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inFamous 2 preview: A tale of two side characters


Sucker Punch isn't interested in subtlety when it comes to inFamous 2, and you needn't look further than the game's two companion conduits, Kuo and Nix, for that to be apparent. In a preview session earlier today, reps from SP walked me through a mission midway through the game wherein Cole fought alongside both characters during separate points -- and like in the first inFamous, he was eventually faced with choosing one side or the other. Only rather than choosing "good" or "bad," Cole had to choose his favorite lady of the two.

When the rep picked Kuo (the "good" side), Nix's reaction was ... less than savory. She seemingly channeled Mass Effect 2's Jack, going from Cole's partner in crime, to a sniveling, vengeance-filled brat in under 30 seconds. After her tantrum subsided, Cole was blessed with the power of ice, borrowed from Kuo. And that's where the demo ended, unfortunately.

Gallery: inFamous 2 (3/29/11) | 3 Photos

Otherwise, what I saw and played was more inFamous. Which isn't to say it was bad ... just more. I hurled electricity grenades at groups of militia men, scaled a building or two, and even powered a trolley car while riding atop and blasting fools on all sides (as seen above). Nix joined me for that part, helpfully propping up enemies to murder and generally handling any crowd control I missed. Of note: While the two companions offered individual support to Cole during the mission, neither dominated the gameplay. Their roles were just that -- support. (We covered the nuts and bolts changes to gameplay last summer, so if you're looking for that stuff, check out that preview.)

The game's fluid movement hasn't changed much, though reps told me that it had been tweaked a bit in the sequel (and since our last preview). Electric wires, for instance, have a higher priority for stickiness -- the team at SP found players gravitated towards power lines more than other areas of the world. The Cole I piloted wasn't exactly as nimble as he will assuredly be later in the game, but I had little problem bending him to my whims. And the new electrical zip lines certainly didn't hurt.

But aside from a new setting and a couple of morality-based companions, inFamous 2 hasn't altered the formula of what made the first game so enjoyable. Sucker Punch's Ken Schramm told me that the new game is running off an updated version of the first game's engine, which comes through in the details. It also means that cutscenes won't be relegated to 2D, comic book-styled affairs like in the original.

As your morality changes based on your actions, the world around you reflects that change. See how the sky changes in the image of both Kuo and Nix above? That's one of those changes. Those morality choices will also be reflected in the game's story -- I was told around 25–30 percent of inFamous 2's content will be divided between good and bad, whereas the first game was really about choosing one cutscene or another (Schramm words!), or around 5 percent.

The two companions -- each one directly representing your two moral choices -- certainly take the game's moral subtlety down a notch, and that's exactly what Sucker Punch is embracing with its sequel. It's evident in the game's structure that the dev team is embracing that lack of subtlety; moral choices are as direct as can be, with a button prompt floating over each character. Fallout 3 this is not.

My only worry is that brash approach could hinder other aspects of the game -- dialogue, for one. Nix's aforementioned tantrum was a real put off for me, as was the in-game banter between Cole and Nix. But then, inFamous isn't exactly a narrative-driven game. Allow me to borrow from SP's approach and drop the subtlety: "inFamous 2 seems like a lot of fun to play, but the story and characters could potentially be terrible." We'll find out when it launches on June 7.

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