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Grappling with good and evil in our hands-on time with Infamous: Second Son

Check out our review of InFamous: Second Son.

The Infamous games have always been about choice. Players have the choice of where to go, what to do, and most importantly, what type of character they want to be, with rewards and penalties for veering toward good or evil. With Infamous: Second Son, that remains the case. Your powers develop based on your actions, and throughout the game you’ll face choices that determine how the story molds around you.

In previous previews we’ve seen the gameplay, including the way new protagonist Delsin Rowe can swap out powers. We’ve also seen how the game looks and plays. This time, however, we had the chance to see how some of those choices play out, as well as checking out a glimpse of Infamous’ near-future Seattle. We also got a closer look at the powers.

Infamous: Second Son is as much a reboot for the series as it is the newest chapter in the franchise. It builds on what was already introduced, but also starts with a clean slate. You take on the roll of a new hero, explore a new city, and try new powers. But at its core, the best features of the franchise remain, and the new additions make those original features resonate all the more.

Story

No relation. You play Delsin Rowe, a 25-year-old graffiti artist, aimless and unmotivated, until a chance accident thrusts him into the role of hero and accidentally reveals his ability. He’s a conduit – a person capable of using super powers – who can mimick the powers of any other conduits he meets. Unlike the previous protagonist Cole MacGrath, who had a single electricity-based power, Delsin can switch between abilities as he absorbs them from others. So far, there has been no confirmation that Delsin and Cole are connected in any way.

Delsin becomes a fighter against the Department of Unified Protection, a ruthless government agency tasked with controlling conduits. Beyond that though, he and his brother – a local member of law enforcement – are members of a local Native American tribe. How this plays into the overall story isn’t clear yet, but it is a factor.

inFAMOUS_Second_Son-Fetch_roof_350_1392034959Choose your friends. As with the previous games, you choose how you interact with other characters. In the demo, Delsin meets another conduit named Fetch, whose ability is based on neon. This gives her several attacks that are light-based, as well as the ability to move around town quickly. When they first meet, Fetch is killing drug dealers, which earns her the ire of Delsin’s brother. After a quick confrontation, Delsin makes it clear that he is the guy that decides what happens with conduits, which creates a choice.

At that point, Delsin can either choose to “redeem” Fetch, or “corrupt” her. If he chooses to redeem her by convincing her to use her powers to make the city better, Fetch’s story, attitude and the future missions she offers will all follow suit. For instance, in one, Fetch tips Delsin off to a drug dealer’s stash, and the two then clean the area out before destroy the drugs. But he can also corrupt her by convincing her that she should use her powers however she likes, including to destroy her enemies. In one “corrupt” mission, Fetch has become the poster child of out-of-control conduits, sparking protests from average citizens, which she and Delsin violently lash out against.

Gameplay

Light and Dark. We’ve already seen that Delsin can switch between conduit powers, but so far only the Smoke ability has been active. In the recent demo, Neon was also playable. That not only shows us more of Delsin’s abilities, it hints at the way the game is meant to be played.

inFAMOUS_Second_Son-Neon-Stasis01_1392034962There are benefits to using each power at a particular area. Neon, for example, allows Delsin to quickly move across large areas, dashing from area to area. Smoke, on the other hand, has a better area attack. Despite a few differences, the powers function mostly the same, with a projectile attack, a grenade-like attack, a melee attack bolstered by powers, and a few others.

Swap meet. So far only the Neon and Smoke powers have been revealed, but there will be others. To swap between them, you just need to find a source of the respective power, like a neon sign to grant neon powers, or a chimney for smoke powers. That means that you can switch powers easily and constantly.

Presentation

The city is big. Very big, with multiple sections. The full map wasn’t available during the demo, but this will be the biggest Infamous game yet. Like the others, it will also feature mini-games and side quests littered throughout the city, but these are being kept under wraps. Despite the things we still don’t know, one thing we do know is that the game looks amazing. The city feels alive, and the attention to detail is remarkable. You won’t just see the same building with slightly different colors repeated throughout the skyline or identical people wandering around; the architecture is individualized, and the crowds have dozens of models to make it look realistic.

inFAMOUS_Second_Son_Seattle_Downtown_Pioneer_Square_372_1392034956

Home Sweet Home. While the previous games took place in fictional versions of New York City and New Orleans, Second Son does away with that convention and instead places the game in Developer Sucker Punch’s real-world backyard of Seattle. The open-world version of the near-future city isn’t an exact copy, but it doesn’t try to be. Instead, according to the developers, the game is meant to capture the spirit of the city. It does so through a general recreation of famous landmarks and geographically accurate districts, as well as a focus on weather that is made possible thanks to the PS4’s hardware. Fog rolls in during the morning, and rain is a constant companion, leaving puddles behind. Sunlight catches that dampness and casts a glowing sheen over the city. It’s a look Seattle residents should know well. 

Takeaway

Part of the reason the PlayStation 3 was able to make a comeback after a slow and delayed start was its library of exclusive games. The PS4 would certainly like to keep that going, and Infamous: Second Son is a good example of why Sony should be feeling confident right now.