- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gamers transform a street artist with illusions of grandeur into an epic superhero or supervillain in the eye-popping adventure Infamous: Second Son (Sony Computer Entertainment and Sucker Punch Productions, rated Teen, $59.99).

Much like its pair of popular predecessors, this third-person, free-roaming video game, exclusive to Sony’s latest entertainment console, the PlayStation 4, requires a player make choices throughout hours of action-packed game play that influences a character’s karma and the ultimate narrative.

However, instead of controlling Cole MacGrath as in previous iterations, a continuation of the story stars the 24-year-old Native American Delsin Rowe, a budding bioterrorist (or savior) exhibiting conduit (superhuman mutation) abilities.

A plot picks up seven years after McGrath’s heroic exploits and places a player in a beautifully designed, virtual version of Seattle as Delsin challenges the Department of Unified Protection (DUP) soldiers and its leader Brooke Augustine while helping his fellow conduits survive arrest and persecution.

Very quickly a player learns that Delsin can absorb powers of other super humans and has other core abilities such as healing, strength, incredible climbing skills (like Spider-Man if he was actually a spider) and telepathy.

His conduit powers continue to amass as a player locates core sources for Delsin to absorb. He is also in constant need to replenish conduit energy to keep the powers flowing, It always requires the siphoning of different types of conduit energy out of items found in the environment.

This leads to an amazing journey for the player as he explores multiple parts of the city, saving or killing as warranted, taking part in main and secondary missions and upgrading his genetic infusions (requiring finding glowing blue shards).

For example, Delsin attains a smoke manipulation power early on that allows him to harness burning embers from his hands to jettison quickly across areas, shoot those “on demand” embers at enemies and even dissipate in building ventilation pipes blasting out of the other ends.

His most dazzling trick with smoke is a called an Orbital Drop. The character flies up quickly, offers a cocky grin to the camera and dives straight back down into a Kamikaze attack. He then hits the ground with fire and brimstone that destroys everything in his surrounding blast radius.

Another conduit power allows him to manipulate the colorful gaseous properties of neon. He now has the speed of Flash, running up buildings and across areas in a wisp, wielding a chain that acts more like a lightsaber and unleashing beams of energy at enemies.

The neon trails Delsin leaves as he runs makes for some of the prettiest onscreen moments I have ever seen in a video game.

Sucker Punch Productions not only does a great job of cleverly bringing truly super powers to onscreen life (Delsin unlocks a couple more energy types that will astound including a karmic bomb tied to video pixels called the Hellfire Swarm) but harnesses the PS4’s graphic power.

From the reflections in the high-rise windows as Delsin climbs, to still puddles that look like mirrors, to stunning sunsets and sunrises over Seattle (while perched on the Space Needle no less) to fiery smoke particles that take a life on their own as they dance in the air, this game looks fantastic as every level.

I’ll point out a bizarre encounter with the mysterious conduit self-named “he who dwells” that really displays some visual complexity.

The developer also recognizes the potential of the Dualshock 4 wireless controller as a true companion to the multimedia experience.

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