Does Infamous: Second Son Actually Follow Infamous 2’s Evil Ending?
(Warning: The following contains major spoilers for Infamous 2. Proceed with caution.)
I distinctly remember sitting in my living room awaiting updates on the PlayStation 4 reveal through Twitter as I couldn’t watch the stream due to my abysmal internet service provider.
When I read that Sucker Punch, one of my favorite developers, was taking the stage I was dying to know what the studio was up to as they hadn’t released a new game since Infamous 2 back in 2011.
As I impatiently waited for Nate Fox to get to the point so someone could tell me what was going on, I speculated that Sucker Punch was likely to release a new IP with Infamous 2 ending on two seemingly definitive notes. Then suddenly, down my twitter feed the words “Infamous: Second Son” appeared, simultaneously confirming the return of one of my favorite PlayStation exclusives and sending me into a state of gleeful bliss.
When I finally saw the teaser trailer and saw that the series’ protagonist Cole MacGrath wouldn’t be back in this game, I assumed that Second Son would be a story running concurrently to the original duology, but later Sucker Punch confirmed that Second Son would take place many years after the Good ending of Infamous 2, leaving me very confused and honestly, a little disappointed for a few reasons.
For those who never played the first two games, the Infamous series takes advantage of a good vs. evil karma system in order to shape its electricity wielding main character as a hero or villain depending on what choices the player makes.
I’m a person that almost exclusively plays (or leans toward) the evil end of the spectrum when it comes to games that use a morality system, whether it be Mass Effect, Fable, or Infamous.
Seeing that Sucker Punch decided to canonize one ending when they’d done a decent enough job not doing so between the original Infamous and Infamous 2 was very disappointing. In a way I felt like I’d been robbed of my vision of the character of Cole MacGrath, that my version of him was the “lesser” or “fake.”
I got past it eventually and decided I would move forward with Second Son’s protagonist, Delsin Rowe, but there was still a bit of uncertainty and maybe a little more desperation in the back of my head telling me something wasn’t right, and it was because the story of Second Son doesn’t add up with Infamous 2’s Good ending.
The conclusion of Infamous 2 leaves the world of these games in two widely different places. Cole MacGrath’s final choice requires the player to decide between whether or not to use a device called the RFI, or “Ray Field Inhibitor.” The RFI is a device that is meant to cure an ongoing plague that is causing the death of thousands. This plague is caused by a type of radiation called “Ray Field Energy” that activates super powers in humans that have the “Conduit Gene.”
Using the RFI essentially will attack all effects of Ray Field Energy, which will cure plague victims but kill Conduits.
In Infamous 2’s final moments Cole must decide between killing either the entire human race or the entire population of Conduits, including himself, the latter being the Good ending, the former being the Evil or “Infamous” ending.
In order for Second Son to take place after the Good ending, all Conduits, every last one of the super powered individuals living in the Infamous universe would have to be dead. Sucker Punch is currently hand waving the fact that you play as and encounter Conduits in Second Son as the RFI killing only the majority of people who have the applicable genes, but as we draw closer to Second Son’s release, I’m beginning to speculate that perhaps this is all PR talk.
Instead, I believe that we’re going to finish Second Son and find out that it does actually take place after the Infamous karma ending, the one in which Cole MacGrath destroys the RFI, kills his best friend, and begins traveling the world in order to activate the Conduit Gene in as many people as he can in order to shepherd humanity into what he believes is the next step in human evolution.
1.) Second Son’s plot as we know it taking place after the Good ending undermines the core of Infamous 2.
While Sucker Punch isn’t on Naughty Dog levels of storytelling, I still can’t see them trying to undermine the gruesomely painful decision of Infamous 2’s final moments.
Saying “Oh, we wanted to make another Infamous game, so the RFI didn’t do its job entirely,” isn’t a good excuse. It’s a retcon of unbelievable proportions.
Not only does Second Son coming after the Good ending not form a coherent story, it retroactively makes the weight of the decision to make Cole sacrifice himself much less meaningful. The entirety of the player’s intent isn’t carried out in the execution of that action. It means Infamous 2 didn’t honestly portray the consequences of that decision and players have been essentially mislead.
It’s possible a player that opted to go the Evil route may have chosen Good if they had known that some Conduits could have survived. They may have been unwilling to completely wipe away super human abilities and decided to choose it over humanity.
Presenting the player with one of two choices but misleading them in both the consequences and the benefits is poor design, and feels like Sucker Punch is breaking the story and overarching point of Infamous 2 to pander to the possibility of a sequel.
Despite this, Sucker Punch is a talented studio that I have enough faith in to give them the benefit of the doubt.
2.) The plot of Second Son carries too many contradictions with Infamous 2’s Good ending.
As I mentioned before, Second Son having any Conduits in it doesn’t add up with the established use of RFI in the Good ending, but as it happens there’s something about Second Son that makes it even more likely that it does in fact take place after the Evil ending.
It mainly has to do with the public perception of Cole MacGrath when the credits roll after both endings.
In the Good ending, Cole is renowned as a hero. The public understands that he sacrificed himself in order to end the plague and actively acknowledging that fact by the time the game’s over. In the end Cole is given a hero’s farewell.
Meanwhile, in an alternate universe in which Cole decides to not use the RFI and begin a long voyage across the country in order to activate Conduits, he is at war with humanity. They not only see him as a threat, they are seen attacking him and his following army of super humans with military weaponry.
In Second Son we find a version of Seattle in which Conduits are called “Bioterrorists.” Citizens are under surveillance around the clock as the Department of Unified Protection searches for any possible Conduits that they deem as threats.
Which Infamous 2 ending lines up with the state of the world we see in Second Son? Evil.
3.) The reveal of Cole MacGrath would be incredible.
Sony has become very good at keeping secrets.
Those of you who have played The Last of Us or Uncharted 3 know of sequences early on that were never seen prior to when the press acquired review copies.
Sucker Punch’s frequent reminding that Second Son is supposed to take place after the Good ending of Infamous 2 despite the various contradictions that entails seems to me like trying to hide potential story beats in the game.
I theorize that at some point, maybe 80% of the way through Second Son, Delsin will encounter none other than Cole MacGrath.
At the Evil end of Infamous 2, Cole was in beginning his mission of activating Conduits in the southeast of the United States. Second Son takes place 8 years later in the northwest.
Cole will be finishing his long quest to activate Conduits in Seattle, and as Delsin, you will have the option to join (Evil) or stop (Good) him.
It would be a fantastic conclusion to the game thematically, as it appears to be about Delsin choosing to fight humanity or make attempts to redeem Conduits in their eyes.
If you’ve played Infamous, you know that would be an absolutely incredible reveal on par with recent moments like returning to Rapture in Bioshock: Infinite. It would be a monumental throwback that would absolutely blow your mind.
4.) Sony appears to have an invested interest in Cole MacGrath
Relatively speaking, Infamous is a moderately successful series.
It’s not the success of God of War or LittleBigPlanet, but Infamous has sold somewhere around 4 million copies over two games. It’s definitely a decent enough showing, but Sony appears to want it to be a lot more.
Cole MacGrath has appeared in a lot of games. Outside of Infamous, Cole has been featured as a guest character in Street Fighter X Tekken, appears in both Good and Evil form in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, and as a skin for other games like LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted.
That’s a lot of investment in a character who’s not quite the runaway success of many of their other characters.
It seems to me that Sony wants more to happen for Cole. They appear to want him to be a face of their PlayStation division like Kratos, Nathan Drake and Sackboy. He even appears with those mascots in the live action PlayStation All-Stars commercial.
It just strikes me as strange that Sony is pushing Cole in light of his apparent canonical death.
Granted, I’m not entirely sure as to how Delsin Rowe fits into all of this, but his role moving forward remains to be seen.
Perhaps it is only my desire to see Cole return in a way that isn’t all together contrived, but I just don’t see why Sucker Punch would make Second Son as we know it and make it come after the ending that requires such a suspension of disbelief when one that makes everything come together is sitting right next to it.
Which is why I don’t think they will. I think they had to confirm it was taking place after one of two endings and opted to say it was the one that would make everything in Second Son all the more surprising.
Or maybe I’m just over thinking it all and Sucker Punch just decided to make Second Son a continuation of the story in which Cole MacGrath is a hero, in spite of all these things.
But we won’t know for sure until Infamous: Second Son releases on March 21st.