What We Already Know:
Sony-loyal (but still independent) developer Sucker Punch made their name with the Sly Cooper series on the PS2. And while we were pleasantly surprised with the announcement of Sly Collection for PS3 -- not enough people, myself included, got around to playing those games -- Sucker Punch's attention this console generation has been squarely on their new IP: the superhero simulator inFamous. inFamous 2 was revealed via magazine cover about a month ago, and fans were taken aback by the hero Cole McGrath's redesign. There's an explanation for that, and it falls in line with Sucker Punch's overall initiative for inFamous 2: "We have to make everything better."
What We're Seeing Now:
But first, it was time to see gameplay enhancements. In addition to keeping his superpowers from the first game (Sucker Punch didn't want to hit the reset button on players who invested in Cole's story, calling inFamous the "origin story" and inFamous 2 the "battle story"), there's a new melee attack option that relies on a dual-pronged, supercharged cattle prod. Meant to be a representation of direct physical power, this yet-to-be-named weapon is used combo style against enemy thugs and beasts and makes Cole less dependent on ranged attacks.
We see it in action in the early part of the game on which our demo is based. Picking up right after the events of the first inFamous, Cole finds himself in the city of New Marais (pronounced "Mo-ray"), which is a fictional take on the city of New Orleans. While on the mend after his first encounter with The Beast, he's in New Marais to develop new powers to balance the odds. New Marais is overrun by an extremist, anti-weird people group called The Militia, who are aware of Cole's arrival and instantly use him as a scapegoat for all of the city's troubles. The Militia is led by a man named Bertrand, and we're introduced to him as he delivers a speech to his followers at a public rally. The speech is interrupted by an ambush of freaks, and Cole springs into action as he wipes out the freaks and pursues a fleeing Bertrand through the city streets.
Sucker Punch is boosting the amount of parkour experiences you'll have, which we saw as Cole lept from buildings and surfed along power lines as Bertrand's limo weaved through the streets below. His agility has increased, and is displayed using improved cinematic presentation techniques that seem heavily influenced by Uncharted 2. In one scene, Cole runs toward the screen, narrowly avoiding rocket fire from a helicopter in pursuit and dodging the ensuing crumbling debris from destroyed city buildings. At the end of the demo, Cole catches up with Bertrand but is knocked off the limo by a helicopter skid. Thoroughly annoyed with enemy whirlybirds, he dispatches an electrically-charged tornado down the street and knocks the chopper out of the sky for good.
The morality system from the first game will return, but the developers still aren't sure if decisions made in the first game will carry over into the second game. "We think we know," they said, indicating that they're leaning toward the affirmative, but the technical and design challenges still don't seem to be worked out. And as far as the redesign of Cole himself? Blame the original voice actor. In the Q&A session that followed the demo, it was revealed that as the recording sessions for the first game progressed, Cole's voice got gruffer and tougher, which was antithetical to the concept Sucker Punch originally had for the character. Combined with the need for inFamous 2's voice actor to also be a motion-capture performer based in Los Angeles, the old voice had to go as a matter of practicality. And while the change might be something we have to adjust to, Sucker Punch maintains that this new persona is closer to what they originally thought Cole should be.
If their goal is to make "everything better" in inFamous 2, they're off to a good start.