InFamous 2 – PAX 2010 updated impressions and video

PAX might be an expo for and by gamers, but that still doesn’t mean everything there is open to the public. For example, anyone who wanted to play InFamous 2 could get their hands on a brief demo featuring the same fight and chase scenes that were shown off at this year’s E3 (albeit with the balder, uglier new/old design for Cole McGrath), but the new stuff was being shown only behind closed doors, at a hotel down the street from the convention proper.

“New” in this case meant a look at a previously unseen portion of New Marais, InFamous 2’s New Orleans-inspired, thug-controlled setting. During the brief, hands-off demo of next year’s open-world superhero sequel, we got to watch Cole wreak havoc in an open, swampy-looking area filled with trees and vine-covered plantation-style buildings. It was also filled with armed goons belonging to the Militia, an anti-superhero vigilante group described during E3 as a cross between the KKK and Batman, which Cole dispatched with a few familiar attacks from the first game, including the basic lightning bolt as well as the Shockwave, Shock Grenades and the rocket-like Megawatt Hammer. That last one was used to blow up a wooden guard tower, pointedly showing off InFamous 2’s new emphasis on destructible scenery.

More interestingly, we got our first glimpse at one of Cole’s new powers. We’d already seen the Ionic Vortex, which fires off tornado-like blasts that can annihilate everything in their path, and the Amp, a two-pronged, cattle-prod-like club invented by Cole’s reformed buddy Zeke. But the new demo revealed the Kinetic Pulse, a power that enables Cole to lift and hurl any loose bits of scenery, ranging from traffic cones and chairs to cars and trucks. It’s even possible for Cole to levitate himself while standing on them (although it’s probably a good idea to jump off before turning them into high-speed missiles).

We were also reassured that the new powers would be there in addition to all of Cole’s old ones, which will return, intact, from the first InFamous. Although he starts the game getting his ass kicked by The Beast, the ultra-powerful enemy hinted at in InFamous’ ending, this is about him getting stronger, not struggling to get back to where he was before.

After Cole had torn his way through Militia death squads and dispatched a machinegun turret, the demo ended on a little city street with a battle against the Ravager, a mutant swamp monster that whinnied like a horse, charged like a bull, spat acid and burrowed underground at high speeds. It was clearly some kind of boss – or, at least, InFamous 2’s answer to the first game’s super-powered thugs – because it was able to absorb multiple thrown cars and some of Cole’s most powerful attacks before it collapsed in a sad, acid-vomiting heap.

If that description isn’t enough, you can watch the entire demo for yourself right here:

Of course, it’s our job to see as much as we can of any game we’re covering, and so we took the time to stand in line for the show-floor demo, as well. More or less the same as the E3 demo (which is described in detailhere), albeit with a tighter focus and a redesigned Cole, the PAX demo offered attendees a chance to try out the new battle system against a horde of cannon-fodder swamp monsters, before chasing Militia head Bertrand as he fled through the streets in his limo.

Just like it did at E3, the Amp-based combat felt like a huge improvement over the hand-to-hand stuff from the first InFamous, with a faster, more destructive feel (although the dramatic slow-motion that accompanied some of the attacks seemed like it could get tiresome after a while). Interestingly, it was the chase sequence that was a better showcase for Cole’s powers, as he floated after Bertrand, grinded across wires and pipes (which were highlighted with a glowing aura for the purposes of the demo) at high speed, and occasionally stopped to mess up some Militia goons with his lightning attacks. Those attacks, by the way, drew a few appreciative murmurs from the crowd behind us as we used them to tear down balcony supports to bring the platforms crashing down to the street in a rain of debris and dust clouds.

Unsurprisingly, playing through this area as a balder, slightly gruffer Cole didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

Once we’d caught up to Bertrand, the demo again threw a helicopter gunship at Cole, which knocked him off the limo and onto the street before strafing him with machinegun fire. At first, we were forced to flee toward the camera as the gunship chased us, but after a few seconds of running, the game prompted us to turn back around and hurl a few Ionic Vortexes at the chopper, which brought it crashing down almost immediately.

After that, the demo surprised us with something new. Instead of Betrand disappearing into the helicopter crash site and a gigantic monster emerging, which is how it ended at E3, we were set loose to tick down the remaining minutes by unleashing as much unlimited ruination on the environment as we pleased. Scattering cars and civilians with more Ionic Vortexes was fun, but so was experimenting with Cole’s more basic powers and seeing the explosive new effects they had on the scenery.

We injured a lot of civilians during those last couple minutes, though, which brings us to something else a lot of people want to know about InFamous 2: its morality system. Developer Sucker Punch has repeatedly said it’s not going into detail about how morality will work this time around, although they did reveal something interesting: if you happen to accidentally smack down a wayward civilian in the heat of combat, the game will give you the benefit of the doubt and won’t penalize your morality score (like, say, Red Dead Redemption always did). It’s only if you deliberately attack a harmless nobody that the game will interpret your actions as evil. How it’ll tell the difference is anyone’s guess at this point, but we’re intrigued nonetheless.

Sep 7, 2010

Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.