I made the point that I wanted to make when I reviewed ‘inFAMOUS 1’ but here’s the thing, I really love ‘inFAMOUS 2’ and the two games walk hand in hand and make an impressive duo and since I reviewed the first inFAMOUS, I thought it’d be only fair that I give the best game in the series it’s time in the spotlight. Just so you know, I most likely won’t say anything that a proper game reviewer hasn’t already said but there you go. Spoilers ahead.
So ‘inFAMOUS 2’ starts and we get a little bit of backstory into Cole Macgrath and how he got his conduit powers in the first game. He killed Kessler at the end and was told about the Beast in his final moments. One month after Kessler’s defeat, Cole met Lucy Kuo. Lucy Kuo is an agent with the NSA and was partnered up with John White who was killed near the end of the first game. She knows that the Beast is coming and is there to convince Cole to go with her to New Marais where there is a scientist, Dr Sebastian Wolfe, who can give Cole even more power for when the Beast turns up.
Unfortunately, just as Cole, Zeke and Kuo are about to leave on the last boat out of Empire City, the Beast arrives, causing untold destruction so Cole decides now is the time to kill it. After a short but powerful boss fight in which it looks like the Beast is down for the count, it pulls itself back together and grabs Cole where he is forced to fry it with a lightening storm but since the Beast is standing in the water, both it and Cole are electrocuted.
Cole is rescued from the river by Zeke and Kuo but he’s badly injured and has lost some of his powers. As they travel to New Marais, Cole watches the news and sees that the Beast destroyed Empire City and is continuing its path down the East Coast and it will eventually end up in New Marais. Cole vows to get his powers back and be strong enough for when the Beast shows up for round 2.
When I first played this game, I’d just finished ‘inFAMOUS 1’ and the players of the first game will remember that there was something odd with the controls that took some getting used to. When aiming, pushing the right analog stick to the left will actually aim to the right and vice versa. It was a bit perplexing when I first fought the Reapers in Archer Square but after I while, I got used to it and became a pretty good shot.
Well, imagine my surprise that when Cole jumps off the boat at the start of ‘inFAMOUS 2’ and his first objective is to shoot the lock off the gate to Empire City Pier, the controls have been put right and pushing the right analog to the left will actually aim left. Nice thing to tell me right before a boss fight. But again, I got used it and again, became a pretty good shot.
There’s a bizarre similarity between Empire City and New Marais since the two seem to be in a state of decay at the start of the game. Empire City was thrown into chaos by the Ray Sphere blast whilst New Marais was struck by severe floods which left a portion of the less developed area underwater. One suspects that New Marais was cheekily meant to be a representation of New Orleans since both are towns in the South that have had a problem with floods and both towns know how to party.
In the first game, it’s established that much of the police force are absent because they chose to flee or were too scared to fight the gangs of Reapers, Dust Men and the First Sons but in New Marais, the police are too busy with the ladies and so ‘the Militia’ have taken over. The Militia are run by Joseph Bertrand III who is an old and rich businessman who despises conduits and set up the Militia to fight the swamp monsters that frequently turn up to ravage the citizens. Now Cole’s in town and immediately earns Bertrand’s ire by fighting the Militia straight away.
The game gets off to a quick start by arriving at Dr Wolfe’s lab and learning about the RFI or Ray Field Inhibitor which is a device that will render the Beast powerless and therefore, lifeless.
But there’s a catch. Cole isn’t strong enough to use the RFI and so needs a little something to make him stronger. Here is where the Blast Cores come in. Blast Cores are used to power the RFI and can make a conduit even more powerful when a current is passed through it. The Blast Cores play the same role as the substations did in the first game in which they give Cole a new power each time he absorbs one. There are seven Blast Cores to find and that is one of Cole’s many tasks throughout the game.
Just like with the first game, the karma system makes a return. This time, ‘inFAMOUS 2’ asks you before the game is you wish to continue your Good or Evil playthrough from the first game and will give you extra karma and XP for whichever side you choose. I was Good Cole because I’ve never played ‘inFAMOUS 2’ on Evil karma and don’t plan to because I know how it ends. More on that later.
You also start the game with a few of the powers that you unlock from the first game. The classic bolt, the shock wave, the shock grenade, wire grinding, the thunder drop and the static thrusters all remain intact. But Cole does have a new addition to his combat style and that is the Amp which is an odd shaped device that can conduct Cole’s electricity and also acts as Cole’s melee attack instead of the brawling fisticuffs from the first game. The game shows that Cole helped Zeke to develop the Amp as a gesture of friendship to the former from the latter. This would suggest that Cole still hasn’t fully forgiven Zeke for betraying him in the first game when Zeke activated the Ray Sphere to selfishly gain powers for himself but it backfired and so he left with Kessler but did arrive to help Cole in the final battle although he was knocked out pretty easily and didn’t help in the slightest. I didn’t mention that in my review, and I can’t remember why.
Whilst the Blast Cores have a positive effect on Cole in that they give him new powers, they also have a negative effect albeit temporarily. The initial absorption is a short but brutal affair that renders Cole unconscious for a few hours. It also seems that the more Blast Cores that Cole absorbs, the worse he feels when he wakes up.
Cole is hit with his first karma choice after he’s beaten up a few Militia dudes who are stopping their boat from docking in New Marais with artillery fire. Cole has to lower a bridge by powering up a generator but if he overcharges it then he will kill a few Militia guys, making his entrance into town a lot easier but that decision will also fry a lot of families. Doing so will dampen his relationship with Kuo in the cutscene when they arrive in town but she’s fine with a lot of the shitty decisions Evil Cole makes throughout the game.
The whole ‘karma’ thing has been hiked up a notch for this venture since Cole gets two literal opposite voices on the morality scale, one for each shoulder. Kuo represents the Good side and in the Evil corner, there’s Nix. Although, having played through the game and watched all of her Evil side quests on YouTube, I wouldn’t necessarily describe her as Evil.
In fact, these characters are so well written that they all seem to be flawed and their moral stance is down to who they are rather than what personality trait was ascribed to them, if you see what I mean? Simply categorizing them as ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ doesn’t do them justice. Kuo has her job with the NSA to keep her on the straight and narrow and has several positive influences in her life to guide her whilst Nix was raised in the poorest area of New Marais and spent her young life growing up around ‘thieves and crazies’ as she puts it.
In an illuminating mission where Nix takes Cole on a riverboat tour through the swamp, they arrive at a location that Cole finds all too familiar. A blast zone with a crater right in the middle. Cole learns that Bertrand had a Ray Sphere of his very own and rounded up a bunch of social outcasts who wouldn’t be missed, including Nix’s family, and used them as his sacrifices to gain his own powers. That seems to be the rule for usage of the Ray Sphere; a whole load of people have to die. But instead of just Bertrand gaining powers, Nix unknowingly also had the conduit gene and so was awarded the power of Napalm Manipulation. Nix bares a grudge against Bertrand and so fights the Militia to get back at him. Doesn’t seem all that Evil, right?
Whilst roaming around the sandbox, Cole can be as Evil as the player wants him to be. There are both Good and Evil karma opportunities scattered all over the map and doing them only takes a few seconds. Whilst the Evil Karma opportunities do have Cole harm innocent civilians like street performers or conduit protest groups or even the police, one might think the Evil side missions would involve harming innocent civilians for giggles and like I said, outside missions, the player can have Cole do whatever they want. However, having watched the Evil side missions, I can’t honestly say that they’re properly Evil. Most just involve fighting the Militia and the Ice Soldiers which you do with Kuo in the Good side missions anyway. A couple involve Nix teleporting to a high place and have Cole chuck cars at her with his new ability of ‘Kinetic Pulse’.
The only difference seems to be the method in which you dispatch your enemies. ‘Take downs’ give you the tiniest bit of Good or Evil karma depending on which side you’re going with and as with the first game, Cole can choose to pin the enemy down with electricity with the ‘Arc Restraint’ or drain their bodies of electricity with the ‘Bio Leech’. In the first game, you could only heal/leech one citizen/enemy at a time but ‘inFAMOUS 2’ allows Cole to heal/leech people in groups. However, the group-leeching uses up one ‘ionic thing’ that’s a blast core upgrade and there is nothing more satisfying that rounding all your least favourite people into one long line and then summoning a massive electrical vortex and watching them being blasted into the next postcode.
So, what other powers does Cole unlock? On top of the aforementioned ‘Kinetic Pulse’ and ‘Ionic Stuff’, there’s car jumping and improved static thrusters which are handy for getting a head start in scaling buildings, the rockets and the polarity wall (renamed ‘Frost Shield’ and only available with Good Karma and bought with XP) return from the first game, Precision makes a comeback but I never used it because it’s useless and there’s a new one called the ‘Lightening Tether’ where Cole can fling a string of electricity that attaches to a nearby building and pulls Cole towards it, basically turning Cole into ‘Electric Spider-Man’.
The upgrade system has also been upgraded that whilst you can by powers with the XP that you earn in combat, performing specific stunts a number of times will unlock other upgrades for purchase which is great for encouraging the player to experiment with different modes of play.
For example, blowing an enemy off a rooftop using the shockwave is called ‘Watch Your Step’ and awards you XP. Performing this stunt 5 times unlocks the ‘Detonation Blast’ which you can switch with the standard shock wave (renamed the ‘Alpha Blast’) which fires a shockwave but Cole can shoot it and cause an explosion but I never used it because it had a tendency to backfire.
This also follows with the different version of standard attacks so there are quite a few bolts and grenades that you can unlock and purchase, but I won’t name them all because my hands are starting to cramp up from all this typing. Suffice it to say that my personal favourites were the ‘Graviton Blast’ which makes it easier to grind XP by hitting the flying enemies, the sticky grenade because it was my favourite from ‘inFAMOUS 1’ and time hasn’t soured it and my all time favourite power, the ‘Bolt Stream’ which fires continuous bolts whilst holding down R1. It’s honestly awesome but it can only be bought on Good Karma once you’ve reached Level 3 and by that point, hitting enemies gives you back electricity so there’s virtually no cost to use it.
Let’s talk enemies.
I’ve already spoken about the Militia who are the starting enemies and once you’ve powered up a bit, they’re pretty easy to deal with but there’s a point in the story when a tougher enemy is introduced.
Dr Wolfe is kidnapped early on in the game but is rescued by Cole and Kuo. However, when their get away vehicle is run off the road, Dr Wolfe is killed and Kuo is kidnapped whilst Cole is injured from the crash. The race is on to track down Kuo because she is essential to finding more blast cores. Zeke discovers a Cane Plantation that’s owned by Bertrand and so after Cole defeats all the Militia surrounding the building, he sees that Kuo has been strung up and turned into a conduit with the ability to manipulate Ice to her will. Her powers were then transferred to the Vermaak 88 who are a South African PMC who were hired by Bertrand to be the recipients of these powers. Cole puts a significant amount of voltage into releasing her restraints but doesn’t realise right away that he’s accidentally woken up the Ice soldiers.
Ice Soldiers are a pain in the arse for a number of reasons. Just like the First Sons from the first game, the standard Ice Soldiers can take a lot of voltage before staying down and they come in a wide variety of forms. There are the rocket Ice Soldiers, there are the ones who can run really fast and like to run up to you and blast you in the face with a shotgun, the ‘heavies’ who stand on a tower of ice and hit you with an ice beam, the Crushers who are really annoying and like to hit you with an Ionic Freeze and then pick up the ice and chuck it at you. The best strategy for the Crusher is to keep your distance or (when you get it) give him your own Ionic Freeze which knocks off about three quarters of his health bar and then finish him off with sticky grenades or rockets. Finally, there are the Titans. Titans are kind of annoying to fight and do demand your attention because they can regenerate lost arms and health. By the point in the game where the Titans show up, you’ve unlocked the rockets so just keep spamming them and make sure you’re near an electrical source. The main ‘fuck you’ attack is the lobbing of gigantic ice balls and the ice beam but I was playing on Good karma and so had the ‘Frost Shield’.
On the flip side, there are the Corrupted or ‘gob monsters’ as I have dubbed them because the main attack of the larger enemies seems to be gobbing on you. These kinds of enemies include, spikers who are small and annoying, the swamp monsters themselves who seem fine with being shocked and so the Amp tends to be the best way to dispatch them, the ‘gas bags’ are the swamp monsters that run up and blow stuff all over you that does a lot of damage, Ravagers and Hive Lords who are two different variations of the same enemy that are massive insects who don’t like it when I chuck sticky grenades underneath them and the Devourer who is massive but again, doesn’t like swallowing sticky grenades.
The last Corrupted form is Bertrand. Remember when I said that Bertrand activated his own Ray Sphere and got powers of his own. Well, it didn’t work out the way he intended. The ‘human purist’ wanted to become a super-human but actually turned into a massive, grotesque creature that rampages through the city with little warning. His other ability is to create his own swamp monsters and bond with them so they will obey him. Nix goes through a similar procedure and gains monsters of her own.
It turns out that Bertrand is making these ‘Forced Conduits’ in the Ice soldiers and the Corrupted in order to sell to other countries and start a new arms race. Sort of. The real reason that’s given by Bertrand right before Cole, Kuo, Nix and Laroche’s men fight him to the death is that the forced conduits will show humanity how evil conduits are and will scare humanity into killing all the conduits. Cole is against Bertrand and his plan but being against that very notion is something that will prove very ironic for Cole.
Which I suppose brings me to the ending. Or should I say ‘endings’. First, some context.
When Cole rescues Kuo, there is a mission where he helps her finesse her new abilities and also come to terms with them. Whilst they’re fighting the Militia and the swamp monsters in the cemetery, Cole finds that there are body bags lying of the ground and Kuo tells him that the same plague that he encountered in Empire City has spread throughout the US and is killing thousands. They discover that the plague is caused by Ray Field radiation that is spread through a blast, so Cole takes responsibility as he accidentally detonated the Ray Sphere. There is no cure for the plague and nothing to stop it from spreading but the answer could lie in the RFI which gives Cole and Co even more resolve to getting it working.
However, John White turns up despite him being dead at the end of the first game. Since we learn from Kuo that both she and John were chosen for their respective missions because they both had the conduit gene, it wasn’t such a huge leap that John would return in some capacity. John is now a conduit and gives Cole the ability to see the plague in people but also to see the conduit gene. John demonstrates his conduit ability by turning into the Beast, killing all the people in a plague ward and transforming one young lady into a conduit. That is how John plans to fight the plague. He can’t save the humans but conduits are immune and therefore, he must rampage all over the world, killing all the humans and saving all the conduits.
Cole finds the last Blast Core and is ready to charge the RFI. When Cole fires it up, Nix, Kuo and indeed Cole all collapse to the ground in pain before Zeke knocks the RFI out of his hand. They realise that since the RFI will remove the Beast’s conduit powers and kill it, the RFI will do the same for all conduits and kill them all. Since Nix is pissed with the Beast for killing all her pets and she doesn’t care what happens to her, Kuo wants to side with her former partner who is now the Beast.
Cole now has a choice to make. Side with Nix and save humanity or side with Kuo and betray humanity by going with the Beast and activating all the conduits whilst killing all the humans.
I’ll start with the non-canonical ending or the Evil ending.
Cole decides ‘fuck humanity’ and he and Kuo plan to meet up with the Beast. Both Nix and Zeke are pissed off and whilst Nix steals the RFI to enact her own vengeance, Zeke, who’s gone along with every evil decision Cole has made up until then, has finally had enough of his evil bullshit and abandons his best friend.
When Cole and Kuo meet up with John, Zeke cuts the power to the area but it’s not that bad because Cole is powered by the Beast. Along the way, Nix tries to kill the Beast with the RFI, but she’s stopped at regular intervals by Cole. Laroche, along with his men also try and stop the Beast but they are all killed. Cole and Nix’s battle ends on the roof of the Cathedral where Cole kills Nix by throttling her with the Amp. She drops the RFI which is picked up by Zeke.
This is why I never wanted to play the evil end mission. Because you have to kill Zeke. I really liked Zeke by the end of the second game and both he and Cole really had the ‘brother from another mother’ thing really going for them. They even had their own little saying, ‘Half as long… Twice as bright’ which is really cute and kind of alludes to the ‘good’ ending. Although Zeke knows that he doesn’t have a chance against Cole, he’s making his last stand and it ends poorly. Cole seems to show some grief of killing his best friend and doesn’t show any hesitation in smashing the RFI into pieces as all this must be worth something in the end. After Cole smashes humanities last chance at survival, John confesses that he’s tired of killing everything and so passes on his powers to Cole and then dies. Cole takes Kuo and the legions of conduits that John has made and keeps killing humans and creating as many conduits as he can and in the end, Cole acknowledges that he has become the very thing that he was becoming strong enough to destroy, The Beast.
End of game.
This is the bullshit ending because what is Cole going to do once he’s killed all the humans and created all the conduits? Have a celebration barbeque? You have to admit that it’s going to get pretty fucking boring once everyone has compared powers and blown up all the landmarks in the world for giggles.
Nope, this ending is not for me. I prefer the good ending.
In the good ending, Cole sides with Nix, realising that the RFI will kill all the conduits (obviously including himself) and decides that it’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make. Immediately, Kuo gets all huffy before fleeing to side with John. Zeke’s actions in smashing the RFI caused the power regulator to become damaged and so they need to charge it manually with substations. Laroche offers Cole a ride on his boat to the substation but the Beast ambushes them and kills Laroche and his men. Cole and Nix flee to the next substation where Kuo intervenes, but Cole takes her down. The Beast arrives and he and Cole have a little fight before Nix jumps in and throws herself into the Beast, severely injuring it but killed herself in the process. Cole takes the RFI back to the Cathedral and successfully charges it. After one last showdown with the Beast, an injured Kuo arrives and tells Cole that she only sided with the Beast because she was scared to die but she realised that she was wrong and tells Cole to ‘do it’.
This is hard because the RFI is not activated in a cutscene but by the players hands. You have to hold down the left and right shoulder buttons and the trigger buttons as the RFI powers up before the player gets their last objective – ‘Let Go’.
Zeke narrates the last cutscene as it’s seen that the RFI blast was worldwide and everywhere, conduits started to die. Zeke carried Cole’s body from the Cathedral and at his funeral, the people of New Marais gathered to pay their respects and Cole became the ‘Patron Saint of New Marais’. Zeke took Cole’s body out to sea where he could say a private and final goodbye which is where the game ends but just before the credits, a bolt of lightning strikes the horizon… in the shape of a question mark.
I think the makers put that last bit in so the players wouldn’t feel so sad and maybe there was a chance that Cole could come back.
InFAMOUS fans were delighted when there was an announcement that another inFAMOUS game was in development and then they all sighed when they were told that the next game would follow and entirely different set of characters.
Fans also wondered how there could be another game in the same universe when it was narrated by Zeke that people with the conduit gene also died? This is a quandary that has plagued many of the fans because not even ‘inFAMOUS: Second Son’ explained that massive plot hole. We’ll have to get into that in further detail when I review ‘inFAMOUS: Second Son’.