The first Infamous was a really excellent game. Developed by Sucker Punch, the guys who brought you Sly Cooper, Infamous introduced Cole McGrath, a man with the ability to harness electricity and bend it to his will. Throughout the course of the original game, you make a name for yourself as either a hero or a villain while hunting down the big baddie, Kessler. The game ends with a massive cliffhanger, paving the way for the inevitable sequel. And now we have Infamous 2. Does it live up to its predecessor?
Yes and no. Infamous 2 contains all the elements of the first game, along with some new pieces and tweaks on the familiar to keep things from getting too repetitious. Gone are the annoying sewer platforming sections required to power up new areas. Those now all take place above ground with an interesting new mechanic called the "Tesla Missile," which is essentially a rocket of energy that you use to light up transformers, but you can also use to take out enemies. Additionally, you can receive powers from one of two new conduits, granting you ice or fire abilities in addition to the electric ones you start out with.
Infamous took place in Empire City, but the sequel switches gears and takes us down to New Marais (seemingly a stand-in for New Orleans). The different sections of the city do feel adequately varied, each with their own identity, which is a nice step up from the sometimes homogenous feel of Empire City. The game also introduces new enemies, most notably inhuman swamp monsters that can be incredibly tough to kill.
Beyond these elements, though, Infamous 2 feels surprisingly similar to the first game. You're still presented with good and bad choices, now with even less gray area than in the first game. Remember when you had to choose between saving your girlfriend or a group of innocent doctors? Those kind of hard choices are nowhere to be found in Infamous 2, and it's very easy to stay on the path you've chosen. The game still doesn't reward you for making a combination of choices, either. It's all good or all bad for any given play through. Sure, you can flip back and forth if you want, but at the risk of severely stunting your powers, which grow as you gain experience points.
And even with the addition of ice and fire powers, even the abilities seem like old hat. You still have basic shock attacks, blasts, rockets, and grenades. They get powered up over time, but I got the distinct impression that I'd played through all this before. Heck, the ultimate power you get towards the end is the exact same one you get in the first game. It feels lazy.
Perhaps laziness isn't a fair accusation. It's obvious Sucker Punch were trying to push a genuine sequel, a game that builds on what came before, not one that reinvents the wheel. And to do so they lean heavily on the story. Problem is, the story isn't nearly as good as it was in the first game. The storyline in Infamous was surprising, touching, and as events changed due to your actions, intimate and personal. The storyline in Infamous 2 is bigger, but not better. The villain isn't as interesting as Kessler, and your new allies (a pair of conduits named Kuo and Nix) are more annoying than your judgmental ex-girlfriend Trish. There's simply not enough meat on these bones to have the players invest themselves as fully as they did the last time around.
In an attempt to open up the game past one good play through and one evil round, Sucker Punch has added the option for user generated content. These pop up as extra missions sprinkled throughout the game. As of right now, most of them come from Sucker Punch themselves, and they aren't very imaginative, mainly forcing Cole to run a gauntlet of enemies before killing a leader. The UGC as it's called obviously contains no voice acting or special sound effects, instead relying on subtitles to get the mission's story across. This feels decidedly low tech, but it does allow players to create whatever scenario they want. Perhaps in time the UGC will blossom and give Infamous 2 a new life beyond what Sucker Punch programmed into it.
In the end, it's hard for me to recommend Infamous 2. If you played the first one, you'll want to play this in order to get the conclusion to the story. However, the lack of real innovation may be a turn off, and makes the second go through a real chore. For those reasons, I'd recommend that players rent this one.