Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Choice isn't clear in 'Infamous 2'

Infamous 2

Developed by: Sucker Punch
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: PS3 exclusive
Available: NOW
Rating: T for Teen
Price: $59.99

“You are the owner of your choices.”

This is a phrase my Mama Dukes, Rosan Jefferson, loves to tell her children, as well as her oldest grand, my son, Trey. I know how important choices are. I have always considered the consequences of an action way before I made a choice. I was about 5 when I started rolling like that. I was about 11 and saw a puddle of mud beside the house. I thought for a minute – I could play in the mud for about 5 minutes before my mom sees me and have to get a spanking that would last 30-45 seconds. Was it worth it? Yes, sir!

However, in Infamous 2, as awesome as the game was leading up to the end, I soon realized that I was not the owner of my choices in this game.

Developed by Sucker Punch and published by Sony, Infamous 2 picks up a few months after Infamous takes place. Zeke is back along for the ride as well – basically your redneck version of Q from the Bond movies. Anyhow, the game starts with players assuming the role of Cole McGrath, the star of the original Infamous. He is on his way to New Marais with Zeke and Agent Lucy Kuo when the Beast, this huge, fire-throwing being, starts tearing up Empire City. Cole tries his best to fight off the Beast but is too weak. He has to retreat to New Marais and eat his Wheaties because you already know – the Beast and Cole will face off again.

Except for the Empire State of Mind sequence early on in the game, the rest of the game takes place in an excellent recreation of New Orleans. From the street musicians, to the Southern drawl the non-playable characters flow with, even the swamps and rundown antebellum homes on the bayou – the only thing missing are the Lucky Dog stands, CafĂ© Du Monde beignets and a plate of gator from Mulate’s to make it complete. The constant barrage of fleur-de-lis symbols throughout the city reminds you that even though the city is called New Marais, it’s really New Orleans.

The action is intense. You find yourself battling this so-called religious zealot Joseph Bertrand and his militia, these mysterious swamp creatures and eventually Ice soldiers (No, not that ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement – but like the "rapper" Vanilla Ice) and a host of bosses. Plus, you have the choice to take the high road and shackle baddies and other offenders you don’t kill with arc restraints or going the medieval route and sucking the life out of victims like a kid with a straw and a container of Jungle Juice. The more good – or evil you do – unlocks a few karma-related abilities. More on this later.

Cole starts off neutral and can work his way to Hero status – or Infamous status. The residents will react to his actions. If he spares an enemy, some residents will complain their friends will let them loose soon. If you kill them or suck the life out of them, you will have haters.

Cole’s abilities are legendary. From firing a steady stream of lighting to hovering and tossing objects – like cars, dumpsters, even ice shards – Cole can use an assortment of abilities to fend off enemies. Even you’re not on mission, you’ll have the choice of saving the city from itself – especially police officers and bystanders who watch time bombs tick down to nada and don’t try to move. Don’t hate on the bystanders just yet. The AI for the NPCs is better than the original Infamous. If an enemy is weakened, bystanders will hop into the action and whip the enemies as well.

The boss battles are interesting. Sometimes, different factions duke it out, especially on a few missions where you are tasked with clearing enemies. Let them kill each other until it’s just you and two opposing bosses. Instead of fighting you together as a unit, pride gets in the way and each of them fights you one on one.

The story is a sad one. The Beast continues tracking Cole all the way to New Marais, leaving scorched earth in its wake. However, at the end, it comes together and really reveals why Cole can be a hero.

The graphics are good – the animations of Cole sucking the life out of people is vastly improved from the original game, and Cole has several abilities. The devastation of Flood Town hits so close to home that it’s downright scary. If you know New Orleans, seeing the flooding, the damaged homes and people wading through the levee-breached streets in the game is a reminder that life is too short.

Now, the bad news. This game is single player, though Sucker Punch added a nifty feature. It gives gamers access to user-created levels. There’s even a mission where you create a level. Though the game is not multiplayer – imagine 32 Coles tearing up New Marais – and sparks eurywhere – these user-created levels add hours of fun gameplay.

The game is $59.99, though it should be a wee bit lower since it’s been out for a while.

And here be ye spoilers ...

And lastly, your choices aren’t really your choice. In the end, you are faced with two very real choices when dealing with the Beast. You can side with good or go evil. But here’s the catch – if you are too good, you can do the good choice, but can’t pick the bad choice until you go out and sow a bunch of bad seeds. I was shocked. Even choice in life has dire consequences.
Sometimes, one choice can change – or ruin our life. I am a parent and can tell you several times that I made a choice a time or two that was ill-advised, even after I considered the consequences. Cole should have the right to side with evil – make a bad choice and suffer for it at the end. This alone soured the game for me. I had played through the game, helping clueless souls, but decided since I had a previous game save and was about to go to bed – why not raise some Cain? Nope … and I got Sucker Punched. I just wanted to see what was going to happen when I got this screen:

I just shook my head. As awesome as this game was, this ability – well, inability – to allow me one final choice – should me one thing – I have no choice but to stick with my karma path. Sad. A teenage girl having sex for the first time comes up pregnant. Doesn’t matter if she was in her church choir, a straight-A student or an all-star athlete, her life is changed forever by one decision. We all make out-of-character decisions all the time. Let us live with our choice. Let us be the owner of our choices.

The verdict: 8 (out of 10) The game is engaging and will keep you hooked. Though the game is $60 for a single player campaign, there are several thousand user-created levels to download and play. The moral choice seems to work until the very end of the game. I look forward to finishing my playthrough of the original Infamous and wish Sucker Punch would release a DLC patch to let us Angels get our faces dirty and make a horrible choice.

No comments: