Sunday, January 24, 2016

Superhero Media: inFamous 2

I need to start this review off with a quick explanation of my understanding of Art and video games as a medium. My undergraduate degree focused on two disciplines, Literature and Film, both of which manage to communicate ideas and emotions in a way in which I consider them a from of art. I am yet to be convinced that video games are an art form in the same way as literature and film. I heard a few arguments and been close to a truly emotional moment in a couple of games, but, by and large, I find that the interactive medium just can't quite get there... yet. I'm not inviting an argument in the comments section, I'm just putting my current hypothesis out there to provide some clarity to the following review. inFamous 2 tells a really compelling story about Cole McGrath, a former bicycle messenger and traceur who gained electrical powers in the first game. Why am I reviewing inFamous 2 instead of inFamous? For some reason, inFamous wouldn't install properly on my PS3, so here we are. 

In the opening of the game, Cole fails to save Empire City (New York) from a gigantic beast spawned of the same source that gifted Cole his powers. Cole flees to New Marais (New Orleans) in order to buy time to train up his powers for round two; while there he deals with other powered people, monsters and heavily armed locals. The core mechanic of the game focuses on Cole's (and the player's) choices on achieving their goals through "good" or "evil" actions, new powers and story elements unlocking along those lines. I really enjoyed this idea, working along the "good" path by delivering medicine, helping the police keep order and even exposing local political corruption. The problem is that the "evil" path isn't as well defined. To be "evil", Cole beats up random civilians, trashes cars and is somewhat rude to his friends; it's not evil, it's petulance. I have zero motivation to do an "evil" play-through. 

The best parts of inFamous 2 are the ending, which is seriously well-told, and a mission in which Cole earns "good" points by meeting his friend for beers and a movie, it really humanises the character. This would have been a truly grate game actually, if not for a point right before the finale where the player can choose which power set they want. That's right, there's no point playing good or evil, because you can choose to override your choice right at the end anyway. If not for that misstep, I'd be giving a glowing review of inFamous 2, its well-rounded characters, colourful city and strong narrative. As it is, a single choice to pander to interactivity really soured the final experience. Still worth a play-though and plenty of inspiration there for supers gaming if you're inclined though. 

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