Smoke doesn’t necessarily sound like the most effective superpower. Poor old Delsin Rowe – the protagonist of upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive inFAMOUS: Second Son – was probably the last conduit in line when elemental abilities were being dished out. But while his smoggy sensibilities may seem second-rate at first sight, we reckon that there’s some interesting mechanics lingering behind the character’s smokescreen.

Puff’s enough to fly

Tantalising traversal attributes have always been instrumental to the inFAMOUS series, and smoke introduces some interesting options for developer Sucker Punch. Having already confirmed that the sequel will take place across the illuminated Seattle skyline, it’s safe to assume that the open world exploration of previous entries will make a comeback. And what better transportation method could there be than transforming into a cloud of fog?

The developer has already experimented with this idea in previous titles, of course. The cleverly condensed Hallowe’en tie-in inFAMOUS: Festival of Blood offered the option to convert the morose Cole MacGrath into a colony of bats, allowing you to soar from structure to structure – and swarm the bodies of your adversaries in the process. Turning into the nocturnal mammals in mid-flight was a particularly enjoyable mechanic, and we fully expect it to feature in Second Son.

But there are other traversal elements that the smoke could provide. Slipping into strongholds through vents and drains could open up access to secret areas, and seeing as the sequel aims to depict an Orwellian-inspired dystopian future, may also give you the necessary means to escape from your pursuers unseen. There’s a glimpse of these ideas in the title’s debut trailer, as the protagonist toys with an army of ‘Department of Unified Protection’ soldiers like a ghost.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

While it appears that Rowe’s powers will predominantly swarm around smog-based abilities, there’s a hint in the first footage that the twenty-something tearaway will have access to firepower, too. This plays into the plot’s overarching narrative, which sees the character obtain his special skills after rescuing occupants from a fiery bus wreck. It seems that the protagonist will be whipping up an inferno in addition to prompting everyone to cough.

In the trailer, the character is shown throwing a fireball at a pursuing car. We suspect that these will replace the lightning charges featured in the previous inFAMOUS games, and will form the basis of the sequel’s third-person ‘gunplay’. Rowe will need a mid and long-range weapon, and we suspect that fireballs will fit the bill. It could also give him a weakness; much like MacGrath’s aversion to water, we wouldn’t be surprised if the new hero had a similar distaste for getting wet.

And then there are the visuals. When the character is moving through the world, he appears to glow with the embers of a cooling wood fire. Could these be a clever method of providing some visual feedback on the screen? Smoke could easily get lost on a dark, busy backdrop, but the addition of some glowing embers to plot your path would certainly standout irrespective of the world’s current time and weather conditions.

No smoking

Attack options wouldn’t necessarily need to be limited to the aforementioned furnace powers, though. In areas populated with multiple enemies, the ability to drop smoke bombs and temporarily choke foes seems like a particularly compelling idea. To add variety, these moves could be countered by antagonists who are equipped with gas masks, forcing you to adapt your strategy as you progress.

Furthermore, what if the smoke could be used as a distraction technique? If we smell burning in real life, we often tend to instinctively follow the trail in order to uncover its source. It’s not hard to imagine Rowe using a similar method to lure guards and other innocent NPCs out of the way so that he can enter previously protected strongholds. Considering the big brother-esque plotline, this sounds like a particularly useful mechanic.

However, one area that’s still hazy to us is health and ammunition. There’s no real hint as to how Rowe will restock his powers in the trailer, and we’re struggling to come up with an interesting solution. The first inFAMOUS games had you sapping energy from the national grid, but obviously that won’t make sense in the sequel. Perhaps you’ll be able to refuel your embers by stepping into blazes – but are bonfires really that prevalent in Seattle?

Perfect particles

From a pure design stance, the emphasis on smoke and embers makes perfect sense. Much like Guerrilla Games with Killzone: Shadow Fall, Sucker Punch appears to have been selected to really showcase the power of the PS4, and it will have the opportunity to create some incredible special effects using the bolstered capabilities of the next generation system’s impressive hardware specifications.

Previous entries in the series did a great job of maintaining a fairly solid frame-rate, despite there being an enormous amount of activity on-screen. Such an attribute was pivotal to creating the sense of “power” that you felt at all times during those titles, and we expect the developer to turn things up several notches in Second Son. It’s not hard to imagine burning cinders, swirling fogs, and stray fires filling the screen as you fight.

Furthermore, the developer toyed with real-time destruction in inFAMOUS 2, so it would be fascinating if it took that idea even further in the impending sequel. The burning chateau sequence in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception remains one of the most visually impressive set-pieces on the PlayStation 3, and there’s certainly an opportunity to revisit the idea on the PS4. Wouldn’t it be amazing if every stray fireball you threw prompted subsequent infernos and realistic damage as a result?

Sucker Punch is keeping the specifics of inFAMOUS: Second Son’s gameplay under wraps for the time being, but these are just some of the mechanics and ideas that we’d like to see integrated into the forthcoming sequel. Is there anything in particular that you’d like to appear in the game? Share your burning desires in the comments section below.

What's got you most excited about inFAMOUS: Second Son? (23 votes)

The focus on smoke powers sounds ace


I'm eager to explore a new setting


The 1984-esque storyline is intriguing


Nothing, I don't really like the inFAMOUS games


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