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Infamous: Second Son gives PS4 owners faith in the system’s future

Throughout the life of the PlayStation 3, Sony put out console exclusive after console exclusive, and one of its most popular was a new-on-the-PS3 franchise, Infamous. The two games in the series (and campaign DLC) followed protagonist Cole McGrath, an average guy bestowed with superhuman electricity-based powers. As the game went on, players made morality-based decisions, and Cole’s powers developed in a direction that reflected those choices. Simply put, you could be a good guy or a bad guy, and both paths opened up different gameplay options.

This March, the third full game in the series will be released as a PlayStation 4 exclusive. It features a new setting, a new main character, and a new selection of powers – but it at its core, it remains an Infamous game. We got a chance to try it out.

Story
Brave New World. Infamous: Second Son takes places seven years after the “good” ending of Infamous 2, in which Cole … well, spoilers. Conduits – the fiction’s term for people with superhuman abilities – have sparked enough fear in the world that the oppressive Department of Unified Protection (DUP) is formed to hunt them down. Second Son is set in this new world’s version of Seattle, where watchtowers litter the skyline and armed guards patrol the streets. It’s a different environment, with a far bleaker near-future landscape than that of the previous games.

Meet the new boss.… The star of Second Son is Delsin Rowe, a young graffiti artist who discovers that he has a unique ability, even among conduits. Where Cole controlled lighting and electricity, Delsin has the ability to absorb other conduits, making his powers changeable. As for the connection between Cole and Delsin – if there is one – developer Sucker Punch isn’t saying.

Like Cole’s adventures, the story will bend around the choices you make as Delsin. With the help of his older brother (who happens to be a cop), as well as other conduits, Delsin decides to fight back against the DUP. How you choose to fight, morally speaking, remains your choice.

Gameplay
Attack the Block. The demo on display showed off a small section of Seattle from an early point in the game. Delsin accidentally sets off an alarm, alerting DUP soldiers that a conduit is near. Delsin’s early power is based on clouds and smoke, with a hint of fire thrown in. You switch to a different set of powers at elemental-specific points found throughout the game, but you can only use one power at a time (at least in the demo). You need to find a specific interaction point based on the power itself in order to equip it. In the demo, the choices were between an electric fusebox and a smoke cloud, but the smoke power was the only one playable.

Although Delsin’s powers are different from Cole’s, in practice they seem to function mostly the same. As before, more powers will be granted the deeper you get into the game, but your primary methods of attack remain the same as they were in the previous games. You can fire slightly weak projectiles in rapid succession, or hold the attack button down and release it like a shotgun blast. You can also throw energy grenades, jump and drop down to do an area-of-effect ground pound, and engage in power-augmented melee combat. As you play, more powers will be unlocked as well. The game’s signature parkour abilities also return; Delsin is just as capable of running across rooftops and scaling buildings as Cole was.

Choose. Over the course of the game, you will be given choices that determine your karma. As with the previous games, there will be several choices to make. In the demo though, the choice revolved around how you dealt with other, imprisoned conduits: you could free them or kill them. We’ll have to wait for the game to see how extensive this karma system really is, and how each choice benefits or hurts you, in both the short-term and the long-term.

Presentation
Return to next-gen. Infamous: Second Son is an exclusive for the PlayStation 4, and so it does feature next-gen graphics. Sucker Punch is located in Bellvue, WA, a suburb of Seattle. The devs know their city well, especially the way the weather changes how the world looks. That’s obvious in the game’s Seattle, or at least in the small section we got to explore. The animations look smooth, and moving faces are packed with detail. 

One evident change, however, is the environments, which are now partially destructible. Large buildings can’t be toppled, but things like guard watchtowers can be taken down with relative ease. Whether destructible environments are a major part of the gameplay or simply a small portion that occasionally helps to flesh out the presentation remains to be seen.

Takeaway
The demo was brief, but it confirmed one important idea: Despite the changes to the series, Second Son is every bit an Infamous game. The gameplay is much the same as it was before, at least at first glance, but the ability to cultivate and use multiple types of powers promises to offer players a more robust set of gameplay options.

Infamous: Second Son marks another exclusive title for the PlayStation 4. Fans of the previous games should be happy that the game retains its core characteristics, while PS4 owners that may not know the series should appreciate another exclusive that they don’t necessarily need to know the full back story for when the game is released on March 21, 2014.