Let's be perfectly honest. When Infamous first arrived around the same time as Prototype, their timing did the concept no favours. Just as when Deep Impact and Armageddon cramped each other's style at the box office back in the day. The free roaming super hero action game was sort of born last generation with Crackdown, the aforementioned titles as well as a couple of Spider-Man games (perhaps not as heavy on the destruction, but super hero nonetheless). Where Prototype took a fairly casual approach to the story, Infamous seemed like it wanted to approach a deeper narrative. In retrospect maybe this was a wise decision, seeing that Infamous is getting its third main title on PS4 this month, while Prototype resides in limbo following a commercially disappointing sequel a couple of years back. Radical Entertainment are no more. Sucker Punch, under the wings of Sony, are doing fine and have risen to become one of the more prestigious first-party studios at Sony Computer Entertainment.
Following two successful games, Sucker Punch dared to do something different. At the end of Infamous 2 (we hope we're not spoiling anything here) you can either sacrifice the protagonist Cole MacGrath to save many lives, or have him live on at the expensive of countless others. Given that the franchise rests on player choice the studio allowed the player choice to decide where the franchise would go next. Players overwhelmingly chose the "good" ending over the "evil" or selfish one, and Cole MacGrath was laid to rest. Enter Delsin Rowe.
To be perfectly honest, our first impressions of Delsin Rowe weren't great. In fact, he came across as unlikeable in the same way that Ninja Theory's Dante rubbed a lot of Devil May Cry fans the wrong way. Granted that franchise may have had more of a loud hardcore following, and even if Cole MacGrath shouldn't be compared to classic Dante - it still felt like Sucker Punch were asking us to accept a lot of douchebag swagger with Delsin.
There are two sides to Infamous: Second Son, in fact we were told by Sucker Punch Productions that "you haven't played the game until you've played it twice". The mission we sampled showcased two very different experiences depending on the choice you made, where you either corrupt Fetch (a female conduit you come across early on in the game) or show her a more constructive way to deal with her frustrations. There will be action either way, but while the darkside (red) favours recklessness and disregard for collateral damage, the lighter side (blue) is the quick and easy path to power. This choice will also heavily alter Delsin's persona and his demeanour.
We are Delsin
Speaking with game director Nate Fox just weeks prior to the release of the game, somehow it all made sense. Fox described Delsin Rowe as a manifestation of the approach players had taken to the previous Infamous games. They made reckless use of the abilities, and therefore Delsin should be reckless in his approach. A loose cannon if you will, but the player is still left with the choice of turning him into a caring scoundrel like say Han Solo (the good option) or more of a straight up selfish jerk. Now, some of us are selfish jerks when we're playing video games, so perhaps there is some lesson to be learnt here. Nevertheless, his personalities are meant to fit with the way we're likely going to be playing the game, which in theory should help immerse us.
Had it been any other voice actor telling himself he's doing well every 30 seconds or so, it may have rubbed us the wrong way. But to be honest it just feels comfortable having Troy Baker pat us on our backs as we jump around and take out drug dealers at the Seattle harbour. The busy actor, who recently starred in Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us, is starting to feel like an old buddy sitting next to us while we play excellent games on our couch. His delivery is superb.
The Native American Angle
Sucker Punch Production opted to make Delsin an outsider in more than one way. Sure he's a Conduit or Bio-Terrorist (depending on your point of view), but he's also a Native American and he grew up outside of Seattle. He naturally rebels against authority, represented in-game by his brother Reggie (a police officer) who's been forced to arrest his brother on more than one occasion. Delsin's Native American heritage may play a less prominent role than his super powers in the story.
One of Delsin's main motivations is his love for the city. This time it's a real city and it's the city many of the Sucker Punch team call their home. It's a city that was taken over by protesters and police at the 1999 WTO Conference (aka Battle of Seattle), so there are surely some parallels that could be drawn with the under siege city that we're treated to in Infamous: Second Son. Seattle makes it easier to relate to the conflict and what's at stake, and it's a great motivator for Delsin as he seeks to free the city he grew up in.
While there could very well be sides to Delsin's personality we'll never grow to like, there is one thing about him that's just utterly awesome and that's his ability to absorb the powers of other Conduits. We played around with his Smoke (close range) and Neon (sniper centric) abilities - and we're very much looking forward to the variation the powers will offer and upgrading each of them to see what best fits our playstyle. Unlike many similar setups, the idea is not to create puzzle scenarios where the player needs to figure what power to use and when, but rather to afford the player the freedom to play the game as he or she sees fit.
We'll find out whether Delsin Rowe is a douchebag or not when Infamous: Second Son lands later this month. In the meantime, you can see the latest live action trailer below, there's an extra preview here, or our recent interview with Sucker Punch's Ken Schramm can be found here.