The Next Infamous Wants To See Just How Evil You'll Get

The Next Infamous Wants To See Just How Evil You'll Get

inFamous: Second Son on the Playstation 4 is not quite the same animal as what we're used to on the PS3. Cole's glower has been swapped out for Delsin's laid-back wisecracks. Second Son's Seattle is more high-definition-er than was possible on the PS3, and appealing neon lights fly around the screen instead of the more mundane electricity. Delsin doesn't die when he falls into the water, and he can sprint up a wall so you don't have to press X 16 times to scale a building.

But when I held a DualShock 4 in my hand at a Sony-hosted press event in LA recently and spent a half-hour inside Second Son, I found that experience to be more familiar than new. It began with one of the series' trademark karmic moments, in which Delsin and his brother Reggie are arguing over what to do with a super-powered rabble rouser named Fetch. Reggie wants her dead, and Delsin has to choose whether to "redeem" or "corrupt" her.

Each option leads to a completely different mission. The former has Delsin and Fetch teaming up to blow up some drug dealers' boats and the latter sees them beat the crap out of (or kill) some anti-Conduit protesters. It plays pretty much as it always has, only now I was shooting concentrated neon out of Delsin's hands and beating down cops and villains with a hot pink whip he'd conjured.

The presentation feels fresh though. Delsin and Fetch have chemistry, aided by their respective voice actors — Troy Baker and Laura Bailey, who are real-life besties — as well as some animated banter as they fight together. Their interactions more flavorful than Cole's more deadpan zingers.

The Next Infamous Wants To See Just How Evil You'll Get

And, yes, it's all very beautiful to look at, even if the portion of Seattle I explored had less personality on display than inFamous 2's faux-New Orleans. The world is as detailed and full of litter as you'd expect on a new-gen game, and of course as covered with puddles of standing water as you'd expect from Seattle. The colour of structures and people seemed a bit muted, and so when Delsin unleashes the power of neon or Fetch flies through the scene leaving a bright pink streak in her wake, those colours pop dramatically.

My face was about two or three feet from the large television I played on, and being that close didn't expose any notable graphical cracks in the game. The world seems to look as good as series developer Sucker Punch wants it to.

"We really wanted to deck out and dress an area like we'd like to see it in the game, without thinking about cutting any corners," said Horia Dociu, Second Son's art director, when I spoke to him after my demo session. He told me the team created an early build of a small section of the game world, ignoring tech specs and limitations. Dociu explained that the team initially "decked it out" with details, from cobblestones to graffiti and various "props" like payphones and newspaper stands, coating it all with a sheen of wetness backed by accurate water physics.

The Next Infamous Wants To See Just How Evil You'll Get

Pushing the PS4 to its limit resulted in a sluggish performance, frame-rate issues and lighting settings that the team wasn't satisfied with. Sucker Punch's engineers had to break it down and optimise how the system ran it in order to hit their ideal mark, or come very close, which Dociu said they were able to do with the final product.

"We held that as our high-water mark and said, 'It needs to look this good and it needs to perform and be fun.' We as a company kinda rallied behind that and made that possible," Dociu said.

New powers like neon and smoke (and others that have yet to be revealed) take over for the series' trademark electricity, fire and ice, which is nice, but the most compelling change so far might be the revamped karma systems that let you actually make those powers even stronger. Powers that you can use in Second Son aren't limited to what moral denomination you prescribe to, unlike how fire and ice were attributed to the player when they were introduced in inFamous 2. Any player can hit those base abilities and switch back and forth between them by absorbing neon signs or smoke from chimneys or other ambient sources.

We weren't shown any of the progression of those powers, however, beyond an ionic power-style supermove we were asked not to describe in detail. But Troy Baker promised offhandedly that the escalation of Delsin's powers is quite intense and unpredictable. So, there's that.

But the evolution of Delsin's powers within these categories will be tied to his karma levels, and Sucker Punch co-founder Brian Fleming said that as with previous inFamous titles, taking a grey moral path — an even mix of good and evil choices — isn't something the team is accommodating in that progression.

The Next Infamous Wants To See Just How Evil You'll Get

"There's a certain amount of simplicity and cause-and-effect-ness that people want to see where I push the button and a peanut came out or I shot the target and got a star or whatever it is," Fleming explained, saying without that simplicity a lot of player will become confused. "As soon as you lose contain on people believing that there's meaningful cause and effect, then you have a different problem. We've spent a ton of time on this problem. We've worked hard on it."

Ultimately, Fleming told me, they weren't able to dedicate the time and effort to making it work, because Sucker Punch's player data indicated the number of folks who would want to go grey is not big enough to warrant adding potential trouble for the rest. The absence of a middle path does not necessarily mean that starting down the good or evil path will lock you into it.

"We absolutely enthusiastically support people switching paths in the middle of gameplay," Fleming said, noting they've put some systems into Second Son to aid players in reversing their karma should they want to. In fact, Fleming pointed out they hope to instigate a change of heart in the player through some majorly difficult moral dilemmas.

"Are you sure you really have the rocks to play all of this all the way?" he said. "And, truthfully, when we watch people play it there are a lot of them who are like, 'OK, I was going to be evil but that's messed up.'

That said, inFamous is still a T-rated franchise, and that classification comes with its limits, though it still allows for some hardcore "thematic" content. Sucker Punch sought to hit that potential so as to challenge whether the player is willing to be so depraved or so squeaky clean in pursuit of a power upgrade. Dociu described this test of sorts as "pushing all the way to the limits of good and evil," both in the moment and how what you do "affects the world and the environment and the characters themselves and even the moment-to-moment gameplay stuff."

"That to me is what we're supposed to try and find," Fleming said. "There are places where you're willing to go against maybe even the thing the game is rewarding you for because you want to be you. I think that's really healthy.

"These are all video game people. We all know that it's pretend. But at the same time it has meaning and I think it's important that it has meaning."


Phil Owen is a freelance journo with work at VG247, GameFront, Gameranx and many, many other places over the years. You can follow him on Twitter at @philrowen. Send hate mail to [email protected]


Comments

    By the sounds of it character progression is no longer as limited as it used to be which is good...in writing...as ever, I'm skeptical (aren't all gamers) when we're promised freedom to make our own choices in game. I really hope this delivers as it's the first game on PS4 that's showing real potential

      Indeed. We're getting our ps4 in 2 weeks time, this is the game that sold me into getting a current gen console. I adore the inFamous series and this has my full attention. I'm going to miss Cole but I'm dearly hoping other characters such as Zeke pop up in part 3!

    They need to see how evil one gets?
    They obviously never played Postal 2!
    Monday: Get pay check, cash it and buy milk.
    The massacre you caused by decapitating 8 people in line at the bank because you CBA waiting in line or torching a group of protestors wasn't on the list, yet you still do it because you feel like it. How evil does one get on Tuesday?

    I'll probably do my usual trick of doing a quick run-through as a good guy, then do a second run as an evil bastard where I 100% the game.

    I remember in the first inFamous when I had to choose between letting people have food or zapping them, and I felt so bad after zapping them I reloaded my save and let them have the food.

      This is exactly what Infamous is about for me. It was the first game that made me feel like a comic book hero/ villain. I know many people think the choices are too black and white, but that's just the world of Infamous for me. And I love it.

      This is the reason i bought a PS4, and it's not just cause it's pretty. I bought Killzone and a PC for that.

      Can't wait.

    Pushing the PS4 to its limit resulted in a sluggish performance, frame-rate issues and lighting settings that the team wasn’t satisfied with.

    PCmasterrace

      Gamers play games, not platforms. PCmasterrace is just another way of saying platform fanboy with a larger ego than most.

        Yeah I love my PC and am sick of getting flack for it. Its like doing up my car. It is just something that I can customise and then it also lets me customise games I really like ie Skyrim or System Shock.
        I still get almost every console like an excited child so we are not all snobs.

        i play games and not platforms

        but im sick of this shit where framerates suffer or graphics suffer because we have to cater for the lowest common denominator

    I'm half-way through Infamous 1, choosing the good side. It bugs me how I'm immediately at a disadvantage, purely because accidentally hitting civilians is going to happen. Hence my good-power doesn't scale up as quickly as a pure-evil build would.

    Still gotta finish it and #2, but I'm thinking evil bastard is the easier way to play.

      I didn't hit as many civilians as one would think. Once the fighting starts they usually start running anyway.
      The trick is to not lob around explosive and other aoe's till the normal folk run away.

      It was always a little easier to raise bad karma because you could farm the civvies, but each has it's ups and down anyway

        Dunno, I always had the baddies prepped with their explosive stuff, and civilians casually strolling around them. This means I can't get the upper hand with a surprise attack. And even after a good 2 minute battle, exploded cars everywhere, you'd get civvies walking casually into the middle of the fight.

      Don't worry, I finished Infamous 1 last night actually and I easily hit max good-guy about 2/3 of the way through the game. But you're right, it really hurts the usefulness of some abilities, especially the thunder drop which I never ever used since civilians were ALWAYS WALKING AROUND ENEMIES URGH. But the easy counterbalance for dead civilians is stopping to heal randoms or capturing bad guys after you've beaten them. You'll get far more points doing those than you will lose with dead civvies (who you can sometimes heal anyway).

      I started Infamous 2 today and the first goodguy upgrade you get is "less damage to civilians" so it's much better haha.

      Last edited 13/02/14 6:47 pm

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