Sucker Punch Productions' upcoming Infamous 2 follows the continuing adventures of unlikely hero Cole MacGrath. The anticipated PlayStation 3 sequel sees the electrically empowered bike messenger finding his legs as a hero (or as a jerk, depending on the choices you make in the game) and traveling to new places. To date, we've seen how Sucker Punch has worked to improve the game's visuals, refined its gameplay, and added a new user-generated content system. However, we haven't gone too deep into the game's choice-based karma system, or into the other locales Cole will visit in his new adventure. We remedied that on a recent trip to Sucker Punch's Seattle offices, where we got the opportunity to play through a new mission from two different karma perspectives and to tool around the game's second island in an updated version of the game.
Our first order of business was to try a new mission set on the first island. Our last preview detailed Cole's raid on a militia stronghold, and if you were wondering how he gets help for the attack, the mission shows how he galvanizes everyone. More importantly, the mission showcases the significant impact of your karma choices. The mission opens with Cole and his sidekick, Zeke, on a rooftop, along with his new ladyfriends, Nix and Kuo. The conversation turns to Cole's need for manpower to pull off the assault, at which point Nix and Kuo offer suggestions, including the idea of involving the rebel forces led by a man named LaRoche. Each of the ladies offers a potential solution that is clearly tied to a karmic choice that fairly well smacks you over the head (especially given each character's color scheme and physical appearance).
The fire-empowered Nix suggests manipulating LaRoche by fooling him into thinking she's a dastardly militia officer manning a turret and then opening fire on the rebels. This course of action would let Cole swoop in to stop the turret and apparently save the day, while also increasing the rebels' anger toward their enemies, the hated militia. Yep, it's as shady as it sounds. On the flip side, ice-powered Kuo offers a more benevolent approach and suggests they take medicine to LaRoche's forces to help deal with a plague making its way through the population. She suggests that the act of kindness will win LaRoche over and lead him to support the assault. The options present themselves in the sequel's new cinematic view as both of the ladies make their case. As before, you have to pick a course of action before heading out, but again, the game makes the choice between good-karma decisions and bad-karma decisions extremely clear. In addition to color-coded text on the choice, Nix and Kuo come across as obviously "bad" and "good" in the sequence. Nix's outfit, powers, and undignified flirting with Cole indicate that she's trouble. On the other hand, Kuo's outfit, powers, and levelheaded demeanor clearly make her the safe choice.
Since we like trouble, we chose to follow Nix's advice. After we gave her the word, she dressed up as a member of the militia and jumped into the aforementioned rooftop turret, at which point we took control of said turret and opened fire with the intent of hitting as many of LaRoche's people as possible. Once the body count was high enough, we were able to play as Cole and zap her to give the appearance of helping LaRoche's men. As expected, both LaRoche and his men were irritated at being shot at by what they saw to be militia forces and were all too eager to dole out some payback.
Following Kuo's advice and taking the "good" option is a lot more work and plays out entirely differently. You have to help her get a conveniently located and stocked ambulance over to LaRoche's people. This turns out to be quite the job since you get bombarded by various foes, humanoid and otherwise, that are all hell-bent on stopping you. Fortunately, since your main goal is to clear a path for the ambulance, you can avoid at least some direct combat. Better still, you're not stuck powering the ambulance (as you would have been in some of the original game's missions), so you have some leeway to run around and do your thing. However, you do need to keep an eye on the ambulance's health, so you can't run completely wild. There's an optional battle with a massive armored creature that takes some work to defeat--and it's definitely a satisfying victory--but you can also avoid this fight altogether if you're quick enough. Unfortunately, getting the ambulance doesn't immediately guarantee cooperation from LaRoche's people. Your safe arrival with the ambulance actually leads to a fight, since the rebels aren't happy to see Cole and Kuo. So, the two must dish out a little tough love to "persuade" the rebels to accept the gift. Once the brawl is over, everyone simmers down and decides to work together, which segues into the next part of the game--the assault on the militia base we've covered previously.
After trying both mission paths, we were impressed by how differently they played out. According to representatives from Sucker Punch, it appears that there will be entire sets of missions you won't see once you commit to a karma path. We're actually very happy to see the system work this way, because it guarantees new content for a second playthrough in addition to a different set of powers.
Our final run of new content was a look at an early part of the second island, named Flood Town. As you'd guess from the name, the town has seen better days. While we couldn't go very far in and check out any missions or user-generated content in the new locale, we were still able to walk around and get a sense of the area. We saw characters being terrorized by random thugs and many collectible shards lying around in random places. The first island's urban environments are definitely cool, but we were more excited to explore this new area. The landscape of Flood Town's first area is radically different from that of the first island. There are submerged houses connected by assorted power lines along which Cole can slide; more small islands to explore; and a jungle gym's worth of random things to hop on. The flatter landscape also lets you use some of Cole's other powers, such as the ice jump and phoenix dash, which offer alternate modes of locomotion that are key for navigating the unfriendly pools of water everywhere.
In terms of visuals, Infamous 2 is a night-and-day upgrade over its predecessor. The sequel's graphics engine offers a face-lift to Cole's world that is nothing less than stunning. Despite the game's unfinished state, it looks fantastic. The increase in detail, both great and small, to the environment is impressive, and the introduction of cinematic camera angles helps showcase the improved visuals. But at the moment, what has caught our eye the most is the game's enhanced color palette and effects. There's a richness to the color and effects in Infamous 2 that is a huge improvement over the original game.
And so ends our tour through this latest work-in-progress version of Infamous 2. We have to say we're excited to get our hands on the final game. The game makes a good impression and is shaping up to be a vast improvement over its predecessor. The significant improvements to gameplay, graphics, and sound are impressive indeed. Infamous 2 is slated to ship this June for the PlayStation 3. Look for more on the game next week when we take a deeper look at Cole's expanded powers.