The abilities (possible spoilers)
Where original protagonist Cole McGrath was a Conduit with the ability to utilize lightning, Delsin’s power is to mimic the abilities of other Conduits that he meets, and swap between those abilities by finding a related source to drain (Smoke from a chimney for Smoke, a neon sign for Neon, etc.). Over the course of the game, you’ll earn four Conduit abilities, although you only get the chance to utilize three of them during the main campaign.
All powers share a few similar features: They have a projectile attack (fired by hitting R2), a powerful missile (launched with R1) with limited “ammo” that is regained by draining more of that ability, a zoom/aim function (used by holding L2), and a unique ability activated with the L1 button. All powers can also slow your descent when falling by holding the Jump button – some are better at it than others – and they all offer some form of dash, but each dash is unique to the power.
Delsin’s first three powers also have a “Karma Bomb” special attack, activated by pressing the D-Pad. It needs to be charged up before you can use it though. To do so, you need to fill a gauge located in the upper left corner of the screen by helping or hurting enemies and civilians, as your karmic path dictates. You can fill the gauge using any power and swap abilities without fear of losing your charge. It stays with you until you use it or die, though it drains if you do the opposite of what your karma requires (killing an enemy instead of subduing them, for example).
You earn each power in the course of the story, and once you do, you then begin missions to unlock more abilities for each power. Once you are finished with that, you can then upgrade the new ability, assuming you have Shards to spend, and only as far as your karma level allows.
We won’t spoil the circumstances of how you earn the powers, but stop reading here if you’d prefer to discover the powers yourself.
Smoke is the first ability Delsin learns, and to fans of the previous Infamous games, it is also the most similar to Cole’s abilities in the first game.
Smoke offers a projectile like attack that fires a single blast with each button press – think of it like a semi automatic rifle – though you can charge it up by holding the button down. When it is fully charged, release the button for a more powerful burst of energy. Think of it like a shotgun blast, and treat it accordingly.
When approaching enemies, repeatedly use the single blast from a distance, then move in and use the more powerful burst at close range. Since you need to power it up and release the button, it’s partly a matter of timing. Learn to get into a rhythm with it. Release the button, dash to an open spot if you are in danger, then hold and release when you get a clear shot. And repeat. Smoke, like all the powers, has a rocket-like attack that is limited by the number of “missiles” you are carrying. The more you upgrade Smoke, the more missiles you can carry. To refill the missiles, simply drain more smoke. Weaker sources may yield fewer missiles, but it’s easy to fill up.
The Smoke ability also comes with a grenade that can be upgraded along either the good or evil karmic path. When you throw it at a group of enemies, everyone in range will be affected. You then must rush in to Subdue or Execute them, earning good or evil karma, respectively. If you upgrade this ability along the good path, you can only Subdue, while under evil you can only Execute. If you don’t reach them in time, the enemies will regain their composure and attack.
Smoke’s Karma Bomb is useful against a group of enemies concentrated in a single, confined area. You need a bit of room above you though, as Delsin jumps straight up in the air then crashes back down like a meteor. The attack lays waste to people and equipment in a radius of the impact point. Its range is limited compared to the other powers, but it’s devastating if you connect.
One reason you may find yourself coming back to Smoke frequently is the ease with which you can find power sources to drain. Refilling your energy also earns you health, so if you are in trouble, Smoke can save your life. If there are no obvious sources nearby for any of your powers (you can find color-coded sources on the mini-map), you can bash a car with your melee ability and create smoke to drain.
Neon is extremely useful if you need to get somewhere quickly. When you press dash, Delsin runs straight up walls, moves at incredible speeds, and covers a huge amount of territory on foot quickly. If something is in your way, no problem. Just go straight up and over it. Once you purchase the upgrade for unlimited dash – and you should as soon as possible – navigating Seattle becomes much easier and faster. Simply hold down the button and run. Run straight up buildings and jump off, then drop and run some more.
When you are exploring the city, Neon is the fastest way to find things like Shards. Keep one eye on the map in the corner of the screen as you look for the telltale drone icons, and the other eye on your character to judge the best way to get there. Treat buildings like ramps, and time your jumps for maximum velocity.
The Neon offensive abilities offer a projectile as well, akin to a sniper rifle, and upgrading the Neon ability makes all the difference. When you zoom (by holding L2) with the Neon power equipped, time slows down. You can upgrade the duration of this effect, as well as purchase the ability to spot the weaknesses of enemies. You can then use these abilities to fill up your special attack gauge. Once upgraded, hold down the L2 button and aim at enemies; you’ll notice their heads are highlighted red, while their legs will be blue. If you go for the headshot, you earn evil karma towards your special attack (assuming you are on the evil path – if not it still gives you a tiny evil karma bump, but won’t fill your special meter). Hitting the legs subdues them non-lethally, and grants you a mark on the good karma meter.
Neon’s special attack picks up all visible enemies, lifts them in the air, and then unleashes a torrent of energy blasts, wiping out even some of the most powerful foes in the game. Make sure to fill that gauge as quickly as you can, and use it often. If you are heading to a sidequest where you know there will be enemies – like an MCU – take the time to fill it up before you get there. Once engaged, run around for a bit using the dash ability to stay ahead of opponents, then try to lure them into a central area. If you time it right, you can wipe out an entire section full of enemies with a single press of a button.
Along with the sniper-like blast, you also have a rocket-attack (which is similar to Smoke’s), as well as a stasis field that freezes enemies and leaves them floating in the air. It’s a good attack for when you are in a tight spot, but its range is limited and the zoom’s slowdown is more useful.
Although Video isn’t the last ability you earn, it may as well be; it’s the last ability you’ll be able to experiment with before the final battle, and it offers some interesting new ways to approach the game.
When you have Video equipped and upgraded (including the ability to dash twice in air), you can cover huge sections of the city in seconds. Video allows you to dash directly up the side of the building. When you reach the rooftop, you can dash up into the air again, and then hit dash once more to extend wings and glide for a limited time. You can glide twice and then hold the jump button to slowly float down. Once you get the timing down, you can jump from building to building, and almost never touch the ground. It’s not quite flying, but it’s close to it.
Once you have Video, you can also use the TV antennas located on the city’s rooftops like they’re catapults. Simply dash into one and you’ll be shot across the city. You can only go in the direction the antennae is facing though, so you won’t want to rely on these all the time. Many of these antennae also have video screens on them, which is the source of Video’s power. If you are trying to catch your breath from enemies, the rooftops are a relatively safe area to run and refuel.
Video’s projectile attack is similar to an automatic machine gun, unleashing a continuous stream of energy blasts. It drains energy quickly and isn’t especially powerful, but the hits add up and can slow down enemies while also disrupting their attacks. The ability’s rocket-like attack is a little unusual – it shoots digital swords at the enemies, which is slower than either Smoke or Neon’s similar attacks, but more powerful. Video’s melee attack faces a similar issue: it is powerful, but slow.
Video also has one other unique power: the ability to briefly tun invisible. Don’t bother using it until you purchase the upgrade that extends its duration. You may be able to sneak up and get a Subdue/Execute or two, but if there are a few enemies around, you’ll quickly find yourself under attack. You earn Video late in the game when the enemies are more powerful, so giving them an unnecessary advantage can cost you.
When it is powered up though, Video’s invisibility is an excellent way to fill your special attack gauge quickly. Activate the power, then run behind a group of enemies, working your way through their ranks. If you are lucky, you’ll take several out before they even know what’s happening. If you are really lucky, you can fill your entire special gauge and unleash Video’s special attack, which is like an orbital strike that calls in digital allies for a powerful strike. It’s devastating, but it works best in wide open areas, as the incoming attacks can be blocked by roofs.
The final ability you earn is Concrete, but you won’t be able to experiment with it until after the campaign concludes. If you want to roam the streets and try it out then, there are random attacks by D.U.P. soldiers, but other than that there isn’t a lot of use for it – assuming you completed all the sidequests earlier. If not, or if you just want to lay waste, Concrete has some offensive tools that are worth experimenting with.
Concrete’s projectile is essentially a burst fire assault weapon that deals a lot of damage. The dash turns you into a rock-like creature that allows you to run through enemies unharmed. The rocket-like attack is most effective against large groups, as it shoots out buzzsaws made of rock that spread out in a triangle pattern. You carry less of them than you do other rockets, but they are extremely powerful. Concrete doesn’t have a related Karma Bomb, so this is the closest thing to it. Concrete’s unique ability is to lift yourself in the air on a rock platform up to three times by pressing the L1 button. You can also stay aloft by holding the jump button longer with Concrete than any other ability.
Concrete’s melee ability is also the strongest in the game, and following an upgrade you take 20-percent less damage while equipped. It’s a powerful ability to have, but you earn it so late that it’s usefulness is limited.