A game that needs a remake: inFamous 2

Oh, the PS3. A problematic console from the start, with its strange Cell processor and its status somewhere between home entertainment system and games console. I suspect it only succeeded because of Sony’s muscle at the time, having emerged from the last console wars as a winner.

Screenshot of inFamous 2 courtesy of Hooked Gamers

But this isn’t about the PS3, or only insofar as inFamous 2 is one of the titles that really, really taxes the system, and is a PS3 exclusive. Here’s inFamous 2 in a few paragraphs, maybe enough of them stick for you that you’ll give this game a chance:

The synopsis is this: You’re a freak who gets electricity-based superpowers, but now you can’t drive a car anymore and water kills you. Make sense so far? But you gotta save the world from the The Beast that approaches the Floridaesque or New Orleansy coastal city of New Marais.

Writing, characters, story

There is excellent writing (for an action game) with solid characterization and great voice work. The lead character, Cole, is interesting because the voice actor (Eric Ladin) does this gruff-sexy-action-hero type of gravely monotone, but he puts just the right amount of emotional nuance into it to make it interesting. The lines he gets are often surprisingly human. These people talk just like people! The game won’t bore you with ages of exposition, each dialog is just the minimal amount of information to move the story forward, delivered in short well-written bursts.

Graphics and sound

You’ll find breathtaking environments. Think Zelda: Breath of the Wild invented the scenic third-person game? Think again. inFamous 2 has beautiful vistas by the truckload. Particularly the skyboxes are astonishing — depending on the mood they want to create, they either look like something from a comic book or something from an apocalyptic classical painting.

This is one of the large non-boss enemies you’ll face

Lighting is carefully chosen in general, with the whole scene bathed in a bluish twilight here or a dark orange sunset glow there. The architecture also deserves to be mentioned. It’s as if the developers had worked with an architect and a city planner to lay out the areas. Wood shacks and half-collapsed brick houses in Flood Town, colonial redbrick and a huge cathedral in the main part of town, an industrial wasteland full of gas tanks, train tracks and repair warehouses in the, err, industrial part. It all looks believable and organic.

Textures deserve to be mentioned as well, as I haven’t seen many PS3 games with such varied and careful texture work. Bricks and rocks have a palpable rough feel to them, colors in the main part of town are chosen carefully to be muted so that the many neon signs and lights pop out. Scenes with water feel glistening and wet.

Gameplay

This sequel has much more accessible gameplay than inFamous 1. That alone sets it apart enough for me. You unlock superpowers at just the right rate, and you feel like a badass as you climb through the cityscape or grind on a powerline. There aren’t any of those annoying tutorial levels like in inFamous 1, so in case you’re worrying about that, worry not.

You’ll be facing hundreds of normal, smaller enemies that each use different tactics, and usually the AI is good enough to make things interesting. You rarely feel totally overpowered, so you can rarely just stop thinking. Sometimes the AI gets stuck in corners, especially if you are very far away, but that’s fine. Most of your powers don’t have enough range to hit then anyway, and when you move closer the AI wakes from its daze and joins the fight again.

The few battles with extremely large enemies are all the better for it. Usually you fight enemies roughly your size or twice that. But there are occasions where you need to take on much larger beasts. Those truly shine because they are the exception. You’ll remember these enemies and fights precisely because you didn’t get inundated with sixty bosses already.

The only major criticism I could lob at the game is the framerate. It’s uneven, staring at the sky might get you around 60 fps, but actually playing in the streets hovers around 25 to 30, and battles can go down to the low 20s. They did a fantastic job adapting the controls so that you can win the fights anyway, even when the framerate tanks. But it’s just not beautiful anymore in the age of rock-solid 60 fps like the Nintendo Switch delivers for many games. This game needs a remake. Anyone listening? Screw The Last of Us, inFamous 2 is a fantastic action romp and it needs to be 1080p60 for fuck’s sake.

Festival of Blood: Electric Vampires

If you haven’t had enough of inFamous 2, there is a standalone side-game in the form of inFamous: Festival of Blood that uses the same locations but that lets you be an electrified vampire during a Mardi Gras-ish festival, hunting Bloody Mary, a vampire that terrorizes town. Yes, the cocktail was named after her in this universe, not the other way round.

The writing is once again spot-on, especially Bloody Mary’s diary segments. They’re delivered in her lofty English sing-song and written in the style of Gothic horror novels, always with a fun twist at the end.

You can mingle with townsfolk, but some of them might be hidden vampires you need to stake

Technically the game isn’t different from inFamous 2, but the colors are all changed (much more red) and the atmosphere in the street is very different with hundreds of festivalgoers wearing neon glow-in-the-dark bracelets.

Gameplay is changed from the base inFamous 2 by the addition of vampire powers (vampire sense lets you see into people and whether they are hidden vampires, bat flight turns you into a flock of bat, biting people and sucking their blood refills your bat flight energy, etc.).

The only criticism here is that environments are reused quite often, with one section of catacombs underneath the cathedral serving as location for at least three quests. But this is forgivable.

Final thoughts

Oh, the PS3. It’s getting old now. This is an advantage for you, in case no remake is coming. If you don’t have a PS3, you can get one now for 50 bucks of whatever currency, and inFamous 2 in a digital sale often dips below 10 and includes Festival of Blood. Physical, you might be able to score a used copy for 5.

Also, if you have a beefy PC, keep an eye out for RPCS3. This PS3 emulator has been making great strides, and you can rip games yourself quite easily. It doesn’t really run the inFamous games yet, though. Maybe if RPCS3 becomes optimized enough, we won’t need a remake anymore. A very, very fast PC can potentially play this game at a solid 30 or 60 fps, as there is no frame limiter in the engine.

Here’s a full playthrough with major spoilers if you want to see what the game is like:

Rating: Electric Wizard/10.

Play The Saboteur instead of Wolfenstein II

If you enjoy Nazi-stomping you’ve probably heard of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. They did have a pretty funny marketing campaign, after all. Now according to the reviews I’ve seen so far, it’s a mixed bag. It’s the Doom engine meets the previous Wolfenstein’s setting. Something we’ve more or less seen before, just with better graphics. Not that terribly exciting on a conceptual level, is it?

This section of Paris will turn from black, white and red to color once you get rid of the Nazis

But there’s one game about taking out Nazis that is unique and was overlooked when it came out in 2009: The Saboteur. I’ll leave it to you to find in-depth reviews, but here are some of the things you can do:

Continue reading “Play The Saboteur instead of Wolfenstein II”

Fix crackling audio in some games in WINE

Some games happen to have wonderful audio (and music), like Wolfenstein: The New Order. Some games happen not to be available natively for Linux, like… err… also Wolfenstein: The New Order. So we play them with WINE, and sometimes there are slight audio issues.

But have no fear: If you get audio crackling in such games (especially if your audio device is not running at 44.1 KHz), the following environment variable might fix it for you like it did for me:

PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60

You can either start WINE in a terminal with this env var prepended:

PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60 wine Steam.exe

or if you’re using PlayOnLinux:

PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60 playonlinux

Or you can export it in your ~/.profile file if you want it to be set for all your applications (don’t forget to completely log out and back in, since .profile is read only once per session):

export PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60

Does this work for you? It works for me. I can’t remember where I found it first, but it’s a hint that’s been passed along, so pass it along I shall.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster extend its noodly appendage to guide the hands of Lennart Poettering so that such issues become a thing of the past (if indeed Pulseaudio is to blame, but we always blame Pulseaudio, so we shall blame it one more time).

Now to enjoy the screams of expiring Nazi cyborgs in ultimate smoothness.

Did your mouse turn all weird in Debian and now you suck at Quake?

Update: This issue is largely resolved nowadays because modern desktop environments include configuration tools for libinput and its acceleration profiles.

If you have a recent Debian testing release, you might have noticed that your mouse now behaves very differently. For me, I noticed it when my aiming turned wobbly in Quake. Quake has extremely tight controls and shouldn’t feel as if you’re playing a 2016 console FPS with jelly dildos in place of fingers. So I was a bit surprised when it suddenly did. Also, I couldn’t reliably hit e.g. a close button on a window.

Continue reading “Did your mouse turn all weird in Debian and now you suck at Quake?”

Using joysticks/controllers with keyboard-based games in GNU/Linux

If you’re one of those people who only now discover GNU/Linux for gaming (with Steam and all), you might find this useful:

http://www.ryochan7.com/projects/antimicro/

I’ve tried several tools that map controller input to keyboard keys, but AntiMicro is the most reliable and easiest to use in my opinion. Many GNU/Linux developers forget to implement native Linux joystick device support into their games, but often this is crucial for games like Stealth Bastard Deluxe or Super Meat Boy. If you encounter such a game, AntiMicro will let you play it just fine with any USB controller, ranging from cheap-ass $2 Chinese crap up to expensive Logitech controllers.

Nvidia Optimus support now built-in on Debian testing

I was very surprised to see that Bumblebee (a way to use Nvidia’s Optimus technology on GNU/Linux) now works flawlessly on GNU/Linux. The Debian guys somehow managed to get all the fiddly components talking to each other, and this shit works flawlessly. You’ll need jessie (the current testing release).

It’s as easy as:

apt-get install bumblebee nvidia-kernel-dkms glx-alternative-nvidia nvidia-glx

After that, I just had to do:

update-alternatives --config glx

To select my old Mesa GLX so that by default, it would use the built-in Intel graphics card even for 3D stuff. Finally there’s this handy hint from the GNU/Linux devs at Valve.

Now it’s easy to play graphics-intensive games through the Nvidia card and everything else through the Intel card. It feels even more solid than with the proprietary drivers on Windows.

And as the Free Software Nvidia driver (Nouveau) improves, Bumblebee has full support for switching from this to the proprietary driver and back.

I never bothered to try Bumblebee in the past, but the way that Debian packages it today, it’s fantastic. Thanks a lot, Debian, once again, for creating one of the world’s most flexible universal operating systems.