Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: inFAMOUS 2 (PS3)

inFAMOUS 2 (PS3)

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Action (Open World)
Cross Platform: No
Price: Rs 2499
What do you get when Mirror's Edge's Faith rolls in the hay with the god of thunder Zeus? You get inFAMOUS's Cole MacGrath - a lightning spewing, free running badass that redefines the superhero genre. Sucker Punch Productions, makers of the Sly Cooper series, employed this winning Parkour + superpowers formula with inFAMOUS, and made it more interesting with a karma system reminiscent of the Fable games. MacGrath returns in the inevitable sequel, which takes the smarter route of retaining all that was good with the original, while fine tuning the gameplay elements as the inFAMOUS mythos unravels through its engaging plot.

inFAMOUS 2 picks off where the original left off and starts with a bang. The sequel lets you import your savegames from the last game, thereby letting you retain your karmic alignment. A fully amped up MacGrath faces the Beast with rather catastrophic consequences. Not only does our hero lose his powers, but the Beast also ends up destroying Empire City. With his mate Zeke and NSA agent Lucy Kuo, Cole now flees southward to New Marais. This is where our jolly band hopes to find a means to make MacGrath strong enough to face the Beast, who leaves a trail of destruction as he homes in on our hero for a final confrontation.
The narrative is delivered through well-directed comic style cutscenes, which expound on the origins of Cole's powers. The plot is filled with its share of twists and turns, while the karma system forces you to make choices that lead to two different finales. The game departs from the slick environs of the Empire City for a dingy, decadent atmosphere of New Marais. The city endows the sequel with a unique look embodying the stark contrast of the old gothic structures and the gaudy neon signs adorning gentleman's clubs. This change of scenery is welcome and prevents a sense of deja vu evident in the sequels to other open world games
inFAMOUS 2 delivers sharp graphics, with detailed character models and impressive particle effects that bring Cole's powers to life. The texture and object detail may not blow you away, but the environments look as beautiful as any sandbox game running on six year old hardware. The physics algorithms do a good job at showcasing the devastation wrought upon by MacGrath's supercharged attacks. Objects explode, enemies bounce, and debris gets tossed around rather convincingly thanks to the physics engine, which relays the punch of the superpowers. Sound effects are equally punchy, with the gunfire, explosions, and the buzz of Cole's lightning strikes conveyed well. The mediocre voice acting is the only weak point in the audio department.
Cole moves like a cat and hates water even more. His parkour abilities are well exploited with the low-lying rooftops and balconies, while the power \ tram lines make travel faster and prove indispensible as MacGrath grinds along them in hot pursuit of foes. This free running business is extremely simplified. Cole will automatically latch onto the nearest ledge or home in on a safe landing with such consummate ease that it reduces the exercise to simply pointing the analogue stick and spamming the jump button to reach where you want to.
This apparent oversimplification isn't entirely a bad thing. The game distils the parkour elements into a simplified and accessible gameplay mechanic that works well in tandem with Cole's offensive capabilities. He can be easily overwhelmed by a few gunshots or a well placed grenade \ rocket, so your best bet is to dart in and out of rooftops, as you harass enemies with your electric powers. These abilities use energy, which can be sucked from power sources peppered generously across the landscape. When you do run out of juice, you can unleash melee attacks with the Amp. This electric baton deals the pain when your powers fail you. Unfortunately, bad camera angles and unwieldy Amp control makes the melee combat a dampener.
The superpowers, however, give the game its character. You get a wide selection of Tesla approved powers bound to a combination of the [L1] button with [R1] and the face buttons. This is in addition to passive powers and a bunch of superpowers activated by the D-pad. These are intuitively mapped to buttons according to their types, which include lightning bolts, grenades, rockets, and kinetic powers. Each category can be levelled up with XP (experience) points garnered by completing missions and side quests, or by performing some predefined actions and tasks. These different powers can be chained together or used in conjunction with Cole's abilities to devastating effect. This gives a great depth to the combat.
With its careful design and gameplay optimisations, it's amply evident that a lot of thought and effort has gone into inFAMOUS 2. The game's rich plot, conveyed through entertaining story missions, is well complemented by fun side quests. While the platforming is simplified, it is only done to integrate it well with the combat. There's no complaint either, considering how well the combination plays out. The RPG styled levelling elements are spot on, which sees your abilities improving in tandem with the size and aggression of your foes, as the game progresses. The karma system not only affects your powers, but also the NPC interactions, and the very course of the game near the end.
This game gets most of the gameplay elements right, while the shortcomings are too few and insignificant to mar its brilliance in other departments. Cole's second outing is a gorgeously rendered, fast-paced open world romp that just begs to be played. If you are an inFAMOUS veteran, there's no reason why you shouldn't play the sequel.
Gameplay/Design: 4/5
Graphics: 4/5
Sound: 3.5/5
Mojo: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5


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