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The game starts off right after Infamous ends, and wastes no time getting you up to speed and back into the action. At the end of the first game a powerful enemy, now known simply as “The Beast”, is briefly mentioned and will serve as the first encounter for Cole in the sequel. Fighting this giant drains Cole of most of his former powers and he, along with Zeke and a new ally, are forced to leave Empire City and set sail for New Marais—a town that closely resembles New Orleans. In New Marais, a military-like militia controls the streets with a powerful leader behind them. Mysterious swamp monsters lurk at the city's outskirts and The Beast draws ever closer to the city limits with each passing story mission. The actual layout of New Marais is very similar to Empire City, in that it's divided up into several sections. Like in the original, Infamous 2 will require some completion before the entire city becomes available but each section is large enough to encourage exploration and free-roaming.
Playing through Infamous 2 is mostly a throwback, but Cole's new look and powers add a little bit of freshness. Sucker Punch decided to cut out the “sewer levels” where Cole could gain and test new powers. This time, new powers and abilities are simply unlocked by performing different stunts, finding blast shards, and leveling up. These powers can then be bought via in-game menu with points and are instantly acquired. There are also some more powerful special abilities, called “Ionic Powers,” which can only be used a set number of times and will require you to collect “cores” from fallen enemies. A hot swap feature allows players to quickly switch which powers are being used in each slot, so the potential for combat tactics and strategy is greatly increased. As one would expect, Cole's core abilities, such as the Shock Bolt and Grenades, will make a reappearance, but Infamous 2 offers a lot more in terms of powers. A new Ray Sphere, one that needs shards to use, will ultimately allow Cole to use more than electric-based attacks and will expand his arsenal. There is also the addition of the “Amp” which is essentially a stun prod that focuses Cole's energy for brutal melee attacks and combos. Powerful finisher moves can be performed after the combo bar is filled, and will send enemies flying in all directions. This serves to break up the combat actions even further.
Infamous 2 implements the same “Good vs Evil” character evolution system that was present in the first game. You will even have the option to gain some bonuses if you have Infamous saves on your hard drive and choose to continue with a good or bad Cole. As with the original, your karma level will be determined by your actions. For example, killing innocent civilians will result in bad karma and healing them will do the opposite. It is recommended that players choose and stick with a good or bad character in order to unlock and utilize different powers more efficiently. Certain powers can only be attributed according to your karma type and level so it's best to stay on one side of the spectrum. Cole's appearance will change as you progress through the levels of good or evil, and the way he is viewed by civilians will also be altered. Positive actions will cause people to stop and give praise, and even take photos of Cole as he runs about. Performing negative actions will yield more hostile behavior and will prompt bystanders to attack and harass Cole. The police will also attack if enough bad karma is gained and can pose a deadly indirect threat. Good and bad karma missions also make a return, which will cancel the other out after completion. These provide a great boost (or drop) in karma and help Cole test and expand his powers.
Side missions work the same way as they did before, and allow for the reclaiming of territory in New Marais. These range from simple hunt-and-kill objectives to full blown turf wars and everything in between. Completing each side mission will reward points and reclaim an area of the map from enemies. Each area of the map has many side missions, including those that are karma-specific, so there is no shortage of things to do. Plus, the addition of UGC also contributes to the number of missions available. If you are connected to PlayStation Network, the game will automatically grant access to online events. These appear on the map as green markers and have regular titles. Launching one of these missions will load the custom content and will allow players to get bonus experience points upon completion. Users will also be able to rate the custom content and add them to his or her favorites list.
The UGC features of Infamous 2 are fairly easy to use and don't require a lot of prior experience with in-game editors. The game basically gives you a set of basic and more advanced tools that can be used to set up and build custom missions. The possibilities are nearly endless and using these tools will expand the Infamous world even further. Once content is finished, users can share their creations online and receive feedback from other players. UGC missions aren't nearly as complex or scripted as in-game missions, but they do allow for some creative opportunities and a way for players to become more immersed in the game. Most of the user-generated content feels a bit stripped, but when you look at what the developers have done it's easy to appreciate the gesture; Sucker Punch has made their open-world game more of an open experience, and that is a good thing.
As for performance, the frame rate still struggles here and there but it's more optimized and less prone to slow downs compared to the original. Load times have been significantly reduced and disk access seems to have been cut down as well for the most part.
Overall, Infamous 2 surpasses its predecessor, both in action and in storytelling. The gameplay is mostly unchanged but Cole's new powers and abilities rejuvinate the experience effectively. Cole and the cast of other main characters are more life-like and interesting while retaining the same personality and characteristics. Cole's new look (and voice) is a better fit for the game's atmosphere a tone. The city of New Marais is a more interesting place than Empire City and although it bares striking similarities, this map is undeniably the more original set piece. The game still utilizes comic strip visual aid to help tell the story, and the art is nothing short of fantastic. The developers have addressed some of the original's flaws and the final product is a sequel that should not be missed for PS3 owners. The story gets somewhat predictable and the pacing is a little inconsistent, but Infamous 2 is a great action-gaming experience and is easy to recommend for just about anyone.