The Beast draws ever closer. The prophesied monster from the end of Infamous marches toward its inevitable confrontation with Cole McGrath. Toppling your colossal foe is the impetus for your latest adventure, but there is something far more sinister stalking you: an unshakable feeling of deja vu. The superpowered third-person action that was once novel and exciting has turned predictable. New problems arise as well. An overactive camera is a mild irritant, but the biggest issues stem from aimless pacing and suffocating enemy encounters. Infamous 2 is a disappointing sequel, but a solid foundation ensures there are still plenty of thrilling moments. There's no denying the inherent fun in sliding along an electrical wire while shooting bolts of lightning from your fingertips. And a few notable improvements, such as revamped visuals and a robust mission editor, add to the experience. Infamous 2 struggles to reach the lofty heights of its superb predecessor, but wanton destruction and carefree exploration provide good reasons to see how Cole's journey plays out.
He's actual size but he seems much bigger than me.
A little bit of power is never enough. Cole can absorb an unholy amount of punishment, scale buildings with a simian grace, and wield lightning like he's Zeus' son, but such parlor tricks aren't enough to vanquish the all-powerful Beast. So he travels to New Marais to find out just how much stronger he can get. Although the premise is decent enough, the story lacks a hook to invest you in Cole's affairs. New characters such as Nix and Kuo are one-dimensional caricatures who represent the two sides of the morality coin, and the slight growth exhibited by this bland duo does little to make you care about their well-being. Zeke resumes his role as the comedic best friend, though his banal dialogue fails to make a lasting impression. The cast of supporting characters is certainly lacking, but it's the star who drags this ho-hum tale down. Cole is the kind of guy who chuckles at the term "penal code," and his gruff voice acting is just grating.
Karmic decisions should invest you in the story, but the implementation of the morality system is woefully inept. During certain story sequences, you have the choice to complete the mission in either a good manner or a bad one. Unlike in Infamous, in which evil and pure were sometimes indistinguishable, your options here are entirely binary. Without a moral gray area, there is no reason to give these decisions serious thought, which makes the adventure seem slight. This issue is compounded by how the game grades your actions. You may set out on a mission to rescue a group of hostages from a gang of armed assailants. Ideally, you would kill the henchmen to free the captured citizens, but it's not important to exhibit such loving care. Instead, you can kill the whole lot of them with a devastating tornado attack and still ring up the good karma points. The system is flawed at a fundamental level and turns what should be interesting decisions into laughable situations. The bright spot is that there are unique missions depending on which branch you choose, which makes it worth replaying this lengthy adventure.
In another life, Cole is a super dancer.
Thankfully, showing off your heroic powers is a lot more entertaining than the bland story. The controls from the original game are virtually unchanged. Exploration is still a strong part of this adventure, and movement is forgiving enough to ensure that even those afflicted by acrophobia have fun. Stickiness is the defining feature of your jumping abilities. Cole gets sucked toward nearby objects, which makes it a cinch to jump onto thin electrical wires or leap across treacherous rooftops. The breezy nature of your movement makes bounding across the city a pleasure, though just like in the original game, problems do crop up when you need to be precise. Cole has a mind of his own, so if you want to shimmy up a specific drainpipe, he may grab hold of a balcony, guardrail, or ladder instead. When you're out for a joy run in the sprawling city, these tiny issues aren't too noticeable. But things take a turn for the worse when you're caught in life-or-death struggles. Cole latches on to ledges even when you're desperately trying to flee from a treacherous shoot-out, and those moments can lead to more than a few frustrating deaths.
It's a shame the movement controls haven't been refined at all from the previous game. Luckily, combat suffers from no such problems. Shooting enemies with your lightning blasts feels as great as ever, which makes it a snap to pull off a headshot or land a sticky grenade right on some poor sucker's back. Infamous 2 is at its best in large-scale fights across the expansive rooftops of New Marais. Mixing up your attacks between long-range sniper strikes, devastating rocket blasts, and rapid-fire electrical bursts gives diversity to your actions, and you can seamlessly unleash your destructive powers while gliding along a wire or hanging precariously off a drainpipe. Melee has also been vastly improved from the original game. You now wield a two pronged bludgeoning device called Amp that lets you beat down your foes in a few powerful smashes. This is an effective way to clear out a crowd, though the camera is too interested in delivering a cinematic view during these attacks. It moves with a disorienting style that makes it difficult to know what's going on around you and where your still-living threats stand.
It looks like you're playing a video game from 1943.
Your attackers take many forms in Infamous 2. Gun-wielding lowlifes, mutated warriors, and repulsive-looking monsters give combat a dose of variety the original game lacked. Each enemy has a different weakness to exploit, and figuring out which of your attacks is most effective gives a layer of strategic depth to the lightning-spewing action. Bosses rear their heads every few hours, and these foul monstrosities are as ugly as they are large. They fill the screen with their vile presence, forcing you to make smart use of your evasive abilities as you await an opening to unleash a few deadly attacks. When these terrible beasts first appear, they bring with them a feeling of awe that makes you shake in your boots. But these oversized monsters reappear as you get deeper into the game, and once the surprise of their hideous design fades away, you're left fighting predictable enemies with inflated life bars.