The hardest part of being a successful videogame hero is the sequel. Just when I’m getting the hang of things — gliding through the air or lobbing great gobs of electricity at my foes — the sequel comes along and takes everything away. Gone are all the expensive superpowers that I purchased with the experience points I painstakingly earned. The good deeds I did and the citizens I saved are conveniently forgotten. By the time the sequel comes around, it’s as though I never played through the first game.
At least inFamous 2 acknowledges my past by showing me a cartoon cutscene that tells the story of how I got my powers in inFamous.
And it gives me a chance to pretend that I’m the same big powerful guy by starting the game with a battle between me and a giant monster called the Beast. But then the Beast beats me and saps most of my powers, my friends decide to haul me off to another city, and it’s back to the basics again.
It’s annoying that, after climbing the ladder of powers in the first game, I’m forced to do it all over again. I restart my life with a tuning fork-shaped electrical sword instead of being limited to the melee punches and kicks of the first game. My electrical powers eventually gain inexplicably — fire and ice elements. And I can also launch some super-powered hurricane-like storms along my path. But for the most part, in inFamous 2, if I want to pick up a car and hurl it at my foes, I’m going to have to relearn the skills to do so.
The action has moved from the first game’s New York City substitute to a New Orleans stand-in named New Marais. But aside from more street performers and strip clubs, the change isn’t necessarily an improvement. The streets still throng with idle citizens. And while the lower-to-the-ground New Marais eliminates some of the skyscraper scaling that could make the first game tedious, it also takes away some of the vertiginous drops and skyglides that often made it epic.
It’s often a good thing when a sequel is able to capture some of the original game’s mojo. I just wished they would have let me hang onto a little bit more of my own.
THE GOOD: New Marais feels like a legitimate city. Aside from the persistent crowds everywhere — and really, who wanders around an unlit graveyard at night? — the citizens react to my heroics with appropriately dorky or surprised comments. The architecture lacks that repetitive “clicked-in” look of most videogame cities. Even my foes run and maneuver like living, thinking … uh, things.
THE BAD: Games that let me run up, down, over and around everything have the problem of never really knowing where I want to go. Did I want to run past that lamppost, or did I want to stick to it and start climbing it? When I clamber up a wall and arrive on a rooftop loaded with monsters, am I fighting or climbing? I don’t want to go anywhere — I want to go where I want. There’s a big difference.
THE BOTTOM LINE: inFamous 2 is a little less than famous.