Our electrical star of Infamous, Cole MacGrath, begins the game with an encounter against ‘The Beast’ an almost god-like deity, hell bent on destroying everything. Cole is unable to stop the destruction of Empire City and is forced to retreat south to New Marais while he prepares himself for round two.
The city of New Marais is inspired by New Orleans, so the settings include recreations of the Latin Quarter, swamps, vault-packed graveyards and also the poorer areas of the city. After the eternally grey Empire City, the new setting is an inspired choice, especially the eerie swamps and the neon lights of the city’s nightlife district. The colours of some of the sunsets are real showstoppers too; seriously, you won’t see better skies anywhere else. The terrible real-life effects of Hurricane Katrina are also mirrored, as Cole arrives years after a flood, to find large areas still submerged with a few nods to the lack of government support New Orleans suffered. It feels tastefully done, as ignoring such an event when basing your location on New Orleans would have been insensitive.
Back in the game world, that flood and lack of support gave rise to a militia group taking over the city. Naturally their leader doesn’t like Cole and wants to exterminate him and anyone like him. New Marais introduces some new characters to the scene, some of whom have special abilities, giving the story a bit of a Heroes / X-Men vibe. Zeke crawls back into the frame, but to his (and the writer’s) credit, he’s a lot more likable and he works hard for Cole’s forgiveness.
Fans will be glad to see that they can still chose between being a hero or villain and two new characters sit on either side -almost on your shoulders- of the karma metre and will often test your will, especially if you’ve decided to strictly play the game one way. Your save from the first game will even give you a nudge in the direction you left off, although don’t expect to have all your abilities restored too. The karma metre is largely affected by the missions that offer you two choices. For example, you need to charge up a generator to activate the bridge; you could overcharge it to blow up the whole area, killing all the bad guys along with innocent folk. Or you can juice it up just enough to get across with some extra fighting to do.
Small tasks can give you nods on your path to becoming a hero or villain. Good guys will prevent muggings, defuse bombs, and restrain defeated enemies with electro-cuffs, while villains will beat up cops and protestors, burn down orphanages (not really), steal blast shards from people and drain energy from lesser beings.
The more story missions you complete, the more abilities and moves you unlock. Some of these have requirements to meet too, such as hitting ten mid-air enemies. Many of the movement-based abilities come surprisingly late. The launched jumps would have been appreciated much earlier to help the still slightly sluggish climbing and getting up to tram-wires for quicker travelling. The Spiderman-esque tether jump should have been introduced no later than the half-way stage too. At least they make the side-missions a lot easier if you leave the bulk of them until later.
The missions themselves feel a little over-familiar and fall victim to the repetitious nature of most open-world games. Areas need to be cleared of enemies and convoys need to be supported by riding along on a truck's roof. Saving hostages is another favourite as is following one bad guy to his base so you can smack up some more bad guys. The only missions I recall that varied significantly from the first game would be the ones where you guide a lightning bolt through the city to reach multiple generators, each of which you must defend from a small army until it's completely charged. One side-mission was unusual and provided a rare touching moment, you go to meet a woman who just wanted to thank you for not letting her family starve back in Empire City, you receive a tender kiss on the cheek and it’s mission accomplished.
These standard missions aren't dull, but it's hard not to be disappointed that little effort has been made to add some extra variety. Also, a minor glitch appeared a few times, causing a mission to never end after all the objectives had been reached, with the only way to get the game to snap out of it would be to hurl Cole into the river for a toaster-in-the-bath suicide.
The boss fights are a lot better than the first game though. They might involve the usual tactics of dodge then shoot their glowing parts, but when they’re against huge creatures rampaging across the city, it’s hard not to have fun as you’re escaping a wave of cars being hurled after you.
The combat in the first game got stale early on, so it's a relief to see an effort has been made to improve things. Cole has a new melee weapon to replace his brawling skills. The Amp, a double-pronged electrical stick is now used for beatdowns. The longer reach works much better than the old unarmed melee attacks. It's still a little limited though, one button for main attacks and another for a finisher.
Cole’s lightning abilities are a mix of old and new. Targeted lightning strikes and electro-grenades are back and supported by additions like rapid-fire attacks (much better) and electro rockets. The inclusion of ice as an important element does have a bearing on combat, but not in the way you might have been expecting. To say any more would unleash spoilers, so I’ll say no more.
These abilities all require energy to use which can be drained from anything electrical and while you can unlock faster draining, you're stuck with having to be ridiculously close to the power-giving objects. This becomes annoying during busier battles, especially when you need the side effect of draining that is quicker health recovery.
As is the custom with many Sony titles today, there is a wealth of User Generated Content (UGC). You can design or play missions from other players. The create suite is a little daunting and the tiny writing is a menace to your enthusiasm but it will help to add some real longevity to the game after the end credits roll.
The game can be completed with roughly half of the side-missions done in two long days over the weekend. But there’s a delicious compulsion to finish every mission and find all the blast shards in the city. Not to mention you can play through the game again and choose the opposite options to explore the other side of the karma system and see how it affects the story and ending. Despite the mission repetition flaws, it’s funny how you’ll want to fire it up again straight away to try out the other team. And how about that sunset?
- New Marais is a wonderfully varied location compared to Empire City
- Play it twice to explore the story and unique abilities
- Lots to collect and upgrade
- Missions are a bit samey
- Key abilities unlock too late in the game
- More moves for the Amp would have been nice
The Short Version: An improvement over the original that will please fans and maybe win some new ones too. Minor upgrades to the combat in key areas finally make you feel like the amped up superhuman you’re supposed to be. The story is a lot better thanks to improved writing and two new characters who perfectly compliment your lighter and darker sides as you choose whether to be the saint or the sinner.