Infamous has always been my choice of preference in the glut of open world superhero games which cropped up this generation. Crackdown and Prototype certainly had their own specialties in gameplay, but Infamous remained the only series with characters and story properly evocative of the comic book worlds from which each of them hailed.
However, there is a sizable disconnect between all of those games and my heroes I grew up with. As a Marvel fan, the characters I identified with most were always defenders of real places. While Infamous‘ Empire City and New Marais were definitely “inspired” by actual cities, they lacked the same empathetic connection of Spider-Man swinging through the streets of New York.
In Infamous: Second Son, developer Sucker Punch has decided to bring the action into their hometown of Seattle, an interesting location, in that I can’t think of any other game which has made use of it. That might have something to do with, as the man running the demo pointed out, the city is primarily known for Starbucks and rain, rather than a heavy criminal presence.
While the demo was, sadly, short on overpriced coffee, it did feature a great deal of slick-looking water reflections and the gorgeous green of Washington wilderness.
The new setting brings with it a new character, Delsin Rowe, with a new set of powers. Rather than former series protagonist Cole McGrath’s electricity (and, later, ice and fire) based abilities Delsin can steal the powers of other conduits (superhumans). The first of such powers centers around smoke, and gives our anti-establishment hero a power set ranging from the suspiciously familiar (gliding, hand blasts, shockwaves) to the intriguingly original, like turning into smoke to fit through gaps, and a whip made of noxious fumes.
It became apparent during the demo that Second Son’s new powers and environment are scary pretty. Seattle’s reflection in rainwater puddles, the way flesh and cloth transmute into black wisps and sparks — even the more mundane facial animations — they all look fantastic. Infamous 2 wasn’t exactly a slouch in the graphical department, but it’s clear Sucker Punch has begun to leverage the extra horsepower of the PlayStation 4.
With its totalitarian vision of a real world locale, Second Son has more to gain from spruced up visuals than most. The shiny new look really drives home the Northwestern aesthetic, and the veracity of the city and its characters.
Sucker Punch has already proven they can pull spirit of comic book characters, plot, and powers. If they can bring that same personality to the environment players will protect or destroy — with a whole new cast, to boot — Infamous: Second Son stands a chance of being the best superhero game ever.