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Infamous: Second Son, or Why Locomotion Is so Important in an Open-World

Posted on Tuesday, March 18 @ 17:00:19 PST by


I've been playing Infamous: Second Son for our review, but I can't say much about Sony's hotly anticipated game as all of my impressions and opinions (even the positive ones) are embargoed until Thursday morning. Still, the game has me thinking a lot about how we move around our world and how games have developed their own ways of entertaining locomotion.

Think about Grand Theft Auto V, for example. That game features a lot of driving, trucks and sports cars and motorcycles and even BMX bikes. You can take ATVs up mountains and parachute back down to the beach. You can even ride jet-skis in and around the map's rivers, lakes, and oceans. All of that feels great in GTA V and GTA Online, but it might be a little stale to you if driving is all you do all day.

All of those actions are possible in the real-world if you're so motivated! You can actually ride ATVs over dirty backwoods roads or leap over buses on a dirt bike. Maybe Grand Theft Auto V doesn't do enough to transport you far away from your everyday life, but Just Cause 2's insane grappling hook and reusable parachute do the trick.

Open-world games typically focus on locomotion as a primary game mechanic and while many of them become iconic, other-worldly experiences thanks to a satisfying sense of speed or incredible variety, others offer totally unique abilities to players.

I'm talking about the likes of Spider-Man 2, where web-swinging was all you needed to waste hours at a time in a virtual New York City. Does anyone even remember the story or the boss fights in that game? Do you remember saving balloons for little girls on the street? How about rooftop beat-downs? I remember those things only because of the svelte sense of style and grace that came with web-swinging.

Spider-Man 2 even allowed you to attach two webs to opposite buildings to give yourself a massive rope-swing-launch to Times Square. Rapidly hitting the shoulder button to quickly alternate between left and right webs felt great too, but that's an example of a game being built around the open-world. There are plenty of examples featuring the opposite.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater didn't start as an open-world title, but its mechanics were quickly translated to a free-roam form when the genre and technical ease of open-worlds grew rapidly in the PS2-era. From my time with Infamous: Second Son, it's hard to tell which came first in Sucker Punch's development process. Did the traversal mechanics using smoke and neon-inspired powers come first or did the developers look for a real-world location (in this case, Seattle) before developing exactly how players would move around in it?

Read into the comparatives I've outlined here as you like. Read our full review of Infamous: Second Son now!
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