I've played the first half-hour of inFamous 2, and it's good. Very good. But everything I've seen - Cole's tweaked appearance, the new amp weapon, the additions to his electrifying repertoire of abilities - have all been covered several times before. In lieu of what will ultimately be recycled information, I've chosen to address the mission creator instead - the recent revelation that the game will support user generated content. While many open world games include co-op or tacked-on competitive modes, Sucker Punch is happy to admit that this simply doesn't fit with inFamous 2.
"Every triple-A developer worth their salt has talked about multiplayer or co-op, and clearly we had those conversations too," says Brian Fleming, Co-founder of Sucker Punch Productions and Producer on inFamous 2. "Our IP didn't work very well for multiplayer. We couldn't come up with something distinctive and fresh - I mean there's a lot of people who have done great multiplayer, and it's not really clear what we could do to distinguish ourselves from them". And he's right. The addition of co-op or a separate deathmatch mode would just invite comparisons to Crackdown, Grand Theft Auto, or Red Dead Redemption - it's encouraging to see Sucker Punch go against the grain and try something different.
"We were really inspired by what the LittleBigPlanet guys had done," Fleming continued. "We use a tool-set to make a lot of content for our game, and one of the arguments around the office was always: 'Why don't we expose this to our users? Let them do some of what we do'".
The conversations evolved, with several ideas sprouting from the original, and today inFamous 2 is in the midst of a beta that allows players to create their very own mission. When the game launches, Sucker Punch will check through these player missions, and - if they are particularly well put together or unusual - use them as featured missions. This means that as you jaunt about the city of New Marais, other player's levels will appear in your game, just as any other mission would.
At the time of writing, however, players haven't been able to share anything they've created due to the current PSN outage. "We're in the dark about what all the beta guys are doing. So I'm as excited as anyone for that to come back online and to see," says Fleming, who told me that Sony's PSN troubles hadn't affected the project in any fundamental way.
I asked Fleming what he thought of the few creations he'd seen so far: "I've been pleased - even in the limited beta we've had so far - how diverse it's been. But I'm as curious as anyone to see where this goes." Fleming did mention that some players had taken advantage of the tools to create mini-games and homages to other titles, referencing Angry Birds, Space Invaders, and Ski Ball as inspirations.
So, Sucker Punch's featured missions will appear in your game world by default, but if you have a penchant for a particular game type - assassinations or races, for example - you can choose to filter by that type to tailor your preferences. It's an innovative feature, and - to my mind, at least - certainly a more welcome addition to the game than the usual ensemble of modes that developers feel obliged to force upon their games.
Far more important than the innovation of user generated content - a first for the open world genre - is being able to wield the power of ice. Last time I saw inFamous 2, I'd asked Sucker Punch whether we could expect new elemental powers, referencing a glimpse of ice in a trailer. They remained tight lipped, refusing to acknowledge the existence of anything but lightning. Since then, it's been revealed that Cole will be able to wield not only ice, but fire too; music to the ears of superhero fans.
But here's the thing: just under halfway through the game, Cole will be presented with an ethical quandary that determines which of the two powers he'll get. You only get one. Choose to be good, and you'll get ice; choose evil, and you'll get fire. That's not to say you can't play good up until this point, choose the evil option (thus getting fire) and proceed to play the rest of the game as a goody-two-shoes, however.
The fact that inFamous 2 is being released in the midst of E3 (in North America, at least) may suggest that Sony has little faith in the product, but my time with the game suggests nothing to support this fact; inFamous 2 appears to be far more accomplished than its predecessor. It's the user generated content that interests me the most here - players haven't been able to mess with an open world environment in such a way before, and I'm curious to see what comes out of it. We'll find out next month.
inFamous 2 is due for release exclusively on PS3 on June 10.