What would you do if you had superpowers? Would you use them for good, or evil? Would you go around fighting crime, beating up baddies, saving little old ladies from being mugged and breaking up fights like a real life Batman? Or would you boot that old lady into the sunset, just because you could?
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This is essentially the situation that greets the star of Infamous: Second Son, Delsin Rowe at the beginning of the game - only his situation is a lot more complex. Living in a world where superhumans known as conduits - people who can control elements, and gain special powers - are hunted, persecuted, and jailed as freaks, Delsin happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When a police van carrying three conduits crashes near to the reservation where he, and the rest of his Akomish tribe live, the young rebel Delsin has an unfortunate run in with the prisoner, who touches him, and somehow transfers his powers to our hero, turning Delsin's life upside down in an instant. With great powers, and all that.
Leading the hunt for the conduits is an organisation known as the DUP (annoyingly pronounced "DOOP" in game, but sadly not standing for "Democratic Order Of Planets"), a group of super soldiers who've been infused with just enough conduit power to let them go toe to toe with the real thing. Led by a woman who's a conduit herself, known as Augustine, (and one the Government oddly don't seem to be all that concerned about), it's not too long before the DUP boss herself rolls up on the reservation - and she doesn't exactly take a shining to young Delsin. Convinced there's something he's not letting on, she attacks the tribe with her concrete ability, which drives shards of the aforementioned straight through her target's legs, and will, in time, kill them. With the tribe in danger, and it effectively all being your fault, so beings a quest for redemption as you try to find Augustine, take her power, and save the tribe.
Where you go from here is mostly up to you. Infamous: Second Son is set over a fairly small rendition of Seattle that feels just large enough to give it plenty of nooks and crannies to discover, but is only a fraction of the size of worlds in games like Grand Theft Auto or Skyrim. When you first start playing, you'll be plunged into a city crawling with soldiers from the DUP. If you choose to do so, you can take the fight to them, and start destroying their strongholds, slowly pushing them out of areas with every camera you take down, and base you destroy. Or, you can take part in the story missions, which drive the plot forward, and take you one step closer to your showdown with Augustine.
Of course, this is more than just another action game. Delsin is no ordinary bloke, and armed with a bevy of super powers (and some pretty impressive free running skills) getting around Seattle is a breeze (literally!). See a building, you can pretty much always leap up the side of it, scrabbling across window ledges and guttering alike. Once you're at the top, you can jump off, and no matter how high you leap from, you won't take any damage when you fall. Of course, the same isn't always true for the things you land on...
The first power you gain as a conduit is smoke, which puts several powerful moves at your fingertips. Absorbing smoke from any source throughout the city, from chimneys to burning wreckages, you can channel your newly absorbed power in plenty of ways, choosing to fire it at enemies to make them choke; bundle it up into an explosive missile to cause loads of damage; or even turning yourself into a Dracula style mist to shoot through air vents in buildings, giving yourself an easy ride to the top.
Perhaps most importantly, it's a game where you genuinely feel like a superhero - and, as we all know, playing as a super hero is a lot of fun. Leaping from rooftop to rooftop, before spotting a group of baddies below, all you have to do is press Square to do a "ground pound", and you'll crash into the tarmac below with so much force, you'll send the bad guys, cars, and unlucky pensioners who just happened to be walking past flying. It's only made better by quite how destructible everything is. Scaffolding collapses, cars explode, and the DUP's strongholds may as well be made of cardboard for all they can withstand your assault. Like the proverbial pack of cards, they'll fold under your assault, taking everything below with it.
While there's undoubtedly a lot of focus on action here (after all - you're an angry guy with super powers avenging his family), Infamous has a lighter side too. The story's fantastically written, with the wisecracking Delsin constantly ribbing his more straight laced policeman brother, and the plot itself is really well paced. Never afraid to throw a wisecrack in to lighten up an otherwise sombre moment, it's a great super hero story - and as you progress, you'll find other conduits, take (or borrow) their powers, and choose to team up with them to lead a conduit alliance, or send them down to the slammer.
It's here where one of Infamous' more unique elements comes into play - its morality system. From time to time in the game, you'll be given a choice to make, which has two, totally binary options. One is flagged up in blue (the good one) and the other is highlighted in red (yep - that's the bad one). Allowing the story to branch, the decisions you make not only affect your relationships with characters, but they'll also change your path through the game, deciding which missions you get to play, which powers you'll learn, and which ending you get when you finish up. And when the game's this much fun, you'll want to play through for a second time.
Even when you aren't having to choose between two serious options, the game's keeping track of your actions to decide if you're acting as a goodie or a baddie. Go around punching civilians in the face, and you'll be marked down as a baddie, no matter how annoying they were being - but choose to "subdue" enemies rather than killing them when prompted, and you'll be given bonus goodie points. The better (or worse) you are, the more you'll level up that particular side of Delsin's skills, and the more the character will change.
When you're not blowing up the DUP's bases, hunting down fellow conduits, or putting on your detective's hat to do some light crime solving in the missions (taking photos of important bits and pieces in crime scenes and the like), there's plenty of little activities to keep you busy around Seattle too. There are places you can "tag" with graffiti (which see you holding the PS4 controller like a spray can), activities that ask you to hunt down audio logs, or search a crowd to find a DUP secret agent, and, perhaps most interestingly for collectophiles, energy shards.
Effectively Infamous' version of the Xbox 360's Crackdown's orbs (the two super hero sims have a lot in common), energy shards are scattered around the town, either embedded into walls, or jammed into surveillance drones that scour the skies. Hunt them down, and absorb them, and you'll be able to use them to upgrade your powers. With dozens to find spread all over the city, there's plenty to see and do in Infamous - and you'll want to hunt down every last bit.
Despite being the third game in the series, you don't actually require any prior knowledge of Infamous or its world to get going, either. The game's intro slowly builds to introduce you to the game and its concepts, and there's been a lot of work gone into helping new players find their footing. Delsin's melee attack, for example, auto-targets enemies, taking a lot of pressure off you and your analogue stick skills, while the fact you're kind of a super hero means that you can shrug off most of the damage you take. Pressing circle lets you dash through walls and other objects, giving you the advantage even when you have to retreat, and picking off the mostly hapless DUP troops shouldn't pose too much of a problem with your phenomenal cosmic powers.
In fact, there's very little Infamous gets wrong. With an incredibly fancy looking city to explore, tonnes of collectibles to find, replay value galore thanks to the branching storyline, and most importantly, a stupidly enjoyable super hero system that makes you feel indestructible, Infamous is a game you'll keep coming back to, and the best "next-gen" game yet, by far. Forget Killzone: Shadow Fall and its sucky-ness - if you're buying a PS4, Infamous is the game you need to get with it.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4