The original inFamous came at a time when publishers and developers were still chasing the dream of creating the next industry-crushing open-world sandbox game to match the success of Grand Theft Auto, but instead of dashing itself against the rocks of mindless imitation, the team at Sucker Punch intelligently went about the task of creating a game with a personality all of its own.
Telling the tale of one Cole MacGrath, both inFamous and inFamous 2 took place in larger open-world cities where players were given absolute freedom to explore, test their superpowers, scale buildings and towering structures, and devastate enemies with a range of electricity-based powers, while making decisions along the way that pushed you further towards a ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’ alignment, with different abilities as a result.
On PlayStation 3, the inFamous games were impressive both in terms of technical achievement and gameplay innovation, and it is on PlayStation 4 that the team at Sucker Punch has returned to the franchise for a whole new adventure, inFamous: Second Son.
- Sucker Punch’s Darren Bridges and Rob Reidburn
Taking place in Seattle seven years after the events of inFamous 2, and in the same universe, Second Son this time stars a youth by the name of Delsin Rowe (played by Troy Baker) who just so happens to be a superhuman like Cole MacGrath, except instead of possessing an electricity-based set of powers, Delsin’s skill is the ability to absorb powers (in the form of other elements) from other superhumans that he comes into contact with.
Speaking with Sucker Punch’s Darren Bridges at E3 2013, I was told that throughout the story of inFamous: Second Son, players will encounter other superhumans with their own backstory and ways in which they’re using (or misusing) their powers. How exactly you go about absorbing the powers of others wasn’t made clear to me (despite trying to weasel the answer), but it’s most likely that you’ll need to engage other superhumans in some way, perhaps by fighting or helping them.
The Good and Evil progression paths played a not insignificant role in the previous inFamous games, but Bridges wasn’t ready to commit to saying whether or not this direct method of determining your alignment via in-game choices would return in Second Son, although he did say that, while the team is still working on the systems, the choices you make will affect your powers as well as your relationships with others in the game, not least of which is Delsin’s brother, Reggie.
inFamous: Second Son – E3 Trailer
Bridges was keen to point out that thanks to advanced motion and performance capture technologies, Sucker Punch is able to really put characters’ emotions on display, which will help emphasise Delsin’s relationships with others. If handled correctly, I’d say that the team would aim to challenge players with making tough personal decisions with a range of emotional consequences to best showcase this technology.
inFamous: Second Son extends the familiar third-person open-world sandbox gameplay of the franchise and this time will give players a new starting power to play with: Fire and smoke. For reasons not yet explained, this is the first power that Delsin has access to, but Sucker Punch chose these elemental abilities to more fully take advantage of the PlayStation 4’s capabilities.
According to Bridges, smoke is very distinct and when real world phenomena are realistically and correctly rendered in a game, it acts as a grounding element to make that game more immediately engaging and believable. The team invested a lot of energy into smoke technology to get it right, and as a result, Second Son has been imbued with a cool gameplay hook.
As Delsin, players are able to very quickly transform into billows of black and wispy smoke to project themselves through porous obstacles like fences, and can even leap into vents on the ground level of the city to be instantly transported to the top of a building through the pipe. Delsin will need this handy evasion manoeuvre in his encounters with the local law enforcement, the Department for Unified Protection (or DUP).
After the conclusion of the events in inFamous 2, the DUP has been set up to discover other superhumans in order to capture and detain them after widespread fear of the affects of events seen in previous inFamous games. To ensure the community’s safety, the DUP carries out its job of protection a little too aggressively and has assumed ultimate power of the citizens of Seattle, almost like a police state with strongholds set up all around the city. If the DUP suspects anyone of being a superhuman, they have the authority to drag them off the streets.
It’s against the DUP, and for the freedom of those that he holds dear, that Delsin must fight. To take down the DUP and move freely through the city, however, he’ll need to grow stronger and absorb more powers from the superhumans he finds, which will naturally put him in direct conflict with this totalitarian agency – it’s a vicious cycle. Eventually, the DUP in all their black and yellow jumpsuit glory will begin hunting Delsin as a live threat, which means he’ll need to be clever about how he moves around the city.
Luckily Delsin will be able to call on those smoke and fire powers during combat, and Darren Bridges says that inFamous: Second Son this time allows you to perform any action (like shooting a fireball from your hand) regardless of what you’re doing at the time – there are no discrete ‘modes’ to switch between as in previous inFamous games. There’s been a strong focus on making the game’s controls as fluid and seamless as possible, affording players the feeling of true movement and combat freedom.
An example of this focus is the smoke transformation ability, which will let Delsin instantly alter his state from solid to black haze in order to dodge projectile attacks like gunfire and rockets, while also allowing him to very quickly close the gap between himself and enemies by projecting forward and engaging in melee combat. Of course he has fireball projectiles of his own to attack from afar and when all else fails he can zip up to the top of a building through a vent and glide high above the ground to reach another more advantageous position.
In this way, Delsin is a lot more agile and controllable than Cole MacGrath ever was and thanks to the new hero’s ability to absorb powers and upgrade his skills as the story continues, Delsin will also be more potent than Sucker Punch’s previous protagonist.
In previous inFamous games, players were able to destroy small chunks of the world and Second Son takes this a bit further by encouraging you to take down DUP installations all around the city, from bridges and towers to other special structures set up by the agency. The degree of environment destruction stops short at being able to level a building, but Sucker Punch will be amplifying the feeling of being a true superhuman by making the world around you react to your powers in interesting ways, like nearby barriers collapsing under the weight of a mighty attack on an enemy, or post-boxes erupting with letters flying into the air if they happen to get caught in the crossfire.
Providing ample feedback to make you feel like the powerful being that you are is important to the team, and so is the continued mission of turning their games’ virtual cities into boundless and explosive virtual playgrounds, and the use of smoke transformation as a key skill will go a long way to help keep players swiftly zipping, floating and traversing the world in search of action and mischief, while the available combat moves (and at least one gigantic ground slam attack) I saw will let us stamp our authority on the city of Seattle.
Your control over the city will be aided by the use of the PlayStation 4 controller’s touchpad, and while only one use for the technology was shown to me (lifting a power block out of a generator by sliding a finger up the pad and destroying the machine with a few fireballs), Sucker Punch will use this feature of the controller where it makes sense for the game’s mechanics.
One final feature of inFamous: Second Son that I tried to get answered was whether or not there would be any user generated content functionality, as in inFamous 2 where players could create their own scenarios and challenges for others connected to PlayStation Network. While there’s nothing to announce yet, said Bridges, the team at Sucker Punch is always trying a lot of different things, and if it makes sense and fits the system, it will be considered.
While inFamous: Second Son wasn’t playable, the open-world action game looks to be shaping up very well indeed, and with an expected release date in the first quarter of 2014 on PlayStation 4, there’s still quite some time for Sucker Punch to apply the same polish brush that has been liberally spread over the E3 demo, to the rest of the game.
I’m excited at the prospect of taking control of Delsin and exploring the excruciatingly detailed virtual recreation of Seattle very soon!
inFamous: Second Son – E3 Screenshots
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