Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a game by its carefully presented February Sony Showcase. So take these pre-impressions of Infamous: Second Son with a grain of salt. A grain of bright pink and purple salt.
After the jump, neon wonderland.
Sucker Punch sure knows how to make pretty cities and they sure know how to wring the most from Sony hardware. That’s been clear from the first Sly Cooper all the way to the ruined New Orleans of the last Infamous. And it’s immediately evident upon seeing neo-Seattle spring to rain-shined life in a pair of missions from Infamous: Second Son. So this is what next-gen open worlds are going to look like? Ahhh. You don’t see a lot of vehicle or foot traffic in the game, which seems to have a contained character count in comparison to, say, Prototype. But you do see an awesome amount of detail and atmosphere. Sucker Punch is once again determined to show off the latest Playstation with style, if not crazy amounts of activity.
What they don’t know how to do is character. At least that’s my impression from the first two games, where character was just the stuff you suffered through during the cutscenes and dialogue. And from what I’ve seen in this latest presentation, our new second son seems like another grating protagonist, this time with another grating sidekick. Knit cap, hipster buttons on his jacket, can of spray paint, disaffected affectation. That’s who you get to play. Along for the ride is the spunky punky sidekick chick. It takes a lot to make a Troy Baker voiceover annoying, but Sucker Punch might have actually accomplished it. “Smoke guy and laser girl,” they call themselves, lampshading their odd powers. Hopefully, given context, these will be people I don’t mind spending several hours with. Because after games like Bioshock: Infinite, Tomb Raider, Last of Us, and Grand Theft Auto V, characters matter.
I’m not sold on the new system for powers, which seem awfully pastel and polite at this stage of the game. You can alternate between smoke and neon, sucked from either chimneys or neon signs. “Every ‘open’ sign is an opportunity to blast something,” we were told. But the blasting was more like demur pew pewing with occasional Mass Effect-style bad guys floating in the air. The end of the two missions each had a scripted bigger blast, and I don’t doubt the smoke and neon will hit harder as you get more powerful. But it seems like a mandatory period of pink and wispy during the early game. Fair enough. You have to shoot some rats with the pistol before you’re blasting zombies with a shotgun.
The demo missions were just an excuse to zap a lot of bad guys in easy mode, and Sucker Punch wasn’t ready to talk to much about the progression of character powers. But if there’s one thing an Infamous game does well, it’s the progression of character powers. With the karma system racking up different types of points as you play — now here’s evil red points, now here’s good blue points, now here’s more evil red points — this is where Infamous: Second Son will hopefully earn its renown as latest-gen open-world mayhem.
Infamous: Second Son is out for the Playstation 4 on March 21.