Monday, June 27, 2011

inFamous 2 review

I have now completed inFamous 2 through both endings at the hardest level available. So how was it? It was good. Graphically better than the first, smoother and with a tweaked combat system... it still has its flaws though.

For those who haven't played the first your character is a courier named Cole McGrath whose delivery blew up in his hands killing a large number of people in Empire City and incidentally giving Cole super electric powers; sadly this blast has also given powers out to a few other people in the city all of whom are interested in taking it over.

This sequel starts with Cole leaving Empire city either a Hero, Devil, or Neutral (depending on if you have a previous save game) heading to the flooded city of New Marais to meet someone who claims to be able to enhance his powers. Why would Cole be so desperate to power-up? Because "The Beast" is coming someone set not only to destroy Empire City but perhaps the entire world.

Not wanting to spoil too much of the opening but someone turns up earlier than expected and from that point on it's a countdown; well sort of a countdown. Complete certain mission stories and things advance. Unlike the previous game this provides much more focus - you have a reason for doing what you're doing unlike its predecessor where the character just seemed to be reacting to events.

Nicely although the game strips off most of the powers (in a neat logical manner) you retain some you didn't start out with in the first game - Your basic zap, blast, and grenade as well as Static Thrusters which allow Cole to glide and descend slowly. Depending on the Karma path taken other powers become available.

Ah yes Karma. Sadly this is still the all or nothing as in the previous games. As some upgrades derive from the character's current standing in the community you are actively penalised for mixing and matching Good and Evil missions. This can be a little annoying at times particularly when taking the Evil path. There are plenty of good deeds that randomly pop up in the city, but fewer evil ones; worse yet as some of the good acts involve the enemy straying too close can have them engage with you. Kill them and it can class as a good act taking points off the Evil meter.

One of the neater points retained by the Karma system is the reaction of those around you. Perform good deeds and the inhabitants will applaud you and incidentals and collectables shift to reflect this; take the evil path and the inhabitants can actively attempt to harm you. Sounds petty, but play on the hardest difficulty setting and a group of pedestrians can do some serious damage if you're in the middle of something else.

The missions are set up easily. Story mission appear as white circles that always show up on the mini-map; side missions are yellow that only appear on the main map, but a waypoint can be placed that will always show up; local opportunities to do good show up in blue and evil in red with an icon indicating the type of act. One nice touch is that the missions feature either an up/down arrow or exclamation point depending on their vertical relation to your own position. Standing on a yellow dot with an up means you need to get higher.

Complete missions or perform acts and you are rewarded with experience points that can be used to purchase new abilities. Some of these become available at certain points others require you to perform certain stunts to unlock them. Each ability type is mapped to the play keys X for zap, Circle for Blast, Square for Grenade, Triangle for Rocket and R2 for special abilities. Pressing the right d-pad opens up the powers menu to buy them, but pressing the left d-pad opens the quick-change menu.

Once more than one power in a tier is acquired when the corresponding button is pressed while the left d-pad button is held will cycle through them. This is such a logical system it's a wonder why it has never been used before - fire a zap using X cycle through using X. Half your Scythe Bolts hitting the side walls? left d-pad, X, and you're shooting Skull Blasts. It's quick and easy and just flows rather than having to go through a menu or mess with a radial menu overlay.

Game-wise as I said this is a spruced up version of the first game and this means No Loading Times (hallelujah!) The city is one big open playground with only a smattering of Level of Detail pop-in when the camera has to switch around quickly (notably in the 'fire a rocket across half the city' missions) but for the most part everything looks shiny.

Still some small problem with the parkour/climbing mechanic though. Cole is sticky enough so that when you drop/float down to a power line he'll reach out and grab it, but the intelligence of what to grab can be a little lacking in times. As mentioned in my first impressions there are vertical ascension pipes and Cole just refuses to use them if any other protrusion is around unless you jump straight at them. Also this really is a game that would work well in 3D simply to judge where you're landing; that and the impressive draw distance.

Fighting has been touched up although there's still some spread around what is being aimed out for the most part if the reticule turns red it's hitable; improved so much I just didn't use the energy sapping slow-time zoomed-in precision shot. Hand to hand combat has been re-jigged to make it a worthwhile accompaniment to all the zappy powers. Again so much so that rather than blast enemies back and zap them from a distance hand-to-hand became a norm for me. There's still no lock-on so on occasion I found myself flailing at thin air, but when it works the rewards can be pretty good.

The major addition to the sequel is User Generated Content or DIY missions. The toolbox to create whole new missions is included with the game in the same manner as Little Big Planet so in theory the game never ends. I've yet to get to grips with this, but the content currently available is a little weak, but shows promise in what can be done.

Still some replay value due to the quality of the storyline, most would come from the UGC. A worthy sequel.