The inFamous games have never quite clicked with me. I am a huge comic book nerd and a sucker for games with choice-based mechanics, yet for some reason, I’ve always felt that the concept behind inFamous was infinitely more exciting than the final product. While enjoyable enough to play, to me the bland missions and forgettable protagonist have always prevented the series from reaching true greatness, and as the first major PS4 release of 2014 – all eyes are now on inFamous: Second Son to finally deliver on that dormant potential.
Developers Sucker Punch seemed to have realised this too, and have decided to start afresh with the series on PS4. Instead of finding a way to continue Cole’s story, the team have chosen to draw a line under the previous game’s good karma ending and finish Cole’s story-arch permanently. This gives players control over the new wise cracking graffiti artist Delsin Rowe, and the Troy Baker voiced protagonist injects a sense of fun into the proceedings that this series desperately needed.
The new Conduit isn’t the only major change Sucker Punch have made here, however. For the first time in the series, Infamous: Second Son does away with the bland fictional cities of old and gives players free roam over a lovingly recreated digital Seattle – the developer’s city of origin. As well as being an obvious place for the developers to take inspiration from, the birth place of grunge is an equally fitting setting for the counter culture themed story of Delsin’s anti-government resistance.
Set seven years after the events of inFamous 2, the government has created an organization called the Department of Unified Protections to help ‘protect’ its people from the super powered Conduits. Constantly on the look out for conduits like Delsin, the DUP have set up checkpoints everywhere and deployed this armed force around the city in order to ensure that the few remaining super heroes are watched at all times.
I was introduced to our new hero Delsin Rowe through a dramatic cutscene where Delsin’s brother Reggie captures another conduit called Fetch and intends to hand her over to the DUP. Fetch had been engaging in small scale vigilante justice, and after the murder of a few drug dealers Reggie Rowe had managed to capture her. The player is given the choice on whether to take Fetch under your wing to use her for good, or whether to harness her abilities for your evil desires. While only a relatively small choice in the grand scheme of things, it seems to have a pretty large impact on how the rest of the game pans out.
As well as Delsin obviously acting differently in each cutscene, each choice results in the player being given a completely different mission to play. The heroic choice led me to teaming up with Fetch to take down a gang of drug dealers operating a crime ring from their house boats, whereas the ruthless choice involves you and Fetch attacking civilian protesters at an anti conduit rally until it culminates in a large showdown with the DUP.
Apart from the obvious and very apparent visual overhaul, the first thing that you’ll notice when you take control of Delsin is the flexibility of abilities in Second Son. Instead of being tied down to a singular power set like Cole was in the original, Delsin has the interesting ability to absorb a multitude of different powers from other conduits. The build I had access to only gave Delsin the much advertised smoke and neon powers from the trailers, one of which shot fire and the other which showcased some beautiful lighting effects as I rained down manly pink rays on my foes.
The projectile attacks seemed to have far more impact in Second Son, and the ability to dash quickly with the circle button makes the combat feel more fast paced and frantic than in previous inFamous games. While the heroic mission saw you face against a multitude of generic gun totting drug dealers, the ruthless mission threw some elite, power wielding DUP enemies at you – which resulted in far more of a challenge and infinitely more fun. Although I normally lean more to the good side of the moral compass in choice based games, running around a city with superpowers just lends itself too well to havoc and destruction to ignore – and I found blowing up bits of Seattle exhilarating.
Regardless of where your morals lie, playing as the new quip-exchanging conduit Delsin is quite a different experience to the po-faced Cole you’ve come to except. Both the heroic and ruthless missions saw Delsin spouting numerous wise cracks and exchanging jokes with Fetch as he went about his mission and punishing his enemies, which seems slightly more sadistic when you’re mowing down civilians. The constant jokes certainly set a different tone, but depending on who you are, this will either annoy you to no end or leave a wide grin on your face. Think of Delsin as Spider-man meets Nathan Drake and you’ll already know how you feel about this.
Second Son is very much an inFamous game then, but Delsin’s light hearted character is a great fit for the series’ open world mayhem, and goes some way to making the game more enjoyable. The tighter combat and prettier graphics are definitely appreciated here, but while I enjoyed my time with the game, the missions will have to be more varied than just ‘kill x number of enemies’ in order to keep Second Son from becoming repetitive. Second Son could be the best inFamous game yet, but only time will tell if this will be where Sucker Punch finally delivers.
This article is based on time with a preview build at Sony’s London office.