Sucker Punch knows Seattle. It's the studio's home city, and it's also the setting for their latest game, Infamous: Second Son. My colleague Shaun McInnis and I got to play a short section of the game at a Sony event this week, and it wasn't the gameplay that made the strongest impression on us, but Second Son's take on the Emerald City.
It's not that the gameplay was weak; it's just that it was familiar. Although the hero of Second Son, Delsin Rowe, harnesses the elements of neon and smoke rather than electricity to traverse the city and to either incapacitate or flat-out obliterate his enemies, I felt like I'd stepped back into the stylish messenger gear of previous series protagonist Cole Macgrath as I hovered through the air and zapped bad guys with my powers. My Delsin wasn't fully committed to either a path of good or evil; I sometimes lobbed non-lethal smoke bombs at groups of enemies, and at other times, I zoomed in and pinpointed a bad guy's head as the target of a long-range neon blast.
Moral choice in both story sequences and in how you opt to approach combat has always been an element of Infamous, and that remains the case in Second Son. The demo began with a branching choice: having cornered another conduit (that's Infamous lingo for someone with superhuman abilities) named Abigail Walker, you must either persuade her to use her powers for good and enlist her to help you put a dent in the dealings of a drug cartel, or seduce her to the dark side and take her with you as you attack anti-conduit protesters. This left me wondering if Abigail, who goes by the moniker of Fetch, has any personality of her own. Is she so weak-willed that, with a few words, Delsin can mold her into whatever he wants her to be?
The demo didn't dwell on character development, so that question will have to wait to be answered. I walked the path of redemption, and Fetch and I found ourselves at a marina, where I ran around investigating houseboats until I found those being used by drug dealers and tagged them for Fetch to destroy. It was a violent business, but the picturesque waterfront surroundings made it a beautiful business, too. After taking care of this (and fighting dozens of gun-toting criminals in the process), Fetch and I kept to the rooftops as we pursued a truck belonging to the cartel, Fetch leaving a beautiful stream of laser light in her wake to guide me across the city. When the truck came to a stop, there were more criminals to be dealt with, but that was where my demo came to an abrupt end.
Shaun, on the other hand, corrupted Fetch and had her tag along with him as he assaulted people whose only crime was hating conduits and holding up signs making their hatred known. His actions soon attracted the attention of the DUP, a heavily armed anti-conduit agency. He had to fight his way through a tunnel crowded with innocent bystanders and ultimately found himself seemingly cornered by the authorities, though the way Delsin confidently approached his captors made it clear that he had a trick up his sleeve he was just waiting for the right moment to use.
Our missions took us to two separate sections of Seattle, but for both of us, the city seemed a vibrant and inviting place. The neon signs everywhere aren't just a tantalizing source of energy you can drain to fuel your powers; they're also a terrific visual detail, lending the city color and personality, and their pristine brightness serves as a welcome contrast to the smokestacks dotting the city's rooftops that are the other source of your energy. Of course, it wouldn't be Seattle without rain, and I was struck by the way the puddles in the streets so clearly reflected the lights above. And standing on the rooftops, gazing into the distance, I almost wanted to walk away from my mission objectives altogether and just explore, discovering what the different districts of the city looked like. The gameplay may have felt familiar, but in my brief time in Second Son's version of Seattle, the city felt fresh and distinctive among video game open worlds, and it's the pull of the city that's making me want to return to the game when it comes out next month.