New Orleans is sinkin’ man, and I don’t want to swim. That line is certainly true for inFAMOUS 2 protagonist Cole McGrath, a lightning-infused superhero (or villain, depending on your moral choices.)
The upcoming sequel takes him on a trip to beautiful New Merais, where the city is sinking into disorder and decay. Inspired by New Orleans, this city is the location of where the First Sons developed the Ray Sphere – the bomb-like piece of technology that formed the basis for the original game’s campaign.
Its origin, as well as a rumor that the group has other dangerous devices scattered throughout the city, has made Cole decide to relocate. Your goal is to guide him through the city, in order to discover the First Sons’ deadly secrets, put an end to them and save the residents of beautiful New Merais from their oppression and violence. Just watch out for the water because electricity and H2O don’t mix well.
I was lucky enough to get a good amount of hands-on time with the game yesterday, at a Sony preview event in Toronto. The event took place at Camp Oochigeas, a summer camp for children close to downtown Toronto. It was a good backdrop and location for an inFAMOUS 2 preview event, because of its rock climbing walls and apparatuses.
As I played, I chatted with a member of Sucker Punch’s development team, who flew in from Seattle to talk shop. Beautiful and impressive are two words that come to mind when I think about my time with the game. Go out, suck up some electricity from a near-by light post and use your electrical abilities to power your computer as we delve into my more detailed impressions of the open-world action title.
The section of the game I got to play wasn’t too far past its opening title screen, but Cole had made his way to New Merais from Empire City. I was able to run and climb through a large area of the city, with uniquely distinct areas and boroughs, such as residential slums and the red light district, complete with advertisements, neon silhouettes of pretty ladies and creative plays on words used as business names. It was amazing to see just how diverse this game world is, and how creative yet realistic its visual designs are.
Going through the slums, red light district and an old part of town with its large castle and white slab cemetery, I was able to traverse back alleys, scale buildings to their top extremities and jump, slide or fall from them. Each area had its own personality, items to pick up and use as projectiles (such as newspapers and crates,) and their own destructible visages. Jumping onto a car and using the lightning levitate move, I was able to essentially lift the car up off the ground and surf off of it for a moment.
Then, I could jump off and use the same power to pick it up and throw it into buildings, civilians and enemies. Want to watch that scaffolding or porch on the building in front of you crumble? Go right ahead and blow out its supports to start the show. Make sure to get some popcorn first though, because it’s quite a spectacle and is something you’ll want to revisit over and over again just to watch in awe.
I was most impressed by the game’s physics engine, which allowed for these exterior outdoor living areas and awnings to crumble in a very realistic fashion. If I took out a support, everything it was holding would realistically crumble to the ground. The rest of it would remain semi-intact until I took out its supporting columns.
I spent more time taking advantage of this game’s destructible environments than I expected to. More than I really remember in any other game. Most items on the street were able to be picked up and thrown at anything. There were the few odd exceptions, but it’s to be expected.
Cole’s powers are staggering early on in the game, but he becomes an elemental powerhouse near its end, I was told. You’re able to use earned experience to purchase/upgrade moves, which can be equipped and toggled with ease – eventually getting to the point where you’re creating gigantic storms.
The world reacts well to what you do and you feel like you’re actually having an effect on your surroundings, as well as its detailed digital inhabitants. I actually felt bad when I’d hurt the fair people of New Merais (as I almost always play as the good guy in these types of games,) but it wasn’t my save file. The point was to try everything, so I experimented with being both a saint and a sinner.
However, I must be honest and admit that I did stop and save those I’d hurt once or twice. My heart isn’t black after all. Once you down an enemy or a civilian, you are able to suck the life out of them, restart their heart (innocents only) or perform finishers. However, if you beat them senseless, they’ll usually meet a quick demise as opposed to falling on the ground in agony.
Look for a triangle button icon to pop up when you can complete a pretty finishing move during melee combat – a move that must be purchased. Those who are good will deal less damage to innocents, making it harder to kill them (resulting in a loss of experience, which affects your morality.) Nice design idea, I’d say.
During my talks with my friend from Sucker Punch, we discussed how they placed a much greater emphasis on morality in this game. There will be many more moments where you can choose to help or hurt the city you’re plowing through. During your travels on-foot, wire or through the use of electric flotation, you’ll come across different crimes being committed.
If you want to, try to save the people who are being mugged, held captive or hurt. If not, don’t worry about it. Experience points, your morality meter and your personal moral compass will all be affected by your decision. These side missions show on the map with different distress icons, so you can find them relatively easily if you’re not too busy doing other things.
In order to make our former bike messenger a badass combatant, Sucker Punch decided to give him a sweet, two-coiled melee weapon known as the amp. The character’s entire silhouette design was altered to include the weapon, which he carries on his back along with a messenger backpack. Pressing square allowed me to pull off some pretty powerful attacks in unison, which decimated a lot of the foes who dared face me. Some had shields but I didn’t care. Their shields were no match for the amp.
Of course, the ability to shoot lightning, blow enemies away and/or use electricity to my wanton wish was also a helpful feature in combat. During these sections, I noticed how the camera was altered to give a better view of Cole shooting electrical bolts and grenades out of his hand. When it would switch to a shoulder based view, you could see more of the bolt’s journey out of his hand than before, which helped me target those dastardly masked foes in a much better and more precise manner. Just watch out for the enemies in powered down areas, because they’re much more powerful and you have no electrical options other than your depleting meter.
As we got talking about the amp weapon and Cole’s altered look, I learned the reason for it (other than making the amp look like a natural fit, that is.) The reason being that, the new motion capture actor who was hired to play the part, has a different facial feature than the guy who did the job for part one. This meant that all of his facial animations looked a bit off using the older model, which just wouldn’t do. Cue a bit of a redesign with facial surgery included, and you have a nice looking and well-detailed new look for our two wheeled messenger.
I was impressed with the new look, obvious in-depth motion capture work and his general animations, which were seamless, fluid and beautiful. The game runs on a modified version of the engine they developed for its predecessor, and it features a lot more visual polish, which blew me away when I first saw it. My jaw never really came back up off the floor until I quit to the menu and got up off the bench. It’s still hanging ajar a bit, as I think about how pretty it was.
Some new additions were made to the animations, including a speed up and slow down animation for sliding across wires, which lets you press up on the left joystick to propel yourself across the wire much faster. The standard speed is sure to work a lot better for shooting bolts at ugly foes though, as can be expected. I didn’t get to try out much aerial combat, or any combat while sliding along wires. It was early in the game and no rooftop enemies were in existence yet. However, being that it was such a huge part of the first game, I’m sure I’ll get a chance to test that out many times when the full game becomes available.
Rounding out the package are the aforementioned move/abilities shop, as well as user-generated content. This gives gamers a chance to extend their time in New Merais with customizable missions that suit their style. Using templates or just starting with a bare screen, players can create lengthy tasks for themselves and others – easy or challenging, depending on how masochistic they feel. I didn’t get a chance to try this feature because it wasn’t available (due to a lack of PlayStation Network usage in the facility,) but what I heard about it sounded pretty interesting.
Sucker Punch were amazed by what they saw the community do in other games, so they wanted to allow for the creativity to flow through their project, just like the electricity does. It’ll be interesting to see what people come up with when the game hits store shelves next Tuesday (June 7.) LittleBIGPlanet and its sequel are proof of gamers’ amazing creativity. Personally, I still can’t believe some of the stuff that I’ve found on those servers.
I’m personally really looking forward to an extended visit to New Merais, because I loved what I played of the game. All of the new content, polish and additions make the game seem even better than its great predecessor, and there’s a chance for some extraordinary user-generated content in coming weeks and months. Though I have to be honest with you – the thing I’m most excited about is destroying some more awnings and balconies. It’s just too much fun to watch.
If you decide to purchase a ticket for the inFAMOUS 2 ride, you won’t be making a mistake. From what I can tell, this is a phenomenal title that PlayStation 3 owners will be very proud of. This is one exclusive you’ll want on your shelf, especially if you like to show non-gamers just how amazing games have become. If you love great exclusives, you’re in luck.
Let me know what you’re looking forward to the most in regards to inFAMOUS 2 via our comment box, and keep checking back for my full review.