- 'inFamous: Second Son' is an exclusive PlayStation 4 title
- Designers had access to the new console before it was released
- For some, it's been the "excuse" to buy a PS4
- The game features enhanced humans who may choose good or evil
If Sony is to continue its sales dominance in the new gaming and entertainment console market, it may be one of its most popular exclusive titles for the PlayStation 4 that does the trick.
"inFamous: Second Son" continues the franchise's story of enhanced humans who are able to use special powers for good or for evil. This episode benefits in many ways, though, because the developer, Sucker Punch, start working with Sony early into the development cycle of the PS4 and really get a sense of how the new console would work.
A new protagonist and a new city let the animators really explore areas of expression that they couldn't do with the older generation consoles. Animation director Billy Harper said the result is a real city -- Seattle -- that feels more natural than those in previous "inFamous" titles.
"We took the familiarity of the 'inFamous' universe. We know what makes people happy. We know what makes us grin," Harper told CNN. "We decided to essentially rework everything else, because the PlayStation 4 let us."
Seattle, where Sucker Punch is based, is rendered in fine detail -- from the familiar spire of the Space Needle to shops along Puget Sound. Cut scenes and in-game dynamics work together to show how the player has already interacted with buildings or other people, and create deeper player immersion.
"We're able to get all the subtleties in the characters themselves and all the nuances of actors," Harper said. "We're capturing every single thing we get on stage, which is totally insane. We avoid the 'Uncanny Valley' (digital characters that appear too lifelike) effect you usually see in most games."
John Koller, vice president of marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America, said it was important to bring in the crew from Sucker Punch before the PS4 was launched to give console builders a better idea how developers were going to use the new device.
"The PS4 was done hand in hand with development and 'inFamous' was one of those titles brought in early," Koller said.
The result was not only an open-world game with plenty of action, but a wide-ranging story that explores the moral quandaries ingrained within the franchise's story. Do you choose the path of the hero, or flip the coin and become the villain?
"How ruthless can you be? How heroic can you be? How true can you stay to that (path) to earn the biggest reward?" says Jennifer Dean, public relations manager for SCEA.
While Koller won't call "Second Son" the PS4's killer app, chatter on social media and forum have shown many people are using the game as their "excuse" to buy the new console. However, expectations from fans and critics alike are very high.
"'inFamous' has always been my favorite Sony-exclusive franchise, and the first 'inFamous' was actually the reason I bought a PlayStation 3 a few years into its lifecycle. Everything I saw at PAX Prime 2013 made me say that I would own a PlayStation 4 prior to the launch of 'inFamous: Second Son', just because the title wowed me that much," explained Brian Shea, editor-in-chief of Video Game Writers.
"I expect it to deliver the same open-world superhero experience the first two retail entries brought us, but in a way that harnesses the power of the PlayStation 4."
Koller said this is just the beginning for what he calls blockbuster titles for the PS4, and explains there is a strategy to it all. With "Destiny," "Watch_Dogs," "The Order: 1886," and "Uncharted 4" on the horizon, he thinks "inFamous: Second Son" has the initial lasting power to potentially sell more hardware.
"You buy a platform and you're actually looking not only at the game you're buying today, but the content that's coming ... because that promise is really important when you are putting down $399 for hardware," Koller said.
Harper pointed out it was a huge benefit for Sucker Punch to hold off releasing the new title until they could do something to show off the new console's power.
"A lot of what we wanted to do was provide justification for purchasing the hardware," Harper said. "In the process, it gave us so much (flexibility) to actually let people justify buying another 'inFamous' title. It is as close as you can get to buying a new IP (intellectual property) utilizing the same universe."
However, a five-month delay for a blockbuster title could have spelled potential doom as it has for other new console starts (i.e.: Nintendo's Wii U). Nintendo sales of their new console struggled in its fledgling months, mostly due to the lack of gaming titles that appealed to their audience.
Shea doesn't think Sony is in any danger, and actually will benefit from the release time.
"Sony has a much better relationship with third-party developers than Nintendo does, and right now Sony just has more credibility with core gamers," Shea said. "The success or failure of 'inFamous: Second Son' won't change any of those facts. That said, if 'inFamous' does click with gamers, the PlayStation 4 will be a hard console to compete with."
"inFamous: Second Son" is a PlayStation 4 exclusive and was released worldwide on March 21. It is rated T for Teen due to blood, drug reference, language, sexual themes, and violence.