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Hands-On: inFamous: Second Son

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Posted on February 13, 2014 AT 03:01pm

Superpowered in Seattle

As the inFAMOUS: Second Son demo that Sucker Punch had prepared faded in, new protagonist Delsin Rowe and his brother, Reggie, were trying to decide the fate of a young female Conduit named Abigail “Fetch” Walker. Reggie said he knew exactly what to do with people like her, but Delsin—being a “person like her”—wasn’t in line with his brother’s intentions.

It’s here that I was given the first real taste of how light-and-dark decision-making will work in Second Son. As the player, you’re given two choices: redeem Fetch, or corrupt her. At first, I saw a runthrough of what happens if you choose to corrupt her; when it came time for me to go hands-on with the game, I decided to see what was down the other route.

Either choice you make doesn’t leave Reggie pleased. As a police officer, he takes issue with Fetch’s love for using her neon-infused powers to eliminate drug dealers. (What she’s doing is murder, he says sternly.) Delsin’s way of handling Fetch, of course, all depends on which path you take. Redeeming her means working with the streetwise girl to help her accomplish her goals, just with less lethal results. Corrupt Fetch, and Delsin sets out to convince her to strive for higher goals: taking out a group of anti-Conduit protestors and the government-controlled DUP security forces protecting them.

In the demo, I wasn’t shown the full scope of what each choice entails (as not to spoil too much of the story, and for the purposes of time constraints). After choosing to redeem Fetch, I was transported to a location near the docks of Seattle, where she told me a handful of houseboats were being used by drug runners. My task was simple: Identify any such houseboats and mark them so that Fetch knew which targets to take out.

It wouldn’t be a videogame if there weren’t resistance attempting to thwart me, and this is where another interesting aspect of Second Son’s karma system comes into play. Using ranged neon attacks, I could either take out a foe’s legs—getting them out of the picture without killing them—or take them out for good via well-placed headshots.

When so many other games teach you to shoot to kill, there’s an interesting emotional reaction that can happen when placed in such a situation. Even though I was up against vicious gang members—people who had no hesitation in trying to end my life—I found myself, more often than not, trying to subdue them. Sometimes, though, a particular thug would be behind cover, so I just took the easy route and went for the headshot.

I felt conflict in those moments, which was weird at times. I mean, I was playing a demo, so those small, moralistic choices would mean nothing to me in the long run. And yet, I still felt some level of responsibility for my actions, even though those actions would be forgotten not 15 minutes later. I guess it’s why I’ve never been able to successful play a renegade Commander Shepard for more than a few minutes.

Playing Second Son was an interesting experience for me, because I’ve never actually touched the previous games. That means I’m one of the target markets for what Sucker Punch is doing here: the player coming into this third major chapter fresh and new. One major element of that is, of course, Delsin himself. When he was initially unveiled, it was easy to worry that Delsin might come off as the stereotypical “trying-to-be-cool hipster” type—but through his dialogue and Troy Baker’s vocal performance, he comes off as a fun and likable guy. In talking with the inFAMOUS team previously, I know they were shooting for a character who could, at times, have a more lighthearted approach to his powers and the situation he finds himself in. So far, it seems like they’ve succeeded.

Success also seems to be coming in other areas of Second Son, including one of the big question marks for any new-gen release: the visuals. The game is looking great, but it was actually the smaller graphical touches that stood out the most to me—seen nowhere better than Fetch’s neon power. As she jumps and darts around the world, she leaves a trail of light behind her, one that streaks and glows in a way that feels at once both natural and supernatural. It’s such a simple element, really, but it shows how a new generation of hardware can bring advancements in resolution and lighting.

Another smaller touch I really liked was how Delsin switches powers. In the demo—and, I’d assume, the entire game—players can only have one power active at any given moment. So, should you want to switch between wielding smoke and neon, you’ll need to find sources of those elements in the environment. Smoke can be obtained from chimneys on rooftops or a burning car Delsin just laid waste to; neon can be sucked out of storefront signs or billboards advertising the latest products. When team members like producer and Sucker Punch co-founder Brian Fleming or game director Nate Fox talk about how they wanted to ground Delsin’s abilities in the real world, you see that decision pay off in moments like these. Second Son’s world offers new weapons or ammunition around every corner, but never via a gun left in a crate or a box of bullets strangely stashed in a desk.

In a way, inFAMOUS: Second Son is the first real post-launch test for the PlayStation 4—and the system’s potential to give us adventures that just wouldn’t have been possible on previous consoles. What I’ve seen so far of Sucker Punch’s efforts gives me hope, but it also makes me want to see more of the game’s full potential. Everything I’ve seen or played up to this point has been focused on compact, contained moments. What happens when Delsin is truly set free in the virtual streets of near-future Seattle? How will the game show that it’s more than just a pretty PS3 game? What additional powers will Delsin gain, and how will they propel him beyond what players were previously offered in protagonist Cole MacGrath?

I don’t have those answers yet, of course. I’m excited to sit down with the final, full version of Second Son to find them, but I’m also a little cautious. I’m not in the camp of some Xbox One and PS4 owners who feel there’s been a drought of fresh content post-launch, because I’ve had enough games across both systems to keep me entertained. However, I am ready for something new—and that feeling can cause us to put more expectations on a particular title than we might otherwise.

So, Delsin Rowse, I know you’re the new kid, but you’ve got a lot of pressure now put upon your shoulders—and some mighty big shoes to fill. Let’s see how you do.

Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got his start via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as he can convince them to fit in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk him on Twitter: @pikoeri. Meet the rest of the crew.

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