Most superheroes have a line they won’t cross. Despite what Man of Steel would have you believe, Superman doesn’t kill. Neither does Spider-Man. The web-slinger even has a mantra for this, thanks to six simple words from his late uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
That saying could also apply to Infamous: Second Son, the third game in developer Sucker Punch Productions’s open-world superhero series. Out on March 21 exclusively for the PlayStation 4, Second Son stars Delsin Rowe, a 20-something graffiti artist whose life goes from ordinary to extraordinary when he accidentally absorbs his first supernatural ability from a Conduit, a person with superpowers.
Past Infamous games had a binary morality system: You were either absolutely good or absolutely evil. Certain elements of the plot would change based on this choice, and in Infamous 2, it determined which kind of powers you could play with. But with Second Son, Sucker Punch is introducing a bit more nuance. In addition to changing Delsin and introducing different plot points, your choices will now affect the way other characters grow.
A few days ago, I got a chance to see how this system works during a short hands-on demo. It starts right after Delsin meets a wanted criminal, Abigail “Fetch” Walker, and absorbs her neon powers. The scene pauses during the middle of a heated conversation, giving you time to contemplate a crucial decision. From there, the first mission with Fetch branches off into two different paths depending on what you do with her.
If you redeem Fetch
Holding down the L2 button brings up the redemption path, which comes with a brief description that says Delsin will help reform the troubled Fetch. After a brief argument with his brother Reggie — a cop who just wants to imprison her — Delsin cools off and tells him that he’ll take responsibility for Fetch. The demo then moved to a rooftop scene, and you find out that Delsin and Fetch are trying to bust a drug deal going down in the nearby harbor.
This is where I first got a taste of Delsin’s neon powers. It’s beautiful to see in motion: Colorful rays of light trail behind you when you use it, and the way you absorb neon from business signs to replenish your power meter looks exactly like it does in the trailers. Pressing the circle button makes Delsin run like The Flash, running fast enough to scale buildings and jump several stories into the air. It’s a convenient way to travel around Second Son’s version of Seattle. Square is your melee attack, and it transforms Delsin’s metal chain into a laser sword.
Neon came in handy while fighting in the harbor, where a lot of enemies were far apart from one another and separated by the docks. I used neon to quickly run from one area to the next, defeating them with laser grenades or precise blasts from my hand — you can aim it like a sniper rifle and zoom in on your targets.
When I wasn’t fighting, Fetch and Delsin chatted over their headsets. The tone of their conversation was friendly, with Delsin uttering a joke or two to try and get Fetch to open up about her life. After finding the drug stashes and marking their locations with graffiti (by tapping the controller’s touchpad), Fetch destroys them with her neon powers, and the duo move on to follow a suspicious truck. The mission ended once I found the truck in an alleyway.
If you corrupt her
Choose this option if you feel like being a jerk. Delsin angrily declares that Fetch’s fate is “My call!” When Reggie tries to object, Delsin twists his arm and threatens to beat him if he doesn’t get his way. With this decision, the mission takes on a vengeful streak as Delsin and Fetch go out to silence anti-Conduit protesters who are using Fetch’s likeness on their signs.
How you “silence” them represents another wrinkle in Second Son’s morality system — combat now plays a role in how good or evil you are. When you zoom in with neon, you can finish enemies by hitting either their heads or shins: The former kills them, while the latter incapacitates them. A similar decision-making process occurs when they drop their guns and surrender to you. Murdering citizens, whether on accident or on purpose, is also a factor.
For this mission, I experimented more with the smoke powers. If neon is your rifle, than the smoke is your shotgun: Delsin’s explosive combos are ideal for close-quarters combat. Instead of transforming into traces of light, he disappears into a black shroud filled with burning embers, making it a good defensive move for dodging attacks. He almost looks like a ninja when he pops out of the shadows to hit bad guys with his flaming whip.
However, because Delsin can only have one power at a time, you can’t just swap back to neon whenever you feel like it. You must find a source of your preferred power (like cars, air vents, or neon signs) and absorb it every time you want to change your abilities. It’s a bit cumbersome, but I saw plenty of objects I could use for either smoke or neon, so it seems like you won’t have a problem finding the powers you want.
One of the more drastic changes in this level was the tone of Delsin’s and Fetch’s conversation. While it was still somewhat lighthearted, Fetch sounded like she was out for blood. At one point, she even talks about roasting a guy from the inside out. Delsin had little interest in getting to know her and focused more on their goal of killing anyone that stood in their way. The mission ended with a tense stand-off between Delsin and a group of government soldiers.
Living with this burden
By making folks like Fetch change with Delsin’s character, the decision to become good or evil is no longer a selfish act. You’re responsible for these other people now. This adds so much more weight (and possibly, tragedy) to the story.
I still have a lot of questions. Can you have a mix of good and bad friends? How many possible endings could this lead to? Sucker Punch remained coy about any details beyond what we saw in the demo. But with little more than a month to go until release, we won’t have to wait too long to see what else Infamous: Second Son has in store for us.