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Author Topic: Half as Long, Twice as Bright - An Amateur Review  (Read 1528 times)

Turtlekid1

  • Tortuga
« on: June 15, 2011, 06:00:54 PM »
Today I'll be reviewing inFAMOUS 2, which I recently finished.  Scores in each category range from -1 to +2, with -1 meaning that it's exceptionally bad, and +2 meaning that it's exceptionally good.  Total score ranges from -5 at the very worst to +10 at the very best.

Audio (+0)
I'm going to start with the game's weakest point - the music.  The soundtrack is rather lacking in at times, and while it's still improved on its predecessor, in that there are at least a couple of songs about which I can say "not bad," most of the tracks, if any are playing at all, are extremely forgettable.  The sound effects are passable, however.  The crackling sounds of Cole's electricity and the melee sound effects are decent.  The voice acting is actually pretty good, and while I've heard better, I've also certainly heard worse.  At least the actors put emphasis on the proper syllables and can emote.

Visual (+2)
Sucker Punch has clearly put a lot of effort into the game's aesthetic department.  The characters have about the same quality in their models, textures, and animations as those in Uncharted 2, which is saying something.  They're much improved from the first game.  The lightning and other assorted special effects (explosions and the like) are very pretty, and the environments are bright and suitably detailed.  For several important segments, the game will shift to a motion comic-esque cutscene to deliver that part of the narrative, and the art looks rather nice, making me wish they had had a few more of these cutscenes.  Overall, a pretty awesome-looking game.

Story/Writing (+0)
The writing is nothing special.  Nothing bad or grating, but the narrative feels... farther away, if that makes sense.  Even many of the supposed "Story" missions feel like filler.  That said, there are a few moments where I rather liked the characters and dialogue.  Things pick up around the endgame and it almost felt Sly-like for a bit (that's a good thing, for those who haven't played the Sly games), culminating in a surprisingly good ending (no matter which side you chose to play on).  One thing I'll say about the plot without spoiling anything is that it's pretty unique.  Comic book levels of weirdness, but somehow they manage turn it into a decent story, even if the pacing and execution suffer at times.

Content/Replay Value (+1)
There's quite a bit to do in the game - collectibles and side missions provide a good amount of optional content, and the Karma system means you'll be playing the game through at least twice (don't "boo" just yet, more on this later).  However, the whole thing is noticeably shorter than inFAMOUS, with around twenty fewer side quests, not quite as much stuff to collect, and shorter missions (whether they're optional or for the story).  The game just feels a lot smaller, and while it's probably not that much shorter or lesser in scope, somehow it gives the feeling of being over too soon (which may have something to do with the aforementioned pacing problems).

My biggest beef with Sucker Punch's method of giving the player stuff to do (and probably my biggest beef with the game in general) is that they seem to be relying on the User-Generated Content to provide a good amount of that content.  The problem with this is that most users aren't professional level designers.  Most of the user-created missions I've tried (and there have been quite a few of them) are downright unplayable, and the ones that can actually be navigated are still clearly not the same.  This isn't necessarily the level editor's fault, since the editor itself is actually quite extensive and allows for a surprising degree of control over the mission you're creating.  But at the same time, maybe this is the editor's fault, being a bad thing for the same reason it's a good thing - the average player (myself included) is not going to want to take the time to figure out such a huge system and therefore it will probably seldom reach its full potential.  Ultimately, I think this is going to backfire on Sucker Punch.

Gameplay (+2)
...is excellent.

You take control of Cole MacGrath, the "Electric Man."  You have a variety of powers, all with the theme of electricity, which can and will all upgraded and altered as the game progresses. 

Being an open-world game, inFAMOUS 2 places a lot of emphasis on getting around, both in and out of missions.  Fortunately, navigation is smooth and easy, and never slows down the gameplay.  You can climb buildings using almost anything as a handhold; grind along power lines, train rails, and other similar objects; and glide using "Static Thrusters."  These will be your main methods of travel, although you'll get a couple of other powers along the way which will boost your mobility.  It all feels perfectly natural and even newbies could pick it up quickly.

Of course, lightning is also... well, lightning - it's nice and destructive, and so it's a good motif for an action hero to have.  Combat is also more or less smooth (with a couple of exceptions) - you have standard shooter fare, except with electricity instead of traditional guns and explosives - you get a basic lightning bolt, lightning grenades, a shotgun-esque lightning "blast," and a melee weapon to start, and you'll unlock a couple of other nifty powers as you go (one early addition gives you the ability the magnetically lift objects and launch them at enemies). 

There are lots of ways to fry your enemies, and this is what keeps the combat from getting too boring as the game goes on - as you defeat enemies, you gain experience, which can be spent on upgrades and modifications to the powers you already have (or in some cases, new powers entirely).  One of the improvements made to this system in the sequel is that the XP intake is much more balanced, and as long as you don't avoid every enemy you see, you won't have to grind at all to afford the new abilities (unless the difficulty is set to "Hard," in which case you'll only get 50-70% XP), unlike in the original, where the endgame upgrades required a good amount of grinding to get.  In addition to this, the powers that become available for purchase will be drastically different depending on whether Cole's Karma is Good or Evil (leaning toward defensive or "tricky" abilities if Good and destructive and area of effect abilities if Evil).  Luckily, the respective power sets are different enough and change up combat enough that playing through twice isn't a chore.

The one flaw in the combat, as alluded to above, is that late-game enemies tend to have ridiculous amounts of health - so much that you might wonder why they're not dropping dead with all the lightning bolts you've pumped into them.  Keep in mind, though, that this is from the perspective of someone who's only played on "Hard," and it's probably more manageable on the lower difficulties.  Speaking of difficulty, "Hard" is actually hard this time, which is quite satisfying.  If that's your chosen difficulty level, you'll have to be a lot more strategic about your battles than in the first game, something I learned the hard way.  You take more and deal less damage overall, in addition to the aforementioned crippled XP intake.  The frequency with which "Hard" mode players will get their posteriors handed to them by lowly regular enemy groups will be... shocking.

The only thing Sucker Punch did in the sequel that seems like a step backwards was place less emphasis on Stunts - in the first game, Stunts provided incentive for killing enemies creatively, rather than just hitting them over and over with a lightning bolt; you got extra XP for each Stunt, with the amount varying according to how difficult the stunt was to pull off.  While Stunts are not gone from inFAMOUS 2, there are fewer to perform, and they tend to feel more... generic this time around.

Still, the game has improved in a lot of ways, and it's far from boring.  If you're like me, you'll thoroughly enjoy the gameplay.

TL;DR
-The soundtrack is still more or less forgettable
+The game looks better than the original in pretty much every way, especially characters
-The story is badly paced and the filler feels blatantly filler-y...
+...but at the same time, there's a cool plot buried under said pacing problems, and it still has its moments
+Decent replay value and a fairly large world to explore
-The UGC really isn't capable of serving as a substitute for "real" missions, and it shows
+Amazing gameplay; navigation and combat are both fun and smooth
+"Hard" mode is actually hard this time

inFAMOUS 2 gets a score of +5.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2011, 06:02:27 PM by Turtlekid1 »
"It'll say life is sacred and so is death
but death is life and so we move on"

Black Mage

  • HP 1018 MP 685
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2011, 06:11:02 PM »
Is the control better than the first one?

I couldn't get past it. The way the main character controlled felt like amateur hour, as if it was a senior project or something. Particularly in conjunction with the animation. Definitely was not a fan.

Turtlekid1

  • Tortuga
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2011, 06:13:37 PM »
Yeah, I rather thought it handled better.  Although I didn't think it handled badly, per se, in the first game, so I dunno how you'd like it.
"It'll say life is sacred and so is death
but death is life and so we move on"

Luigison

  • Old Person™
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2011, 07:40:36 PM »
You give it a +5 out of -5 to +10?  Is that about a 67%?  So, the original should have gotten approximately 33% based on your title?  I'm not disagreeing with your review, but I don't understand you scoring system. 
“Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive. But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know."

Turtlekid1

  • Tortuga
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2011, 08:05:49 PM »
The scoring system I'm using here is a deliberate attempt to avoid the usual "scale of one to ten" routine.  I guess it's hard to explain my reasoning, but it's not about basic percentages, or I would've just said "ten out of fifteen."  For future reference, though, I would probably count anything that gets a positive score as at least "better than average." 

Also, I guess in my mind I put more emphasis on the individual scores as they apply to their respective categories than I do on the total score - like, in my system, only a -1 would denote something's being bad, and a +0 would mean more of a "meh," and so on.  Like, a +5 total score would mean an average of +1 in every category, which would still mean a great game.  Part of my intent was to differentiate between what's "good" and what's "great," but I suppose it backfires somewhat in cases like this where some parts are only "okay," but others are "great."

The title is a reference to a line of dialogue in the game, which also fits the relationship of length and quality compared to the original, though exaggerated.  The game isn't literally half as long as the first, and it's not twice as good, but it is shorter and it does improve on a lot of things.
"It'll say life is sacred and so is death
but death is life and so we move on"

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