Thursday, March 27, 2014

Infamous 2 review

    Infamous 2 is the next part of my, well, three review series retrospecting the series before giving my thoughts on Infamous: Second Son. I'm a little late in reviewing this but I wanted to make sure my playthrough was done before I moved on--even if it meant I had to hold off on playing the newer release.

    Infamous 2 is the follow-up to the adventures of Cole McGrath, superhero/villain of Empire City. Having successfully defeated mad scientist Kessler in the previous game, Cole was warned of the coming Beast. Infamous 2 wastes no time in introducing this superpowerful being which promptly hands Cole McGrath his ass.

    Cole proceeds to head to the city of New Marais in a desperate attempt to find a scientific solution to the Beast where brute force failed. The game nicely keeps a timer, showing how close the Beast is to New Marais and how much time our hero has before the destruction of everything he knows. I particularly liked the design of the Beast who manages to combine your typical image of the Devil with something akin to Godzilla meets a Lava God.

The monsters are a high point of the series.
    The game has a nice early post-apocalyptic feel with the implication the United States government has fallen to the Beast's wrath. This event, like the quarantine of the first game, helps explain why Cole is desperately needed to keep order. Much like Empire City was a superheroic adaptation of 9/11, so is Infamous 2 a treatment of Hurricane Katrina. The Metropolis-esque redoing of New Orleans successfully replicates the feel of the real-life city while also making it fictional enough that the potential destruction you wreck isn't too offensive.

Gameplay is fun, fast-paced, and flashy--which is how I like it.
    The gameplay is only minorly tweaked with the addition of a melee weapon for Cole and expansions on his existing abilities. There's a few changes I didn't much care for like the absence of charging for traveling power lines but, overall, fans of Infamous will be able to adapt to the sequel without trouble.

    The storyline is capable of being followed by those who haven't played Infamous but I recommend against this, considering that a major revelation towards the end of the game has no emotional resonance if you didn't play the first game. Likewise, the Beast's appearance is apocalyptic but Cole's emotional agony only make sense if you understand all of the build-up to him.

The New Orleans-esque architecture provides a nice contrast to Empire City.
    Unfortunately, the non-Beast related plotlines in the game feel almost like filler. The bad guy until the arrival of the Diablo-esque entity is a stereotypical racist Southern gentleman (only with super-science and hatred for Conduits instead of blacks). It's a bit like facing Anton Arcane from the Swamp Thing cartoon or television series only not as fun.

    I can't say I'm too fond of the enemy groups either with one being a fairly stereotypical group of ice-themed group of mercenaries and the other being straight-up monsters. Neither they, nor the main villain's militia, possess the kind of appeal as the Reapers or First Sons. I was very disappointed in this action. The absence of the crypto-fascist United States government from the first game is also absent, replaced with the perky and helpful Agent Kuo.

New Marais is beautifully rendered and pretty close to how its real-life counterpart feels.
    The Karma system of the series is incarnated this time by two new characters: Nyx and Kuo. While I welcome any new capable female characters to the series, I've got to say that styling them as the embodiments of good and evil doesn't really please me. Worse, treating the ethnic New Orleans black woman as the avatar of darkness came off as offensive to me. I would have preferred both women get treated as actual characters than philosophical representations.

Did I mention I loved the Beast? Because I really do.
    The ending of Infamous 2, however, is where the game really shines. While I only played through the game as a hero, I have to say I was touched by its handling of a genuinely hard choice. There were elements I didn't approve of and the ending was way too happy for the set-up but it was one of the few video game endings I'd say approached genuine art. Youtube showed me the "evil" ending and I think it was just as enjoyable--which surprised me.

    In conclusion, I liked it but didn't really think it approached the level of its predecessors. I'm a big fan of conspiracy-style stories and that element was drastically toned down. The enemies aren't nearly as varied this time around and the Militia as a Conduit hate-group is far less interesting than than previous offerings. Indeed, they feel like filler until the Beast arrives. I recommend getting this game as a ending to Cole MacGrath's story but suggest players lower their expectations a bit. I expect some to be offended rather than moved by the ending.


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