The smoke and mirrors of inFamous: Second Son

Monday, 9 September 2013 14:32 GMT By Stace Harman

Stace Harman talks to Sucker Punch’s Nate Fox about the choices and consequences of its Sony-exclusive inFamous franchise and finds out whether or not great power comes a great deal of fun.

inFamous: Second Son

Sucker Punch Productions is a subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment that’s best known for its inFamous and Sly Cooper series but way back in 1999 it made an action-puzzler for the N64 called Rocket: Robot on Wheels.

In a recent developer diary, Sucker Punch talked about the development of inFamous: Second Son and how it utilises the additional power afforded by the PlayStation 4

Delsin’s powers were put through their paces in this E3 game play video

Troy Baker – of BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us fame – is lending his voice and performance to Second Son’s protagonist, Delsin Rowe, check him out in action in this developer diary.

inFamous: Second Son is expected in early 2014; April 1 if this Gamestop listing is to be believed.

At the end of inFamous 2 you have to make a choice that leads to two radically different outcomes. For the sake of those that intend to play through Sucker Punch’s action-adventure sequel prior to the release of inFamous: Second Son, I won’t go into the detail of that choice here but, suffice to say, one option leads to the good, altruistic ending and the other offers a grim and self-serving conclusion.

Whichever choice you make directly affects protagonist Cole MacGrath but it also impacts the world around him to such a degree that only one of these endings can be considered canon. Admittedly, the Evil Cole in me is disappointed that Sucker Punch has chosen to run with the “good” ending of inFamous 2 as the setting of its PS4-exclusive follow-up, but while it might seem like the obvious and safe choice I’m assured that it wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly.

Instead, Sucker Punch gathered the available trophy data and found that the majority of you that completed the game chose the path of the righteous. While that earns you a karmic pat on the back, it also raises the question of whether the developer would have been willing to embrace the darker narrative setting had the player data decreed it.

“I’ll be frank, I kind of wanted to make a game like that,” admits game director Nate Fox. “[One] filled with more people with powers and humanity set up to be really angry with those people. That’s an easier game [to make] but the truth is people were really high-minded and heroic.

“When you set out to make these games you’re kind of just intuiting your way through things, so if you have real hard information to help you make decisions, particularly early on in the process, then that is just a gift.”

So it is that inFamous: Second Son is set in a world where Conduits are not only shunned for the powers they wield but are branded a menace and actively hunted by the Department of Unified Protection.

Cue protagonist Delsin Rowe, a seemingly regular guy who obtains his own suite of smoke-based superpowers after rushing to aid the victims of an accident. Finding he suddenly has the means to effectively challenge the totalitarian authority that he’s railed against for years, Delsin sets about pitting his powers against the DUP to drive it out of the city, one section at a time.

It’s the powers that make the inFamous franchise and that are arguably more memorable than any of its characters. There’s something liberating about treating an entire city as your own personal playground and wielding elemental-style powers in as chaotic or ordered a fashion as you like.

What’s more, the franchises’ visual identity is heavily influenced by the nature of these powers and basing Delsin’s around smoke serves multiple purposes. Not only does it help to differentiate Delsin’s abilities from the familiar triumvirate of fire, ice and electricity, but his smoke and particle effects also happen to be an excellent way for this Sony-owned studio to show off the enhanced graphics processing power of the PS4.

“That’s an astute observation,” acknowledges Fox, when I put this last point to him. “We absolutely are looking for ways to harness the hardware to produce spectacular graphics. We chose lightning for Cole and part of that was because it was a kick-ass fireworks display every time you use a power. Smoke is no different and nor are any of the other powers that Delsin gets along the way. They absolutely are eye-candy.”

The “other powers” to which Fox is referring are obtained by Delsin’s ability to absorb those wielded by other Conduits. The game’s most recent trailer saw Deslin gaining the power to manipulate neon from fellow Conduit Abigail ‘Fetch’ Walker.

Sucker Punch is currently tight-lipped about the nature of further powers, but Fox did confirm that not all of them will be smoke-based. He also hints that there’s an opportunity to acquire any of the powers that are used against you by your enemies, albeit in a modified form in order to be “the most fun for the player”.

Gleeful destruction

Watching some gameplay, we saw Delsin go off at the deep end when he infiltrated a DUP compound and caused a gratifying amount of carnage through use of his unique abilities and a mix of ranged and melee attacks. While it certainly made for an impressive spectacle, for me it also set some alarm bells ringing. Environmental destruction is a familiar concept and where it’s jarred with me in the past is in its inconsistency of application.

Technical constraints and game play considerations have often made it necessary to restrict such destruction to certain areas or to render certain surfaces invulnerable to attack. My primary concern for Second Son – and next gen titles in general – is whether developers can ensure that this kind of managed freedom makes sense from a narrative perspective, so as not to interrupt the suspension of disbelief.

“We’re absolutely looking to let people create total havoc and we want to let people walk on the wild side, but also we don’t want to let people level the city to a flat parking lot because that’s not fun,” Fox warns.
For this reason, Fox openly admits that there are times when game-world rules have to be bent or broken in order to ensure the experience remains enjoyable, even at the expense of consistency.

“For instance, we don’t want to level a certain building, even if it might be a very rickety looking building, if levelling it means there’s nothing to climb on or no cover to hide behind,” Fox explained, and added, “In general though, our contract with the player is if they think they should be able to do something we try to let them do it, so anything you think you can climb on we let you climb on, so that we maintain trust, and if something seems to you that you should be able to destroy it we try to let you destroy it.”

Further gameplay showcases and perhaps even a hands-on will be required to see how this aim works in practice. In the meantime however, I’ll have to get used to the idea that for the world that constitutes Delsin’s playground to exist, the choices that I made as Cole MacGrath have to be considered null and void. Here’s hoping that both Sucker Punch and Delsin can more than make up for that anomaly.

inFamous: Second Son is a PlayStation 4 exclusive that’s expected to launch in early 2014


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  1. thesnowman

    I got the original infamous when I got my ps3, but couldnt get into it. However I recently picked up infamous 2 for $10 from target and absolutely loved it. The feeling of being a superhero is awesome, and watching the effects in 3d were quite stunning.

    Will be picking this up when it gets released.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. lexph3re

    @1 I was the same exact way! I found infamous 1 super boring but infamous 2 I platinum that game. It was so much better then the first in every way.

    I am looking forward to the advancements they take in Second Son.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. YoungZer0

    Stace, did you get a proper look at the difficulty or enemy A.I. in the game? Because those two were the worst aspects of the first two.

    I remember one instance in particular where an Ice Giant could throw ice rocks at me with a pinpoint accuracy. I stood on the other side of a building at a spot where the enemy could not see me. Yet his projectiles had no problem hitting me. They never fixed that. We had similar problems with snipers from the first game.

    It’s artificial and cheap.

    #3 1 year ago

    metascore of 95%

    It looks freaking awesome and Delsin Rowe looks very good not like the protagonist of InFamous 2.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. YoungZer0

    I think it’s kind of funny that so many people complain about his design. Everyone asks for a fresh design for main characters, because the market is flooded with Nathan Drake look-a-likes and buzzcut soldiers, yet when it comes they complain that it’s emo.

    Bitches be trippin’.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. monkeygourmet


    I think he looks like every guy from every TV show at the moment ever.

    Too much ‘angsty’ teenager from what I have seen, still, def getting the game though! Looks fun!

    Also, he should say this whenever he escapes up a chimmney:

    “I be all up in yo Chimmnizzle, smoke style! Beehotch!”

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Phoenixblight

    @5 and 6

    He actually looks like his voice actor, Troy Baker. You can see that in the dev videos.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. absolutezero

    His design looks completely different to his personality from most of the videos released thus far.

    Its an odd disconnection where what you think the character is going to be like ends up being quite the opposite.

    I kinda like it.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. monkeygourmet


    ‘Like it?’ Or ‘Sexy Like it’?

    #9 1 year ago
  10. absolutezero

    Little of A, Little of B.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. Clupula

    @6 – You know, if he were to say stuff like that, I think it would make me just not buy the game. lol

    #11 1 year ago
  12. Clupula

    I cannot wait, though, to terrorize the people of the city of Seattle.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. monkeygourmet


    Only messing, I’ve been watching loads of ‘Trailer Park Boys’ recently,

    J-Rock up in the Hizzle!

    #13 1 year ago
  14. fearmonkey

    Has anyone played Prototype 2 and Crackdown? How does this series compare?

    #14 1 year ago
  15. Phoenixblight


    Prototype series was a shallow pond compared to the second Infamous alone. If you want a complete sandbox where story doesn’t matter and you just want to roam an expansive area then get Prototype or Crackdown. You want a game that tells a story while being in a open world as a super hero or anti-hero get Infamous.

    They give you choices in your abilities along with them changing based on your morality visually and as a mechanic. Then you have the excellent writing of the second game.

    #15 1 year ago
  16. polygem

    the basic gameplay of this series feels absolutely gorgeous. the flying, sliding, shooting. all that stuff is great, story and artdesign is where it truly lacks though. the world is uninspired and the story is more than forgetable. i found it absolutely annoying, especially in the second game. that black female character, forgot the name, was just….well, she´s in my top 10 list of most annoying videogame characters. cole, zeke…i couldn´t care less about these guys. i wish they would´ve focused on the gameplay more and create something more level like, not open world. something like the first lost planet levelwise.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. DrDamn

    inFamous series story lacking? Craziness :). Both had fantastic stories. The majority of the good/bad choices were generally very forced with little in terms of grey area, but the overall story was great, well told and with some great key points to them.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. absolutezero

    I agree that the Infamous series would have been better if it had gone to full 3rd person shooter route because thats more where the game excels, the focused missions and your abilities combining.

    Prototype was instant gratification and theres nothing wrong with that, it was all about speed and power and changing up abilities on the fly, it was a giant fun park of guts and explosions, if you want a more family friendly version of that try Saints Row 4 because they are more or less the same idea.

    Infamous was more slower paced, considered and its story mattered a whole lot more. Although the Open World added next to nothing to the overall structure of the game, it adds a few item hunts but little else, Prototypes Map slowly filled with side-quests, item hunts, stronghold infiltrations and a changing environment. It did more with the actual game type than Infamous yet came out shallower because of its throw away nature.

    Crackdown was an orb collection simulation and little else.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. polygem

    @17: seriously? well i absolutely disagree. i didn´t enjoy it AT ALL. the missions were superboring and meaningless all the way through. i loved the presentation, the cutscenes but the content, storywise was plain boring imho.

    #19 1 year ago
  20. Phoenixblight


    Different strokes. Infamous for me is one of the best series this gen and is one of main reasons why I am picking up a PS4 in November.

    #20 1 year ago
  21. polygem

    @20: no problem. i just wont sign that


    #21 1 year ago
  22. Clupula

    I couldn’t disagree more with Poly on this. The open world structure was one of the things that I loved in the two PS3 titles. There was a real feeling of power to playing as Evil Cole. As I said, the only Western exclusive I’m excited about for PS4 is this. The first two games are absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to see what they do with it.

    If they had just made it a stupid, boring, level-based third person shooter, it would have sucked balls.

    As for the comparison to Prototype, I didn’t like Prototype. It felt really second rate, especially compared to Infamous.

    #22 1 year ago
  23. Clupula

    And while I can’t speak for what it’s like to play as Good Cole, I loved the story, playing as Evil Cole. I especially loved how the meaner you played, the more run down Empire City would be, until, at the end, the buildings were almost in ruins and the sky was red.

    The only thing I didn’t like about the story is that I never got to murder that annoying guy who kept talking shit about me on the tv. I wanted to treat him the same way I treated T-Dog in Fallout 3.

    And Zeke, on occasion, would get preachy with me, and he no longer had the right to speak to me in any way but reverence.

    #23 1 year ago
  24. absolutezero

    “If they had just made it a stupid, boring, level-based third person shooter, it would have sucked balls.”

    Those moments in both of the previous games are exactly where the game excels the most, it gives you a more limited closed environment with which to experiment with your toolset and then just lets you go.

    Outside in the open world not all that much happens, its a dead city with little to interact with other than shooting the odd bunch of guys or the terrible little side quests in the second game where you follow a guy, or kill a group then jazz hand glide away.

    One thing that Prototype did get right is the escalation as the story progresses, more and different enemies turn up, higher levels of powerful enemies, choppers, tanks, mutants. It really pushes you to use alot of the powers you’ve unlocked. Infamous just threw more bullet sponges and the same conduits you’d been fighting for the past 5 hours.

    #24 1 year ago
  25. YoungZer0

    @7: Really?×625/1675422.jpg


    @8: “His design looks completely different to his personality from most of the videos released thus far.”

    Everything else would’ve been lazy.

    “Its an odd disconnection where what you think the character is going to be like ends up being quite the opposite.”

    I didn’t expect him to go emo-skater boy, but I agree. That last trailer where he said that he was the one ‘making the decisions when it comes to conduits’, while violently pushing his brother aside. Very unexpected.

    I’m just glad he doesn’t join the army of buzzcut heroes. We already had that with Cole and he was not a very good character.

    @14: Prototype 2 takes itself way too serious, but I had generally more fun playing it. inFamous 2 had an overall better story, although on its own it’s okay at best with very unlikable characters. Cole is not as bad as Black Stereotype Guy from Prototype 2 though.

    Prototype 2 has much better combat, with much more depth and variety. While inFamous 2 at times feels more like a shooter. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds. It’s still a lot of fun.

    inFamous 2 has inferior character-design with a lot of characters simply not fitting into the universe. They look and run around like cartoon characters. See all the Ice men, the evil female character and later the good female character. So not only are most of them completely unlikable, but they also look shite.

    The greatest strength of inFamous 2 though is the environmental design. The city just feels fucking alive. Every little roof top feels real and accurate. No building looks the same.

    Only problem though is that there isn’t much to do in it. Going mental isn’t satisfying either.

    I’d say they are both pretty good games.

    @23: Are you sure it was you impacting those buildings? Because I don’t think it has anything to do with your actions.

    #25 1 year ago
  26. DSB

    @23 As unremarkable as Fallout 3 was, getting to kill Three Dog was just a huge moment for me.

    I didn’t think the game would let me, but it was just the most satisfying moment for me, hands down.

    #26 1 year ago
  27. Clupula

    @26 – Yeah, Three Dog talked a lot of shit and needed to pay for it. And then he has the nerve to send me on stupid missions instead of just telling me what I needed to know? Fuck him. I made sure to mutilate his body as much as possible after killing him.

    #27 1 year ago
  28. Clupula

    @25 – Nope. The world changes depending on how you play. If you play as Good Cole, the world gets cleaner and people help you out. Plus, if you play as Evil, the people throw shit at you and generally throw themselves at you saying, “Please kill us and drain our life force.”

    I don’t know if the world still changed in the second one, but in the first, it was definitely a feature of the game.

    #28 1 year ago
  29. YoungZer0

    We should make a thread of the most satisfying kill in videogame history. Based more on the annoyance of a character and less about the difficulty. I never listened to the radio in Fallout 3, so I never cared about Three Dog. His voice was annoying though when I met him.

    @28: Wasn’t my experience with the second one. I think I remember people throwing stuff at me, but nothing else.

    #29 1 year ago
  30. DSB

    @27 Dude, I actually picked up the cannibal perk, just so I could eat his shattered remains. I even made a video of it and put it on Vimeo for my WoW guildies at the time :P

    #30 1 year ago
  31. YoungZer0

    @30: Oh man and I though I was cruel when I collected all the dead guards in PAYDAY 2 and placed them around the one guard I arrested. Took some screenshots of it too.

    #31 1 year ago
  32. Clupula

    @30 – That is amazing. :)

    #32 1 year ago
  33. Clupula

    @29 – Yeah, in the second game, a good portion of the town was already in ruins when you start out.

    #33 1 year ago
  34. Clupula

    @31 – For some reason, that reminds me of how I used to play bathroom attendant in MGS1. I’d get the stealth armor and sneak into the men’s room. I’d put C4 on guy’s backs when they were peeing and if they washed their hands, I’d let them go. If they left the room without washing their hands, I’d blow up the C4.

    #34 1 year ago
  35. zinc

    What the heck is with all the Three Dog hate!?


    #35 1 year ago
  36. Clupula

    And in Fallout 3, you know when you get the slave collar? Well, whenever I’d put that on people, I’d strip them first and then beat them up a little before having them run off to a life of slavery. Sometimes, I’d shoot them in the legs first, to cripple them.

    @35 – Three Dog spoke negatively about me on his radio show and, instead of helping me find my dad right away, sent me out on stupid missions, like I was his errand boy or some shit. I played Fallout 3 the way I would if I were in that situation in real life. If you were good to me, I was good to you. If you showed me disrespect, you’d pay for it.

    I bet the people of Megaton wished they were nicer to me.

    And, come to think of it, the people in the Vault I was born in. I went in there and helped them, and then they tell me to never return? Could you blame me for killing every single person in there?

    #36 1 year ago
  37. YoungZer0

    @34: That’s fucking hilarious. :D

    @35: Are you serious?

    Pre-Order Bonus revealed:

    Is rather sad, compared to something like the Reaper Skin from inFamous 2:

    @36: Oh, I remember that! This situation was the #1 reason why I got myself the Sandman Perk. Killed that cunt in her sleep and I was the good guy in the story.

    #37 1 year ago
  38. zinc

    @36, I have the sneaking suspicion you would have killed them all regardless o_O

    @37, Yes. I liked Three Dog.

    #38 1 year ago
  39. absolutezero

    You people are monsters!

    love it.

    #39 1 year ago
  40. Phoenixblight


    I totally see it in the eyes and smile.

    #40 1 year ago
  41. DSB

    I may have possibly… Kind of… Enslaved all the orphans in that there mine.

    #41 1 year ago
  42. DrDamn

    I thought the second infamous had great city design too. Three very distinct areas with different ways you play and traverse them. Gameplay wise it improved on the first in lots of different ways.

    #42 1 year ago
  43. wildBoar

    Pretty neat idea actually that it builds on the 2nd game.. Meaning that if they went with the bad ending, it would be humanity that was getting fucked other than the other way around like in second son..
    If you imagine it like a war that could’ve gone either way, and the bad guy’s kinda won.. It makes the trilogy as a whole really interesting actually. Even more so considering Cole sacrificed himself to save humanity, and now we’re playing as a character hounded by the D.U.P as a result of Cole’s choice. I’ve heard him talk about that trophy data soo many times but it didn’t really hit me how morally ambiguos it makes the story until now..

    @37 I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more pre-order bonuses/DLC like this, I have a feeling it’s a consequence of having characters made of 300.000+ polygons, with uniquely responsive cloth physics etc.

    #43 1 year ago
  44. pcbros

    I only got to play through the first inFamous and I was hooked. I loved the way you were able to navigate the city (ex. Wire skating, hovering, climbing up building, etc). I had a blast blasting those thugs around the city. The way you had to drain electricity from different sources to get power was cool too.

    inFamous, Uncharted and Warhawk are the reasons why I bought a PS3. I sold it before Uncharted 3 and inFamous 2 were released, so I definitely missed out. When PS3 games (including those free PS Plus games attached to my account) are playable on the PS4, I will definitely consider it.

    Btw, I met a few of the Sucker Punch team at E3 and they were super nice and down to earth :)

    #44 1 year ago
  45. YoungZer0

    @43: Naw, that’s just laziness. They could make a new model that doesn’t use all those assets.

    #45 1 year ago
  46. Biscuitpants

    i bet the characters design was sonys fault, after making the new petern parker a hipster cunt in amazing spider and also advertising vita to hipsters as well, sony are pretty deluded atm

    #46 1 year ago
  47. frostedtsaar

    infamous was one of the reasons I got a PS3 in the first place. But, by the end of the game I was bored with Cole’s lightning powers and bland character, and never bought the second. Good to see that they’re not afraid to switch up one of their flagships and stretch the capabilities of the PS4. I see a lot of comments dissing on the character design, but with the market on action games saturated by huge guys in armor and scruffy-bearded, post-apocalypse throwbacks, Delsin is a breath of fresh air.

    Do you think one of those undisclosed powers is to turn into the smoke monster from LOST?


    #47 1 year ago
  48. YoungZer0

    @46: Yeah, because hipsters are such a huge chunk of the market …

    Completely delusional.

    #48 1 year ago
  49. Biscuitpants

    @48 because by targeting them it makes there product look “cool” and more 21st century you tard

    #49 1 year ago
  50. YoungZer0

    Average gamer age is 30, so that would be misplaced.

    In any case, I don’t think that’s their motivation. You’re fucking stupid if you think the Sony Film Studios are in any way related to this.

    They have no say in how one of their gaming studios designs their main character.

    Completely delusional … and stupid.

    #50 1 year ago
  51. polygem

    well their marketing is pretty annoying and totally aimed at the twen pseudo hipster. absolutely. everything. all the time….must be blind if you deny that.

    i personally hate exactly that the most about sony atm. it’s so embarassing. like the 48 year old that tries to be hip.

    if you ask me, it’s cheap. they try to be trendy but they never set trends.
    nintendo on the other hand….;)

    #51 1 year ago
  52. zoopdeloop

    @51 you’re also annoying,old timers here know and new ones can tell you’ve got MS deep within you…one way or the other ;)which brings to the point your opinion is irrelevant
    must be blind if you deny that

    kudos for showing some Nintendo love lately before returning to MS camp

    #52 1 year ago
  53. Biscuitpants

    @YoungZero “Average gamer age is 30″ lolnope, i believe those are the type of people who read up reviews and shit, 30 year olds are definitely not average gamers since every sony advert has been towards kids, bet your an atheist who hates cod

    #53 1 year ago
  54. YoungZer0

    @53: Delusional and uninformed.

    “Sony doesn’t advertise their games to 30 year olds (maybe), therefore the average gamer age should be lower.”

    Yeah, you’re definitely not a smart person.

    Don’t know if you noticed but they used Nirvana in one of their trailers. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Not really a hipster band.

    #54 1 year ago
  55. DrDamn



    #55 1 year ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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