What's next for a character who has it all? By the end of the first inFamous, the bolt-wielding Cole McGrath had reached legendary status, the king of Empire city. This presents a huge problem for Sucker Punch with inFamous 2, however. With Cole at the top of his game, how are players going to feel any sense of reward or progression?
This was a question I threw to designer Darren Bridges. "It's really important to us," he explains. "At the beginning of inFamous 2, Cole gets his butt kicked, completely cleaned out, beat down" The person responsible for this thorough kicking is 'The Beast' - an enemy at the centre of inFamous 2's plot who enforces the notion that, in fact, Cole isn't as strong as he could be. "He's going to start off as a super hero," Bridges continues, "but become amped up to such levels that he becomes almost god-like." Even for super heroes, it seems there's always room for improvement.
It was only a few weeks back that I saw inFamous 2 at gamescom in Germany. Bruce Oberg, co-founder of Sucker Punch, presented a live demonstration of the new and improved Cole McGrath in action. We saw a glimpse of the swamp lands surrounding New Marais, we saw Cole's new amp weapon and we saw a new enemy known as the Ravager. Today, according to Bridges, I would be the second person outside of the Sucker Punch team to go hands-on with this section of the game. Damn the guy who had the appointment before me...
I start the demo by trying out some melee attacks. There's a fantastic fluidity to the way Cole swings his amp about, and I can really feel each blow connect with its opponent. Sparks fly and the controller rumbles away in your hand as Cole launches seamlessly from one attack to the next. It looks great, with the view jostling and swooshing about the action like it might if a cameraman were there with me, darting around the fray trying to get the best angles. If I feel the need to distance myself from my enemies, I can press the L1 button to bring up a reticule which allows me to hurl great big balls of electricity at whatever might lie behind it.
Making my way through the swamps, I eventually arrive at a little clearing on the outskirts of the city. Before I can acquaint myself with my new surroundings, something explodes through the pavement, a shower of dust and rubble obscuring my vision. After the smoke clears, the Ravager reveals itself: a beast larger than most of its Corrupted cousins - insect like in the way it moves, but horse-like in the sounds it produces from its foul mouth. Ignoring the harrowing neighs that fill the air, I look for an abandoned car. I remember how Oberg downed the creature in the gamescom demonstration, and look to replicate his success. By holding down left on the d-pad, Cole creates a wave of electrical energy, lifting the car into the air where it hovers above his head. With a tap of R1, I lob the vehicle at the Ravager, which howls in pain as it is pinned against a wall. This new power is known as the Kinetic Pulse, and it makes you feel like a force to be reckoned with.
Cole might be a hero associated with lightning, but there's been a lot of speculation amongst fans that he could also be wielding ice powers of some description in the sequel. "The only thing we've shown on ice powers is the hint of it in the trailer" says Bridges, quashing my hopes for confirmation on new abilities. It's got to happen though, right? The fact it was teased at all suggests that Cole will at some point master control of a new element. It seems we'll have to wait a little longer to see if there's any truth behind the theories, though.
What I don't get much of a sense of, during my time with the game, is narrative. Given the fact that inFamous 2 makes use of full motion capture, with both the vocal and athletic talents of Eric Ladin (CSI, Mad Men, Left 4 Dead) captured at the same time, it should have the same high standards of acting and storytelling as something such as Uncharted 2. That's the hope, anyway - but for now we have to make do with just gawping at the action.
In all areas the game looks to be shaping up fantastically well. It's a sequel that seems to be working hard for the number two in its title. Given the mo-cap stuff and Sucker Punch's close working relationship with Naughty Dog, I ask Bridges whether inFamous 2 will be what Uncharted 2 was to Uncharted. "Our motto is leave no stone unturned", explains Bridges; "We're trying to look at the presentation elements, the story elements, neighbourhood diversity in the city, the combination of his parkour movements and powers - I hope that we're going to make the same leap." Thankfully inFamous 2 is avoiding the clogged up release window between now and Christmas, but I look forward to seeing if Bridges is right when the game launches next year.
inFamous 2 is available for PlayStation 3 in 2011