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inFAMOUS: Second Son Preview: Choices and changes that matter

on 12 February 2014

Longtime fans of inFAMOUS know what scary change feels like. The controversy that erupted when Cole MacGrath's character model from the original game was overhauled in preparation for the sequel was perhaps the first sign that inFAMOUS fans know exactly what they want and just want more of it. In most respects, inFAMOUS 2 nailed those beats, delivering the same fluid platforming, chaotic combat, and inventive superpowers that made the first game such an uncompromised joy to play.

But in my glimpses of inFAMOUS: Second Son in the months before this week's hands-on session, something seemed different. When I played Second Son in November, it was the gulf in playstyle and ability set between smoke and neon powers. Rather than having access to Delsin's entire toolkit at once, you're tasked with separately absorbing smoke and neon elements from the environment as context demands, with "explosive" and "precise" playstyles vying for attention. Ultimately, I felt this didn't change the inFAMOUS experience I know and love. After all, Delsin still has a wealth of combat options--it's just easier to remember the buttons for them. Yet some part of Second Son still felt different to me, like a parameter fundamental to the game's "feel" has been tweaked to unleash a cascade of rippling aftereffects.

Turns out, it's speed. The breakneck pace of two story missions made 40 minutes of demo time disappear in an instant, with only Delsin's cheeky Orbital Drop grin to accompany my bewilderment. What just happened? Did I kill those DUP soldiers? Running up walls, absorbing smoke from wrecked cars, a mass of pedestrians I couldn't be bothered to avoid hitting--was that all really me?

When I think about how this exhilarating sensation of forward momentum, destruction, decision, and action is built, I can point to three pillars that are making Second Son the most fun inFAMOUS game yet.

The first is Delsin's traversal, fueled in particular by his powers, not his Sucker Punch-gifted parkour athleticism. Neon, in particular, takes center-stage as the single best way to get around the game's positively massive Seattle. With the Circle button held, Delsin streaks across flat land like Flash and up buildings in seconds, leaving streaks of vivid light behind him. It's not unlimited--you only get about five or six seconds of burst speed before needing a quick recharge--but it puts Cole's Firebird Strike to shame and gives Lightning Tether a run for its building-hopping money. The equivalent movement power in Delsin's smoke form is a lot closer to the classic Firebird Strike, at least visually. In smoke form, pressing Circle causes Delsin to dematerialize into fiery smoke that jettisons forward--across alleys, through metal walls, and as a gap-closer for buildings and enemies alike.

As with neon's sprint, this smoke rush is a one-off burst of speed, but with only a second or two before Delsin materializes again, raring to go, chaining these bursts is instant gratification--and necessary for survival. Judging by the preposterous number of bullets Delsin endured before the screen began to grey, my demo was probably set to a very easy difficulty, but there was no mistaking the sheer number of enemies acting in concert with relentless gunfire and powers. I might be an inFAMOUS vet, but when it comes to how crucial Delsin's mobility is to combat, I'm a rookie, and I'm confident the final game will offer a refreshing, challenging step up in difficulty as a result.

More hands-on impressions and gameplay details after the break.