When I reviewed inFamous back in 2009, I kinda liked it. OK, fine, I raved about it. Looking back, I regret nothing; it was - and still is - one of the best games of the generation. For reasons that escape me, I missed out on the sequel (something I intend to rectify before the next one comes out), but having now seen inFamous: Second Son (game three in the franchise) it's not a mistake I'll make this time around. It is, quite simply, nothing short of mind-blowing.
First, some background. Cole is gone; due to the overwhelmingly popular player choices made in inFamous 2 (I had it ruined for me, but I won't do that to you), there's a new character on the scene. The scene itself is new too; gone is the imaginary setting of the first game, replaced in Second Son by the real world (or at least, a gamefied version of) Seattle - complete with the Space Needle.
Five years ago, and two years after the events in inFamous 2 - in the game's timeline - people with superpowers began to present themselves, and the world was thrown into chaos. Authority fought back, however, forming the D.U.P. whose job is to hunt down and... deal with... people with special abilities. Delsin, the new hero, is - of course - a gifted young man, with abilities that grant him all sorts of advantages in combat; this is particularly handy, given Delsin's agenda is directly at odds with the "dupes."
The section of gameplay we were shown was a chaotic sequence in which Delsin faced off against a sizeable force of dupes at the base of the Space Needle. After sneaking around a little bit, the Sucker Punch developer at the controls cast of his character's anonymity in spectacular fashion, leveraging Delsin's Smoke-based powers to warp straight through a gate and right up to one of the patrolling guards, whom he then smashed face-first into the ground.
After that, the proverbial excrement was flung with some gusto directly into the rapidly spinning blades of a nearby air-moving device.
Delsin's powers, some of which (notably his air jumping and gliding moves) will be instantly familiar to fans of inFamous and the many more that will not, are all executed in spectacular fashion. By jumping, porting forwards, and gliding, Delsin was able to quickly traverse the world's intricate and highly vertical obstacles.
He can climb, too, staying true to what Sucker Punch's Nate Fox described to me as the team's mandate that "if it looks like you can climb it, you must be able to climb it". If you've read my review of the original inFamous, you'll know how impressed I was by the technology in play as Cole explored his world; that's no less true here, as Delsin realistically grips surfaces exactly as you'd expect someone to do were both they and the surface actually real. It continues to give the series real gravitas, subtly connecting Delsin to his world in a way most games can only dream of.
Something else that impressed me about the first game was the graphical showcase it represented; it looked good - real good. Second Son, as you might expect, given it's on the PS4, blows it clean out of the water. Draw distances are huge, the world is incredibly detailed, and the various surfaces and materials are all incredibly realistic looking. Reflections in particular (and Seattle's pretty wet, something the team were eager to replicate in the game) are spectacular and genuinely look the way you'd expect them too across a wide array of surface types.
The pretty visuals are far from static, too, as our demonstration went on to highlight. As Delsin wrought havoc in and around the Space Needle complex, various bridges, towers, and all manner of other objects would crumble under the might of the various attacks and projectiles both he and his enemies would bring to bear. Far from just an interesting effect, it had a real impact on the gameplay, with a keen eye necessary not only to spot opportunities to leverage the destruction to your advantage, but you also have to be mindful of incoming enemy fire too lest the thing you're standing on suddenly collapses. Plus, it looked very cool, adding to the feeling of dynamic chaos the who game exuded.
Enemies, for reasons that weren't explained, also had some level of special powers; described by Delsin as "leaping", this ability was represented by enemies launching themselves away from our hero on a column of rock which then crumbled into non-existence a few seconds after it appeared. At one point, one of the enemies even created a little platform on the side of the building above Delsin, a perch from which he then continued his previous machine gun assault. You may have played plenty of third-person action games before, but you've never played one like this.
While we got to see loads of Delsin's smoke-based powers, this - according to Nate - is just the tip of the iceberg. There's loads of other stuff to be revealed about the game too, but they're keeping quiet about that stuff for the meantime.
What they can't keep quiet is just how amazing it all looks in action; that cat is well and truly out of the bag now. The combination of skills - even those few we've seen - look exciting to leverage, the enemies look like fun to beat into the ground, and the world is very much the kind of place I want to explore. It's rich, engaging, and the narrative - an oppressive government and the rise against it - is representative of both the comic books that clearly serve as the game's inspiration and the worrying headlines of our very real newspapers.
Based on what I've seen so far, combined with the enthusiasm Nate himself exudes, I can already tell it's going to be worth the wait. By far, this is now my most anticipated game of the next generation, and I can't wait to get my hands on it.
inFamous: Second Son, exclusive to the PlayStation 4, is coming early next year.