Sunday, July 31, 2011

Infamous 2 - Glorious Mediocrity

May 26th, 2009: Infamous is released for the Playstation 3. The game takes elements from games such as Mirror's Edge, Assassin's Creed, and even Crackdown. The gameplay is a well-crafted action-adventure sandbox game. The controls are relatively smooth, the city is dark and eerie, perhaps a little too gray and grainy at times, however. The powers are wonderful and there's a plethora of interesting and diverse side-missions. No cutscenes unless you count graphic novel-esque pictures coupled with lead character's (Cole McGrath) narration. It's no surprise that two years later, June 7th, 2011, Infamous 2 came out with a special Heroic edition and some great improvements.

Let's talk about improvements, shall we? The controls are more intuitive. Cole moves more smoothly and a bit faster. There are new ways to climb to the top of buildings and a lot of inventions to speed up your travel time, which wasn't even a weakness in the previous game. The improved hover is a wonderful thing and I was thoroughly pleased to fly around the city. There are other great new powers including all the ionic powers (vortex, drain, storm, etc). Graphics are much better, and the animation is cleaner, more colorful, lots more diversity in the way citizens look and dress. And CUTSCENES! There are some great cutscenes in this game, which is partially due to a bigger budget and the use of motion capture. There are less glitches and plenty of new and exciting side-missions to complete.

Infamous 2 takes all of the fun from the first game and amplifies it. As sequels do, they struggle to live up to their predecessor or to conclude a story sufficiently for all of the fans. Just as Infamous did, their are "Karma" choices where Cole can do good or evil. Just as Infamous, the choices are awfully flat and empty. Evil isn't really selfish or easier, just involves killing more civilians and wreaking more havoc. Unlike Infamous 2, the endings are very different depending on your final choice. To refrain from spoilers, I will note that--as Zeropunctuation noted--Cole doesn't often seem "good" or "evil" because the gamer makes those choices outside of the cutscenes. So now, in the one cutscene with the choices being shown, we aren't as attached to Cole in any personal sense aside from that we control him. The two decisions are the utmost extreme solutions, and there are no other options. Either be super hero, or be super villain. Neither ending truly feels like your own, but just a vaguely interesting concept. It doesn't help that Kessler was a far more interesting and non-villainous villain than The Beast.

Zeke, and the relationship Cole has with Zeke, is something far better in Infamous 2 than in Infamous. At no point were you given a reason to take Zeke seriously in Infamous, though you were arbitrarily expected to at times. When he betrays you and follows Kessler, there is something powerful there, but only as a concept, not in the way the story was told. Now, in Infamous 2, we see in cutscenes a friendship plagued with regrets and grudges. They share a wonderful moment in the story where we see those elements fade away. In the good ending, you see how much they care for one another and when they need to part ways, what that means to them. In the evil ending, it is far more wrenching because we could see and feel this friendship, and the evil choice tears these two friends apart. And the game demands you take responsibility for it. In that, Infamous 2 deserves great credit.

It seems, without spoilers, that it will be hard for Sucker Punch to make another installment. As such, I find the universe curious, and I think they have several opportunities to go elsewhere. In this I hope they can expand and do even better in their story telling.