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inFamous 2

Famously so

The original inFamous was a remarkable superhero open-world-er that struggled in a couple of key areas: both the superhero and the open-world were a bit dull.

We all know the ups and downs that Sucker Punch have experienced in addressing that first problem. For inFamous 2, Cole McGrath's model was transformed from a bland skinhead to a Nathan Drake-a-like, then back to something approaching the original vision once fans starting flapping about it. The result is fine, if a little compromised. But what of the world?

That fares much better. Far from the uninspired, miserable grey blocks of the original's Empire City, the sequel's New Marais setting is a delightfully colourful, rich metropolis with some lovely little architectural details.

Ornate wrought iron gates, sporadic bursts of greenery and palm-trees, run down - yet characterful - buildings, roof gardens littered with the signs of life, New Marais feels like a place that's lived in, rather than hewn from dull grey breeze blocks. It's a vast improvement.

It all amounts to a highly impressive world in which to exploit Cole's crackling powers. In the demo I played, he rides along on top of a speeding tram, ripping through traffic as cars, pedestrians, bullets and all sorts of other crap goes flying about around you. Placed within this colourful, believable world, it's nothing short of outstanding.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The mission I played takes place a fair way into the main campaign and centres around the rescue of a new character, Kuo. An NSA agent and ally of Cole, Kuo is being held captive in a heavily guarded, fortified plantation house set amongst the greenery on the edge of New Marais. Imprisoned by chief nasty fella Bertrand, the head of an organisation that opposes all those with superpowers, Kuo needs to be busted out.

Now, while inFamous provided a morality system that offered binary good and bad choices at set points in the narrative, the sequel takes things a little further. There were two ways I could go about my mission. I could either go with the good option provided by Cole's companion Zeke, or the bad one offered by Nix, a female, super-powered lady-zapper. Though both choices result in the same mission climax - storming the plantation house - the routes there were markedly different.

First, I went with the evil choice, hence my tram-surfing adventure through the streets of New Marais. Blasting away at the engine with Cole's electricity powers, the tram was transformed into a super-charged battering ram, laying waste to everyone and everything that stood in its way. Eventually bursting through the gates to the plantation with Nix at my side, we took out a number of scattered gun placements before setting about freeing our friend.

Zeke's good plan, meanwhile, involved hunting down a convoy of militia trucks carrying captured police. This mission variant involved plenty of what the inFamous series arguably does best; namely jumping, sliding and floating around the environment. With a few key improvements, it's a real joy.

Now climbing the face of buildings is faster, easier and more fluid, jumping and running remains smooth and the process of traversing the city, be it by leaping from rooftop to rooftop, or grinding along electricity lines is wonderfully liberating.

Free-running my way to the convoy's location, I had to leap onto the roofs of the transport vehicles, zapping bad guys all over the place until, finally, the trucks were stopped, the police were freed and I had my own private army with which to storm the plantation.

I should probably talk about the plantation battle a little more, as it's here that I really got to grips with the revised combat and Cole's electrically-charged light saber jobby. Chaining combos with this short-range melee weapon is brilliantly empowering, as you swoop from enemy to enemy, the camera flourishing around Cole as he pirouettes and slashes with just a few deft clicks of the controller. Combined with the longer range electricity powers, Cole feels suitably baddass.

Indeed, all the indications thus far are that inFamous 2 could turn out to be a real corker. With a colourful, engaging world, some intriguing mission arcs that will no doubt encourage multiple playthroughs and enough toys to keep a smile on your face throughout, everything is shaping up well. Truly, inFamous 2 looks to capitalise on all the potential of the original.

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