Review: InFamous 2

Power out
By MITCH KRPATA  |  June 22, 2011
1.5 1.5 Stars

InFamous 2 is the worst game I couldn't stop playing since — well, since inFamous 1. Despite modest improvements, the sequel is plagued with the same problems as its predecessor: poor play control, repetitive enemy encounters, and a dumb story. But it also has a preternatural understanding of player psychology, and apportions character upgrades and bonuses with such skill that you seem perpetually on the brink of earning a new power, if you just play for five more minutes. Like a junkie chasing his next fix, you'll put up with a lot of crap to get what you crave.

The sequel makes changes to the biggest problem afflicting the first game: a control scheme which provided so much assistance that, often, it disregarded the player's input entirely. Controlling the electrified superhero Cole McGrath, players were supposed to feel empowered to climb buildings with ease, so the game stuck Cole to anything he could grab — whether the player was heading that way or not. This time, it feels less magnetic. But it's still hard to move with precision, and climbing tall buildings isn't about mastering your surroundings as much as spamming the X button until you get to the top.

To defeat the Devourer, keep your distance and throw heavy objects at it.
Similarly, enemy encounters are split between duck-and-cover shooting battles and protracted, uninteresting boss battles. Cole's lightning-based powers are impressive to behold (and strike with a visceral force), but all the sparkling particle effects can't disguise that his attacks function the same way as the guns and grenades in traditional shooters. In some ways it's worse because the game's crosshair makes it difficult to judge distances, which you'll discover after throwing yet another grenade several blocks past the target who'd been smack-dab in your sights.

The unsatisfying action is coupled with storytelling that is uninspired even by videogame standards. Cole graduated at the top of his class from Bland White Guy University, and the game's major dramatic throughline is the impending arrival of some big monster with the creative name "the Beast." The game frequently updates you on the Beast's progress. When you resume your game, or hit certain story checkpoints, an onscreen graphic will say how many miles away the Beast is. This is about as far from urgent as possible for a threat of doom to feel, especially because it is obvious that the Beast will not arrive until you have triggered the required game objectives — so you can relax and keep snooping around for those blast shards.

Ah yes, the blast shards — the saving grace of inFamous 2. Scattered all over the city, stuck in the sides of buildings and on rooftops, are glowing blue crystals that, in sufficient quantities, will increase Cole's powers. It's not that collecting any single blast shard is a thrill or even a challenge. It's that every time you grab one, there's another one just a block or two away. So you get that one, too, and — hell, now you only need a couple more to earn the next upgrade!

It is, perhaps, not a compliment to say that a game's best feature is its ability to encourage compulsive play despite not offering anything truly entertaining to do. A thoughtful player might start to wonder if inFamous 2 isn't like a big virtual Skinner box, whose dazzling lights and sounds mask the rote actions it is forcing you to perform. Me, I've got some more blast shards to find.

Related: Review: Shadows of the Damned, Review: New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Review: Hydro Thunder: Hurricane, More more >
  Topics: Videogames , Games, Video Games, gaming,  More more >
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