Tuesday, June 7, 2011

IMPRESSIONS - inFamous 2.

You may've notice E3 was going on all day today, but I haven't been posting the insane amount I did yesterday.

I intended to, of course. That was the plan. I came home from EB Games with my inFamous 2 Hero Edition, unpacked it, and lovingly placed the Cole statue aside my Ezio and Mario. Then I watched the opening cutscene, played for 45 seconds (literally), and hopped on my computer in time to catch the Nintendo keynote.

I thought this was most prudent. I thought I could get my fix, and move on.

Clearly, I was wrong.

The first thing you'll notice about inFamous 2 is... well, the graphics. They've been significantly overhauled, and the difference is well beyond the difference between Uncharted and Uncharted 2.

The second - more important - thing is that Cole is much faster than he was in inFamous. He scurries up poles faster, runs faster and his jumps have more weight to them. That's not to say he's any less agile - if anything, he's far more maneuverable than he was in 2008.

As I mentioned in the demo impressions, he's also less sticky. In inFamous, if you made Cole jump while standing next to a pole, he would grab on to it no matter which direction he was facing. In inFamous 2, he can be staring straight at the pole with his forehead touching it, and he won't grab it unless you tap the analog stick towards it during your jump.

This takes some getting used to, but after an hour or two the platforming becomes as comfortable as it was in the original game. Just as satisfying, but now everything just happens faster.

Another thing that's changed is balance. By the end of inFamous, Cole was a God-damned force of nature, wielding the power of the gods. I am, I would estimate, halfway through my good karma playthrough, and I've been a God-damned force of nature for at least five hours now.

The player feels very, very powerful - but the game is never too easy. There's a real risk-reward to using your street-sweeper powers, and the fact that their use is no longer tied to your standard energy meter makes them a far more valuable commodity.

Happily, more than a few little nits that could've been picked from inFamous have been addressed, here. Gone are the tedious "counter-surveillance" missions, and inFamous 2 starts you off with both of your major locomotion powers: the line-grind and the static thrusters that extend your jumps.

Acquiring those two powers makes the gameplay of the entire affair just sing, and inFamous made the mistake of waiting until the second island to provide them both. inFamous 2 does not.

Elsewhere, I must admit I'm thrilled with the presentation. Yes, yes, it looks much better - but the story presentation is heads and shoulders above the original. Voice work is better across the board - only the voices of Caleb Moody and Phil LaMarr return from the original - and while the cutscene animation is a huge improvement, what really floors me is the writing.

Sucker Punch have really taken some lessons from Naughty Dog on this, because the cutscenes are excellently-directed, framed and most of all written. They're subtle, casual, believable and wonderfully funny.

I could not be more thrilled with inFamous 2 thus far.

The fact that the "replica sling pack" that came with the game is actually a functional, wearable pack is just icing on this delicious, beautiful, incredibly well-playing cake.

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