inFamous 2’s Fleming on humanizing electro-power

By Stace Harman, Wednesday, 4 May 2011 14:07 GMT

Stace Harman steals a look at infamous 2 and discovers that with great power comes a great deal of destructive fun. New shots and a chat with Sucker Punch co-founder Brian Fleming included.

inFamous 2

Being developed by Washington-based Sucker Punch.

Sees you return as Cole in a new environment, New Marais.

Will feature User Created Content from players.

Releases on June 7 in the US for PS3. A European release remains unconfirmed.

“It didn’t occur to us that having Cole grow out his hair would necessarily get that reaction,” admitted Brian Fleming at a hands-on with inFamous 2 in London this week. But the Sucker Punch co-founder and producer on inFamous 2 was philosophical about fans’ reaction to last summer’s short-lived makeover of the game’s protagonist: “We accept that part of the risk of doing creative work in this genre is that we’re going to get some things wrong, and we’re OK with that.”

Whilst Cole is back to sporting his buzz cut, other things about him have changed. With a new voice actor – Eric Laidin, who also voiced Ellis in Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 – as well as the introduction of motion capture, Sucker Punch is looking to give Cole a more human feel.

“What’s most important to us with Cole is that his emotions and human qualities come through,” Fleming explained, pointing to the “half as long, twice as bright” dialogue exchange between Cole and ally Zeke in the recent Quest for Power trailer as a good example of what the team is trying to achieve with the ‘new’ Cole.

“Cole is alive in that scene much more than at any time in the first game. We’re doing motion capture but it’s also about the writing and the photography. The way Cole’s eyes react in that scene, that’s the work of an animator who’s paying very close attention to what we’re trying to do with Cole’s narrative.”

“Overall, the most important change for [the main characters in inFamous 2] isn’t that their pixels are different, it’s that their persons are different, and I think that’s an incredibly important step for us.”

Twice as bright

Cole, Zeke and co aren’t the only beneficiaries of more advanced technological techniques and nuanced aesthetic changes. In moving from Empire City to New Marais the environment looks to have undergone the ‘twice as bright’ treatment too. Our hands-on time starts at the beginning of inFamous 2, with a neat comic-style storyboard introduction recapping the events of the first game, before we’re set free in a lightly-forested swap criss-crossed with waterways and charged with making our way to a civilian encampment-cum-slum. A dramatic cloudy sky is shot through by an impending sunset, tingeing the clouds pinky-orange and making the setting look both vivid and lush.

“What’s most important to us with Cole is that his emotions and human qualities come through.”

“We wanted to show the vibrancy of South East America,” explained Fleming. “We have these organic environments mixed with the traditional architecture of the French quarter mixed with industrial areas, plus there are slums and an area that’s suffered a catastrophe of some kind. So, there are all the pronounced districts that we see when we look at New Orleans. We really wanted to give that aesthetic sense of tone and colour.”

Indeed, the setting could almost be relaxing if it weren’t for the heavily-armed goons out to ruin Cole’s day. Fortunately, this offers the chance to get up close and personal with the improved melee combat. Cole’s new melee weapon, the Amp, enables him to build attack power with standard melee attacks before unleashing a range of brutal and stylish finishing moves. After making an “OK job” of close-quarters combat in inFamous 1, Fleming said they really wanted to get it right this time.

The game’s most recent trailer, featuring
the Behemoth monster.

“Melee became one of those things that we didn’t necessarily have a great answer for in the first game, but it was a defining goal for this project. Sure, it looks great but it also plays really well too so we’ve struck a good balance.”

The second part of our hands-on time is set in the heart of New Marais, nine or ten missions into the game. Cole is in more familiar city-based surroundings complete with civilians to be avoided or exploited depending on your karmic bent, buildings to be scaled and power lines to be traversed at speed. Having freed a hostage we run a short escort mission are led to a boss battle with a handsome beast called a ‘Devourer’ – a mid-sized antagonist with a penchant for spitting acidic globular projectiles and grabbing Cole with its tongue for a big sloppy kiss. Fifteen minutes and two attempts later and we’ve disposed of the Devourer by utilising Cole’s newly acquired power to levitate, aim and fire debris – including vehicles – into its gaping maw.

Karmic chameleon

Two new elemental powers – fire and ice – have been added to Cole’s repertoire but you’ll only be able to possess one or the other, with the decision as to which you acquire tied to the decisions that you make concerning Cole’s character development. It’s part of Sucker Punch’s aim to have the moral choices carry more impact this time around.

“There’s a couple of things that we thought were important from a karma standpoint: firstly, we’ve really tried to make significant, divergent events that depend on your choices,” explained Fleming, who went on to say that this has led to two “radically different” endings, something that he acknowledged they didn’t quite get right in the first game.

With New Marais, “we wanted to show the vibrancy of South East America.”

“Secondly, we’ve studied how people played inFamous 1. Looking at players’ Trophy data we found that a surprising percentage of people – around 80% – chose the ‘good’ route. So we’ve looked at how we can tempt people to diversify and dabble in doing little evil things along the way, for example: we might have a collectable, like the blast shards that Cole uses to gain new powers, and have a citizen pick one up and start running away with it. So what are you going to do, will you shoot the guy and take it or stick to the good path?”

Having chosen the evil route during our hands-on time – by overloading a generator that led to dramatic explosions in a nearby slum – we were berated by an NPC for being callous and inhuman but, hey, how human can a hard-as-nails skinhead with destructive elemental powers be? Well, in a few weeks time it’ll be up to you to decide Cole’s path: will it be that of super-hero or anti-hero?

inFamous 2 launches exclusively for PS3 on June 7 in the US and June 10 in the UK.

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