The Washington state based studio Sucker Punch is gearing up for the worldwide release (March 21st) of what may be the most anticipated PS4 exclusive title of this year: the third person mutant-superhero-action game, Infamous Second Son. Second Son takes place in a new location, Seattle, seven years after the tumultuous events of the previous game, Infamous 2. It features a new city, new powers, a new hero, but at its core it plays just like an Infamous game.
The game centers around Deslin Rowe who is the essence of an anti-hero right down to his personality. He starts out as a smug graffiti artist with not a care in the world and no direction in his life. He is rude, instinctual, abrasive, and ultimately flawed. Soon he’s forced to step into the role of a hero after rescuing someone from a burning bus crash, which also ends up giving him the powers of a conduit.
A conduit is someone with superhuman powers reminiscent of the electricity-based powers of the previous games hero, Cole MacGrath. Deslin, however, unlike Cole has the ability to mimic the powers of other conduits he meets. That means that gamers will have a wide array of supernatural abilities at their disposal. In recent trailers and demos, we’ve seen the anti-hero displaying at least two new abilities: the ability to manipulate and become smoke and to channel energy from neon lights and use them to a very flashy and deadly advantage. The player will be able to have Deslin switch between his powers easily mid combat for effective fighting maneuvers. Each power functions similarly to how they did in the previous game. Each new conduit power can be used as a ranged attack, a charged up grenade shot, and a power-augmented melee attack with devastating finishes. The methods of these attacks remain consistent with the other Infamous games like the ability to hold down the attack button for a stronger attack, or the ability to jump and drop down for a area clearing, stun attack. But the powers aren’t only limited to use in combat, they also help in navigation through the environment.
Deslin can change into smoke, or if he chooses, into a burst of neon light energy. This makes it effortless and very satisfying to transform into a puff of smoke, or a wave of light to dart across the streets and rooftops of the sprawling and neo-futuristic city of Seattle. The fluidity of these powers is something to truly admire, because they feel natural and part of everything you do inside the game world. Having smoke plumes dissipate off of your character as you dash inside a vent, or colorful trails of light follow you as you run straight up the side of a building really adds to your immersion in the environment. It’s also incentive enough to explore every corner and alley of Sucker Punch’s Seattle, which boasts the biggest Infamous map yet. However, these powers don’t come for free as Deslin must replenish them by absorbing the smoke from chimneys and leeching the light out of neon signs. Thankfully due to the impressive hardware of the PS4 and the enhanced particle effects of the engine, these powers have never looked more beautiful.
One of the reasons why Second Son is such a highly anticipated title is because it seems like one of the first games to truly take advantage of the PS4’s graphic capabilities. Seriously, the lifelike details in the facial animations and the atmosphere created by the lighting and water effects in the environment in Second Son are some of the best around in the video game world right now. Not to mention the particle effects that make toppling over guard towers or turning into tiny clouds of vapor surprisingly realistic. According to one of the developers at Sucker Punch, Brian Fleming, the upgraded graphics aren’t just to make the game look pretty, but they’re equally meaningful in terms of gameplay. So when Deslin’s smoke and neon powers become stronger, it’s easy to observe the upgrade visually.
The PS4 also proves that it’s a console built to handle Second Son’s open world. The city of Seattle, which is right in the developers backyard, was built with incredible attention to detail. The city actually feels alive, and the game designers did a great job of capturing the atmosphere and spirit of Seattle through the use of color and lighting and dozens of character models of the cities residents. A.I. Weather plays a big factor in how the cities looks, with fog rolling in during the morning, and rain storms a constant factor. After the rain, the game’s lighting effects really shine, with buildings looking completely different when wet, and light bouncing off of every puddle and street lamp for moody reflections and a gorgeous glow effect cast over the city. Buildings will always look different, and the environment with it’s inhabitants change over the course of the game. So even after extensive exploring it’ll will be hard to come across the same thing twice. Seattle is often not the destination for video games with cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City usually taking the center stage, but Second Son will make you wonder why by offering stunning views of the city from famous landmarks like the Space Needle.
As mentioned before, while bringing many changes, Second Son is at it’s core an Infamous game. With that, the morality system returns, giving the player not only complete control over which missions to play, but how they plan on playing them. Through the course of the game you’re given several choices that affect your karma and how other characters in the game view you. Are you going to be the heroic superhero that only deals out justice to the corrupt and evil? Or will your decisions dip down into the darker sections of your morality as you decide that maybe a few innocents need to die to reach your goal? In a recent demo, the game had Deslin approach a group of imprisoned conduits with the option to either free them or kill them. Other decision making moments are worked in subtly into the gameplay. For example, during combat you’re given the option to shoot hostiles in the head to kill them, or simply in the knee cap to incapacitate them. Second Son leaves those choices up to you. However, not much is revealed about how those choices affect the long term story and gameplay.
Second Son comes to us gamers at a perfect time, and not only because of the release of the next generation PlayStation console. It’s a perfect time because the conflict in this game is slightly reminiscent of the conflict in our modern age, especially in light of the recent NSA scandal. Deslin becomes a fighter against the Department of Unified Protection, who put the entire city of Seattle in quarantine mode in an attempt to find and oppress all the conduits. The city is on lockdown in a police state where security means constant surveillance. Protests, riots and grassroots movements abound in this game in a way that is eerily similar to our own current events and call to action against unlawful spying. Deslin stands as a fighter in this battle against oppression, serving justice with a long and heavy chain imbued with the elemental powers of fire and smoke.
Infamous: Second Son is looking to be the game that makes it worth upgrading your PS3 into a PS4. Featuring incredibly enhanced graphics, fluid action, playable cinematic moments, and dramatic storytelling, Second Son could be one of those games that make you feel like a total badass. Gamers will be able to tear through Seattle’s dystopian government soldiers with bursts of smoke and lightning bolts on it’s worldwide release March 21st.