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InFamous 2 hands-on preview: ‘Big secret’ turns out to be user-generated missions

Since it was first unveiled last year, we’ve seen InFamous 2 bring a lot of cool enhancements to the first game’s formula – a livelier city, more diverse enemies, better visuals, super-powered sidekicks and improved combat, for starters. At a closed-door session at GDC today, however, developer Sucker Punch revealed one more.

“We’re fixing the biggest problem of InFamous 1,” said Suckerpunch’s development director, Chris Zimmerman, during the event. “At some point, it ended.”

Assumingyou read the headline, you already know what the solution is: while InFamous 2 will still be the same story-focused, single-player superhero sandbox game we’ve been shown up to this point, it’ll also feature user-generated content that can be shared across PSN with every other player. Using a simple-looking visual interface (we didn’t actually get to try it, although we did see it in action), players will be able to use all of the characters, objects and behaviors in the “core” game to create missions within the city of New Marais. It’s a bit like LittleBigPlanet, with one key difference: Sucker Punch doesn’t want user-created content kept separate from the campaign, so instead, custom levels will automatically populate throughout the city during the normal single-player action.

That may sound overwhelming, but Zimmerman was quick to add that the custom stuff won’t be indistinguishable from the story missions. Their markers will appear in a different color, for starters, and users can automatically set filters to restrict what they see to, say, the newest puzzle missions or highest-rated survival missions – or just to what Sucker Punch chooses to single out and show off, which is the game’s default setting. (The user-generated stuff can also be turned off entirely, for those who just want to focus on the story.)

As for the missions themselves, it looks as if players will be able to start in any area of the city, and then freely populate it with whatever in-game objects they want, wherever they want, with whatever bizarre objectives they want. There are LittleBigPlanet 2-style logic circuits that can dictate everything from character behavior to what should happen during scripted events, and the tools on offer promise a level of depth that could, at best, transform InFamous 2 into completely different kinds of games.

In general, though, the user-generated levels (tester-generated, actually) on hand for us to play kept it simple. Probably the biggest deviation from the “standard” gameplay was an Angry Birds-inspired puzzle level in which Cole, standing on (and confined to) a roof, had to telekinetically hurl propane tanks at dancing enemies on dumpsters suspended in midair (which then exploded). Other missions ranged from the simple and quick Onslaught (a repel-the-hordes level in which Cole had to keep crowds of enemies from reaching his platform), to the longer and more elaborate Save the Cathedral, a more straightforward action mission that saw Cole join up with a squad of rebels, follow a series of waypoints and fight through squads of enemies to find and disarm a bomb.

In addition to featuring everything the core game does, the user-generated side will feature a few things that single-player doesn’t – like big, floating rings to race through, as seen in a sample level called (unsurprisingly) Ring Race, in which we had to zip along power lines and use Cole’s hover ability (which now gives him a little upward boost) to keep steady.

It’s obvious there’s a lot of potential here, and while the levels on offer probably weren’t even scratching the surface, they were still pretty fun. Luckily, we’ll get a chance to see more before the game’s June 7 release, as Sucker Punch announced plans for a limited public beta starting in early April. For details on how to get in on it, you’ll want to visit on March 14, when details will be publicized. And while most of the beta content will be wiped to make room for the new stuff when the game finally releases, the best of it will stick around as the very first content to be recommended to everyone by Sucker Punch. Sounds like an incentive to hone your level-design skills to us.

Mar 1, 2011

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.