacks seem useful, which encourages experimentation and variation.

The old game that I loved is still there, but it's diluted. There is more of everything, but the polish just isn't there. It's a good game, but it's just not living up to its full potential. There's still a lot of stuff to do and it has great replay value, so I'd definitely recommend it at $60.

Pros: Great combat, even if it does drag on, and a lot of value for your money.

Cons: Pointless story and stupid morality system.

Story: 4
Design: 7
Gameplay: 8
Presentation: 7
Overall: 7

Note: I've retconned my early review scores to better fit my later reviews.

Good review. I don't own a PS3, but I'm told that I need to play the first game if I ever do get one.

Also, are we using the 10 point scale where anything less than 6 is crap? Or are we using a different one?

CM156:
Good review. I don't own a PS3, but I'm told that I need to play the first game if I ever do get one.

Also, are we using the 10 point scale where anything less than 6 is crap? Or are we using a different one?

I try to actually use the entire 10 point scale in stead of the fashionable 4 point, but there's always the chance that I'll be influenced by my peers.
Thanks for reading!

It's a decent review, but the gameplay, story, and design sections of it are a bit all over the place. It kind of jumps from one discussion into the next without any real flow, like the part where you talked out the environments, but then started discussing Bertrand in the very next sentence.
You should try to categorize it a bit better.

When it comes to the climbing mechanics of inFamous, it seems there's a real split in the overall opinion. Some people rather be able to simply run up a building like in Prototype, but I generally like the slower movements. I like how both the original and the sequel make you feel powerful, but never too powerful. Even when you're at your strongest, simple grunts are still a threat.

As for the story, I wouldn't necessarily call it bad. If you take it on it's own merits it's just a run of the mill superhero story. The real problem are the characters. A story is like a car: Even if it's a Yugo it can still perform greatly as long as the driver knows how to handle it. And the characters in inFamous and inFamous 2 are just not interesting or competent enough to "drive" this story. Cole is still bland and his jaw has somehow withdrawn into his neck, and Zeke is less of an irritation only by comparison to Nix.

In a nutshell I would say that this gameplay deserves better narritive and characters.

Casual Shinji:
It's a decent review, but the gameplay, story, and design sections of it are a bit all over the place. It kind of jumps from one discussion into the next without any real flow, like the part where you talked out the environments, but then started discussing Bertrand in the very next sentence.
You should try to categorize it a bit better.

When it comes to the climbing mechanics of inFamous, it seems there's a real split in the overall opinion. Some people rather be able to simply run up a building like in Prototype, but I generally like the slower movements. I like how both the original and the sequel make you feel powerful, but never too powerful. Even when you're at your strongest, simple grunts are still a threat.

As for the story, I wouldn't necessarily call it bad. If you take it on it's own merits it's just a run of the mill superhero story. The real problem are the characters. A story is like a car: Even if it's a Yugo it can still perform greatly as long as the driver knows how to handle it. And the characters in inFamous and inFamous 2 are just not interesting or competent enough to "drive" this story. Cole is still bland and his jaw has somehow withdrawn into his neck, and Zeke is less of an irritation only by comparison to Nix.

In a nutshell I would say that this gameplay deserves better narritive and characters.

The categorisation was partly cuz I was trying a new thing, I'll go over this review over the next few days to work out some kinks.

The thing that irked me about the climbing was that the game forced me to move up and down. The enemies forced me down, but there was no fun there after I'd beaten them and I felt the need to climb up again. In this repetition I got frustrated. I never minded it in the first game cuz I chose where I wanted to be, in this I felt forced. If they had included an upgrade, made you run just a little faster, have as many electrical lines as the first game or just have the tram actually go through town in stead of small circles it would have been fine. This is a problem throughout inFAMOUS 2, all the faults are just small annoyances, but they build up to stupid design. I just feel that when you make a game world that big, you have to make it fun and fast to travel in, and they completely failed in doing that. I like that a grunt is always a threat as well, but that's no excuse. Combat and movement are two different thing, and I don't want to be bored waiting for combat.

If you'll notice I actually gave this story a worse grade than I did DNF. In DNF the story wasn't any good, but it never tried to be. It knew exactly what is was, an excuse for gameplay. This is entirely different. I liked the first story and its characters. Sure it wasn't well presented, but all the basics were there, you just needed to fill in some blanks for yourself. It was a little silly at times, but the decisions actually meant something to me. Without spoiling things, there are a few decisions that really matter and stay with you, and the end reveal, though cliché, painted a picture of a grand plan with grave importance. This was the continuation of that, they had everything already done for them. All the characters were already developed, they knew how it had to end. I was just excited to see where it all was leading, they had already sold me. And somehow they still screwed it up. None of the characters have any motivation to do anything, they're just there because the designers wanted a story. You don't have any motivation either, besides continuing playing. I love to get immersed in a world, no matter how bad of a game I still try my hardest, and in this I'm always aware that I'm playing a game, which is very rare for me. The worst part is that there's a huge potential wasted.

8 ?!

For throwing the word "fail" around at least 3 times, and the overall negative tone of the entire piece, that seems like an inconsistent final grade. The actual average of the individual elements' scores you've given equals out at 7, but maybe you were trying not to scare people away from playing it at all, though you wouldn't know it be reading the review.

I'm glad you knew exactly what you didn't like about Infamous 2 and were able to articulate it well, but maybe skip the numerical grade summations if they're going to seem out of step with the body of the actual review.

saintchristopher:
8 ?!

For throwing the word "fail" around at least 3 times, and the overall negative tone of the entire piece, that seems like an inconsistent final grade. The actual average of the individual elements' scores you've given equals out at 7, but maybe you were trying not to scare people away from playing it at all, though you wouldn't know it be reading the review.

I'm glad you knew exactly what you didn't like about Infamous 2 and were able to articulate it well, but maybe skip the numerical grade summations if they're going to seem out of step with the body of the actual review.

The thing is, I realise that all of my concerns are pretty minor. The gameplay is still there, and is solid. I was disappointed by the game not because it was bad, but because it was a lot worse than it could have been. I had higher expectations on this game and it failed to deliver, I felt the need to say that I felt that way and why, but why should that influence my grade? I try to make the grading itself relatively objective. The game is worth an 8, but I was harsh on it because to me the first game was an 8.5-9 and this could have easily been a 9.5 if they'd just made less stupid decisions. For this game, an 8 is a failure.

Also, think of my overall grade as quality/fun factor, it's not the average of the other scores.
Thanks for reading!!

 

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