Sucker Punch builds on a hugely popular franchise in some ways, but goes in a completely different direction in others. It takes pieces from the first game, some which make the game better, but it also leaves behind some key aspects which made inFamous the great game that it was. So all things considered, do the changes, or lack of them make this a successful sequel? I think so.
The game opens with main protagonist, or antagonist depending on how you play the game, Cole McGrath bidding farewell to Empire City, the location of the first game. He is travelling to New Marais with his best friend Zeke and NSA Operative Lucy Kuo, in an attempt to acquire new powers, to take down The Beast. Just before they depart, The Beast reveals himself, giving us our first look at it, attacking Empire City. Feeling he owes something to the city, Cole returns to face the mysterious creature, and after an eagerly awaited battle between the two, Cole's powers are drained.
He gave it his all, blowing half of The Beast's face off, but it wasn't enough, as The Beast regenerated, and is now heading towards Cole, towards Empire City. Knowing The Beast has bet him once, Cole is determined to get stronger, but will he be able to wield enough power to destroy the colossal being? You'll have to find out for yourself, but don't worry, all this action takes place in the first 10 minutes of the game, so I haven't spoiled anything. Pretty good opener eh?
From there Cole travels around New Marais, collecting Blast Cores to give him new powers, thus making him stronger. All of this happens as the Beast is making his way down the coast, and you can see his progress any time you pause the game, a feature which I liked. inFamous 2 has much more powers available to use than the first game, which could get messy, but Sucker Punch combated this with an easy to access power menu. With the tap of a button you can change the powers available to Cole, to suit the many different situations you will find yourself in.
When I first picked up the game I will admit that I was nervous for a while, wondering if they had kept one of my favourite things about inFamous. I am of course talking about the cartoon cutscenes, and to my delight, I am able to tell you that they return in the sequel. I loved these cutscenes for many reasons. The tense music, creative art style, and narrative voice of Cole all mixed together made a unique atmosphere, one which i greatly appreciated. Whenever I had done something significant, I would place my controller down, get comfortable, and watch the brilliance unfold. I am glad to say that they are even better in inFamous 2, making the overall experience that bit more enjoyable.
Other features were brought from the first game, such as the side missions, and my favourite collectibles, blast shards. There are 3 types of side missions in the game, good, evil and neutral. The neutral ones can be carried out no matter what karma choice you take. However, if you play a good side mission, it's bad counterpart will be locked out, and vice versa. They put a unique twist into some of the missions, letting you team with Kuo or Nix, depending on which choice you make. This freshens things up and gives the player a chance to experience gameplay with one of the two. I feel that Kuo and Nix are excellent additions to the game, as they offer different powers, and have completely different attitudes on life. Kuo fields ice powers, and will plan every action around the safety of others. The extravagant Nix has fire powers, and will often act without any considerations for innocent people. These two completely different sidekicks if you will make cutscenes entertaining, and often you will have to choose sides. They embody the karma system, making choices more difficult, as most players will want to experience gameplay with both characters.
All of that said, side missions can often be repetitive, and may get boring as you will often be tasked with defeating a large group of enemies, or following someone back to a base. In small doses missions are fun, and they offer the player a chance to make an area enemy free, but there are just too many, and since they unlock powers, you might feel as if you have to do them all, which becomes a grind.
Earlier I mentioned blast shards, which are and I quote “highly charged pieces of earth” , found all over New Marais. As you collect them you will unlock more battery cores, making you even stronger. If you played the first game, you will know how difficult it was to find all 350 of them. inFamous 2 includes 305 collectible blast shards, which may seen a daunting task, but it will be significantly easier if you have completed all of the side missions. I don't want to spoil anything, so you can figure it out for yourself, but let me say this, it won't be a tough challenge to get them all.
Something which changes hugely from the original game is the design of Cole. Not only does he look different, he also sounds different. Is this a positive thing? Yes and no. I liked the appearance of the original Cole, and in general I don't like games changing the design of their characters, but they could have made him look much worse. However, I am a fan of how Cole sounds in the game, as he actually speaks with emotion, unlike the first game.
Someone else who has a whole lot of emotion is Zeke, the only returning character from inFamous, except Cole of course. I feel that his return is a positive thing, and he proves his worth straight away, by inventing the amp, Cole's newest weapon. The amp changes melee combat entirely, making it more interesting, as well as more effective, especially against the game's newest enemy, the Corrupted. These creatures were once citizens of New Marais, but have been mutated, and now dwell in the swamps. They come in many different forms, the most common of which being Swamp monsters. There is also the Ravager, Hive Lord, Devourer and Behemoth, which are bosses, and given their own health bar. At first they are a breath of fresh air, but after a while, fighting them will seem repetitive.
Another force Cole will face during the game is know as The Militia, lead by Joseph Bertrand III. The Militia is dedicated to the elimination of Conduits, and has taken over New Marais. Bertrand is one of my favourite characters in the game, and he is involved in many of the main plot twists. There is another group of enemies Cole will fight during the course of the game, but you will find that out for yourself half way through.
I wouldn't be reviewing the game properly if I didn't address the karma system, graphics and of course the gameplay. The game is looking better than ever, and how Sucker Punch made New Marais look is a credit to them. The gameplay is very much like the first one, if it isn't broke don't fix it. Cole is easy to control, and after a few minutes with the game you will be flying over the streets of New Marais, knowing you have mastered the controls. Cole handles excellently, and you can feel his strength throughout the game.
Finally, the karma system, one of the main selling points of the game. This system will drastically change how the game is played, from simple choices to stopping a mugging or not, to huge game changing decisions. If you choose to play the hero, your powers will be blue, but if you choose to play through the game as the bad guy, your powers will be red. The game has two very different endings based on karma, giving you every reason to play through the game again, making different decisions, and getting a different experience.
This gives the game huge replay value, as to see everything you must play through at least two time.
All in all I think inFamous 2 takes an excellent game, and for the most part improves it. Due to this I feel that inFamous 2 is a must have for any Playstation 3 owner, and is one of the strongest games of the year.