Typically, even the best big-budget Hollywood sequels are a cinematic exercise in diminishing returns. They keep most of the characters, present a new love interest, toss in a couple of unexpected plot twists, and change the scenery to distract from the fact that the governing formula is growing stale. And sure, there tend to still be some enjoyable moments where everything aligns and the original magic shines through, but those flashes are fewer and further apart. This is hardly shocking, but inFamous 2 is a big-budget Hollywood sequel.
All that hard work you did in the original inFamous as the newly christened electric-powered superhero Cole MacGrath is nudged aside in the sequel’s opening moments: He has to escape the crumbling Empire City (a stand-in for NYC) and head down to New Marais (a stand-in for New Orleans) to regain his strength. He’s gonna need it, since there are enough plot ideas for four more sequels coming right for him: There’s the totalitarian dictator running the town, an invading species of swamp creatures, and a relentless monster known as “The Beast” that’s spreading plague. Plus Cole’s new partner might be contracting superpowers of her own. Not to mention he also has another new buxom sidekick in addition to his old flabby friend Zeke, and each has specific intentions.
And the thing is, inFamous 2 almost pulls it all off. But it ultimately sags under the weight of trying to do too much. Never mind that none of it makes sense if you’ve been choosing the evil path for Cole. (Your karma rank and experience can carry through from the other game.) Normally, that wouldn’t be such a big deal in a superhero game, but the side missions here are so flat, the most engaging way to play is to keep pressing on with the story.
That might change when more user-generated side missions—which don’t yield experience—are submitted post-release. But as it stands right now, inFamous 2 is largely enjoyable in fits and starts. The new setting is inspired at first, but it’s eventually at odds with the open-world game around it: The city’s rampant flooding threatens to kill Cole instantly, and the later areas confine him to the ground instead of letting him stick to the roofs. Otherwise? The thrills are still here. They’re the just same ones we saw the first time around, only now appearing much less frequently.