I don't think InFamous developer Sucker Punch believes in that old adage about not fixing stuff that ain't broke. Their electric open-world superhero game was one of my absolute favorites last year, so I would have been plenty happy if they merely delivered more of the same thing (with maybe a smoother frame rate) in the sequel.
But Sucker Punch clearly wouldn't have been happy with that, since they're making a surprising number of changes and improvements to the way InFamous 2 looks and plays. It's a new city and a new Cole MacGrath, who's a little kinder and gentler than last time around. He's grown his hair out, rolled his sleeves up, and seems a bit pluckier than he did last time around.
== TEASER ==Things aren't much better down south. Wait, they're actually a lot worse. New Marais is overrun by some kind of hideous mutants with giant blades sticking out of their arms, and an opportunistic politician named Bertrand is campaigning on an anti-Cole McGrath platform that isn't exactly making it easy for our hero to move freely around the city. The extremely brief demo I saw began with Bertrand addressing a hate-filled rally that Cole had quietly infiltrated alongside his old buddy Zeke, who's sporting sideburns and a big ugly facial scar (not to mention what sounded like a new and less abrasive voice actor).
Speaking of new voice actors, you've probably heard Cole has one as well, but it wasn't necessarily because the team was unhappy with the way our anti-hero sounded last time. Instead, it sounds like that switch came about due to simple logistical factors, primarily the availability of the actors and the type of combined motion capture and voice recording Sucker Punch is doing for this game's more elaborate in-game cutscenes. (Don't worry; the graphic novel-style animated cutscenes from the original will be back, too.)
As the demo started, Bertrand's hateful rally was quickly attacked and dispersed by a bunch of those mutants, which Cole quickly got to work on. The first thing you notice about InFamous 2's combat is the new melee attack, which Fox described as your go-to strategy for small-scale enemy encounters. Cole uses a makeshift shock prod that Sucker Punch is internally calling the amp; it's basically a couple of steel rods bolted together that Cole charges with his own internal electricity. You can combo the nearest enemy easily with the single melee button, and then activate a crazy-looking, context-sensitive finishing move at the end of a combo to take enemies out with some flair.
Melee seems like a nice addition here. The first game was essentially a third-person shooter, and projectile attacks aren't usually the best solution when groups of enemies get right up in your face (especially when you're fighting on rooftops and you don't have much room to back away). But don't think any of those snazzy powers from the first game are going anywhere. In fact, you'll start InFamous 2 with immediate access to most of the attack and traversal powers you had to earn over the course of the first game. (Fox wouldn't confirm an abilitease in InFamous 2, but I wouldn't be surprised if you do lose some of those powers after your initial encounter with the Beast.) Of course, it's come out through the game's E3 trailer that Cole will have ice powers in this sequel as well, but there was nary an icicle or snowflake to be seen in this demo.
Those powers aren't just back; in a lot of cases they're improved. Sucker Punch has especially focused on making the traversal abilities quicker and more fun to use. The flying-squirrel-like glide ability now propels you forward more quickly to let you cover more ground, and the electric grind ability that let you skate along power lines last time has now been extended to vertical drainage pipes and horizontal ledges, letting you zoom around New Marais' architecture far more quickly than before. That's assuming the architecture isn't crumbling under your fingertips, that is, since the game now lets you demolish large parts of the city. At one point, I was using a devastating new electric whirlwind ability to literally rip apart the balconies where some troops were firing on me from above.
Oh, right. I actually played the game! I'm happy to report one thing that hasn't changed is the loose speed and precision of the movement and aiming controls that defined the first InFamous. It was refreshing to hear Fox talking about what a priority it is for the feel of the game to be just right, perfectly tuned to be as fun to play as it can possibly be. Whatever additions and changes Sucker Punch is making to this sequel, I'm pretty confident that the basic action will be right where it needs to be.
Fox wasn't talking much about all the peripheral elements you'd expect from an InFamous game, like side missions that feed into a territory-control takeover of the city, or moral choices that influence both the flow of the story and the advancement of your powers. On the former point, he did say that's the sort of gameplay he personally loves, so you can draw your own conclusions there. And on the latter, the team is still thinking about how it will attempt to carry over your choices from the first game, and how new choices will be implemented in this one. He did say the plan is for InFamous 2's endings to diverge radically based on your moral alignment. But since the game is "not even halfway" through its development cycle, Fox said a lot could change--about the game mechanics, powers, New Marais, and even Cole himself--before the game's release next year.