As a game about an electric superhuman faced with moral choices, Infamous 2 sends a challenging message about the twin delusions of morality and free will: whether you pick the righteous path or the wicked one, you will end up zapping a lot of enemies. It's about the inescapability of violence in a world gone mad and how a living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength. Also, Cole has tattoos now.
We joined our everyman-turned-superhero Cole MacGrath atop a cathedral in New Marais, the New Orleans-inspired city to which the action has moved in this sequel. It's a lush-looking metropolis with more color, character, and detail than the first game's Empire City, which bodes well for a similarly open-world adventure. New Marais, to which Cole has fled, is in the grip of a fascist militia that reviles 'nonhuman' freaks, such as our hero. This militia had captured and imprisoned Agent Kuo, an NSA agent and ally, and it was up to us to set her loose.
As Cole, who has ditched his yellow courier jacket to reveal assorted arm tats, glided off the cathedral scaffolding, past flying buttresses and palm trees down to street level, the minimap presented a red and a blue icon: rooftop checkpoints at which to trigger the same mission with a different approach--that is, moral choice time. Zeke, Cole's old buddy and on the side of the angels (blue icon), proposed we intercept a nearby militia convoy in which a number of New Marais police were caged. If we rescued the cops, they would help us assault the militia compound at which Agent Kuo was being held. The red (bad) icon, on the other hand, meant siding with Nix--an exotic, vengeful, "hedonistic" New Marais native who proposed hijacking a tram, supercharging it, and blasting it straight through the compound gates, innocent bystanders be damned.
Zeke's plan meant swooping on a convoy of militia lorries as they moved through the streets of New Marais, clearing out the gray-and-orange-clad militiamen defending them. Cue some electric bombardment and hectic melee combat as we switched between Cole's shooting mode for ranged attacks--coasting along on overhead power lines, hurling explosive, sparky globs--and clobbering guys with Cole's new electric mace, a kind of giant cattle prod. Our one special move in the demo, the ionic vortex, conjured a black whirlwind that whisked nearby enemies up and away. Cole soaks up a lot of damage and has some nifty acrobatic melee moves; there's a neat somersaulting smackdown, in particular, combined with a slow-motion effect after a finishing move, making combat vigorous, flashy fun.
Following Nix's plan, on the other hand, meant commandeering a tram car. We dropped onto its roof and zapped the motor to send it tearing toward the militia compound. Civilians ran and cowered as the tram blasted through cars along the historic streets of the city, before ramming explosively through the gates and landing in the grounds of the militia base. There, in the grounds of the base--a dilapidated antebellum mansion--Zeke and Nix's plans converge. With the former, we were fighting alongside the cops we'd liberated. With the latter, we were fighting alongside Nix, who has superpowers of her own, summoning black, liquid-looking tentacles to attack the soldiers defending the compound. We battled across the landscape garden, destroying mortars as we went, to get to the carriage house behind the mansion where Agent Kuo was imprisoned.
Kuo, though she figured in our demo only in a comic-style cutscene when we set her free, looks set to be the proper counterpart to Nix, rather than Zeke, advocating the virtuous path. This is the path on which just as many enemies get zapped, but for better reasons and with slightly less collateral damage. We'll see how convincing a case she makes for it when Infamous 2 hits this summer.