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Super-powered in Seattle: inFamous Second Son preview

Praise the son.

InFamous: Second Son has got to be more in love with Seattle than any game I've seen. Based on the trailer alone we get the Space Needle in the background and Nirvana on the soundtrack. The brief hands-off demo I saw tossed in the port town's landmark science museum. The new locale is great, but does Sucker Punch know what to do with those tossed salads and scrambled eggs?

The answer is hard to determine at this juncture, but despite new protagonist Delsin Rowe's most basic powers like hovering and hurling fireballs (instead of lightning), he promises to provide a much more robust experience than the previous games' leading man, Cole MacGrath.

For one, he can go all Alucard and disintegrate into a plume of ash and mist to dash ahead short distances or even do the Mario and travel through ventilation pipes and pop out rooftops. He can also take the stealthy approach and slam into foes, knocking them out before they know what hit 'em.

This is only a fraction of Delsin's powers, though. Where Cole was limited to electric abilities, Delsin can unlock entire arrays of powers from other super-powered folks. Still, it's a little disconcerting when the only group of powers Sucker Punch shows off feels noticeably familiar. It begs the question: why do a third inFamous at all? Especially when the second game ended with the protagonist possibly dying.

Creative director Nate Fox insists that a third inFamous game was always the plan. "We actually wanted to make another inFamous game after inFamous 2," he says. "There was kind of an open question mark as to whether we'd have it be a Cole MacGrath game or not. When we looked at the trophy data and how people chose to end inFamous 2 - where you can sacrifice Cole if you want - we realised a majority of players said 'let's sacrifice him.' From that we said 'let's honour that choice and come up with a new hero and a new origin story,' and so Second Son was born."

This immediately addresses one of the series' sticking points: its dullard lead. Cole may have looked like an everyman with his buzzed hair, athletic gear, and blue-collar job as a courier, but he still sounded like the majority of grizzled badasses that save the world every week in nearly every shooter ever. Delsin seems to be cut from the same rebellious cloth, but he's a little more mischievous, a little more human. In the trailer alone we see him eschew the "I never asked for this" cliche in favour of "this is pretty friggin' awesome" as having super powers would no doubt be.

"Delsin is very much in my mind a flawed guy, and flawed in a way I think a lot of us can relate to," says Fox. "He's a frustrated artist. He'll go out at night. He's a tagger, a graffiti artist. Inside of him he thinks he's meant for big things, but in his every day life he doesn't quite achieve that. The game is called Second Son because his older brother, Reggie, the one you see in the trailer, he always does things right. He always gets good marks in school, makes the right choices. So Delsin is sort of living up to that example that his brother has set. So when he gets powers it's his chance to shine."

What is a boy to do?

It's fitting then that this more grounded hero (or possibly antihero) is set in a more grounded city based on the location of Sucker Punch HQ. "We decided to set Second Son in Seattle because most of the studio lives there and we knew we could do a fantastic job doing everything right so it would feel absolutely one hundred per cent real and believable," Fox explains. "Because we have that sweet foundation of plausibility, you buy into the super-powered element."

Unfortunately what we see looks a little too similar to past entries, only now with destructible bridges and the rain-slicked coffee Capitol of the Pacific Northwest. Fox insists that Delsin will have to make "tough choices with tough consequences," but this was promised to us in the last two inFamous games and it ultimately came down to a rather binary decision regarding what skill tree you wanted to pursue by being a helpful hero or destructive douchebag. Hopefully this morality system will be greyer or at least differentiate the campaign more, as inFamous 2 attempted only in its closing act.

I reckon I'll play it, because I like Seattle, and as Donlan has proven, there is a strong appeal to perusing a virtual rendition of a location you're familiar with. Plus I enjoy parkour and blowing s*** up. To some that might be enough, but I'm not sure Second Son is doing all it can to differentiate itself from a distinctly last gen series. Either way, I'm listening.

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Jeffrey Matulef


Jeffrey Matulef is the best-dressed man in 1984.