When Sony announced the PlayStation 4 in early 2013, there was one “launch-window” game revealed that got fans buzzing. A sequel to the popular Sony-exclusive InFAMOUS game series called InFAMOUS: Second Son. Not much could be derived from the early footage, other than the game would look spectacular if the power of the PS4 could be fully utilized, and developer Sucker Punch did everything they could to make that reality.
Now, as the official launch window closes, InFAMOUS: Second Son is released and the wait was well worth it.
Second Son takes place seven years after the events of InFAMOUS 2 and protagonist/antagonist–depending on how you played–Cole McGrath has now been replaced by Delsin Rowe. Delsin is young, angry, hotheaded member of the Akomish, a tribe of Native Americans living in Salmon Bay, Washington. His brother, Reggie, just happens to be sheriff, and the two siblings bang heads more often than not.
When a Department of Unified Protection (DUP) transport crashes outside of Salmon Bay, three powerful conduits–or people with elemental powers–escape. In the commotion, Delsin touches one of the conduits and absorbs his powers–the ability to control smoke. Reggie is mortified that his brother is now a freak/conduit/bioterrorist, and before they can make a plan, the DUP shows up, led by Brooke Augustine, a master of concrete, who demands to know where the three escapees are hiding. Delsin stands his ground, making a morality choice that will set the course of his story throughout the rest of the game, and the stage is set for Second Son to journey to Seattle to make things right.
The play control is clean and well thought out, as Delsin starts off with simple smoke powers, but he can acquire more powerful moves by draining core relays that are luckily scattered throughout this version of Seattle. The powers feel more intuitive here than they did in previous InFAMOUS games. Plus, since Delsin is essentially a “sponge,” he gains three additional gifts throughout the game: neon, video, and eventually, concrete. Neon is like laser beams, and each move is a veritable light show. Video is digitation, and the PS4 presents the visuals in stunning ways. But smoke and concrete are the two powers players see most, as most DUP soldiers are imbued with the concrete gift.
The visuals in Second Son are some of the best I have ever seen in a video game. The lighting and reflective effects are unparalleled in gaming, and as I play along and visually feast on what is on my screen, I cannot help but wonder if this game was set in Seattle, with its wet weather and variety of green nature, for the sole purpose of showing off the effects. The neon powers, especially when used at night, just explode off the screen.
The smoke effects, especially during the karma streak move, where Delsin shoots hundred of feet into the air, only to crash down in a maelstrom of smoke and cinder destroying anything within a certain radius, are breathtaking. It’s easy to get lost in running around Seattle’s 13 neighborhoods stopping drug dealers and hunting DUP because the feeling of so much power is intoxicating. It truly comes through the controller and the player feels it. It’s wonderfully done.
Of course, since this is an InFAMOUS game, morality comes into play and Delsin can choose to be the hero or the villain. The game affords for both play-throughs with different endings and different missions, depending on what path is chosen. It is possible to play gray–or in this case, purple as good is symbolized as blue, bad as red–but at some point in the narrative, a choice has to be made to pick a side and stick with it. Remaining purple will prevent correct leveling up and could pose a huge problem in some of the tougher boss battles.
The side missions for each neighborhood involve hunting down drones for shards used to power up abilities, finding secret DUP agents, and tracking down a secret audiolog left by a secret ally in the DUP. This is on top of completely taking out all DUP presence by destroying their checkpoints and mobile command centers. Some of this can be avoided, but with this much power at Delsin’s hands, why would you?
Second Son utilizes the DualShock 4 controller in some unique ways. The controller’s light is a constant meter of morality, and it changes color as the player levels up the good or bad karma. The more good or bad you are, the deeper the blue or red light shines.
Also, a side game where Delsin tags various locations around Seattle calls for the controller to be turned sideways and shaken like a can of spray paint. Using R2, the player paints the tag using the controller’s internal gyroscopes. It’s actually much cooler once you do it.
The touch pad is used throughout to drain smoke or neon to fuel powers, and to even go through a checkpoint, the layer must put their finger on the touch pad for analysis. If this is where Sony and its developers are going with intuitive game controls, this new-gen is going to be the best gen.
The music and voice acting are stellar with Troy Baker and Travis Willingham, respectively, bringing Delsin and Reggie to life. Christine Dunford gives voice to Augustine, and she pulls off evil very well. The writing is particular good as the banter between brothers is entirely believable.
The story is a little soft in places and logic had to be suspended, especially when shoehorning Delsin trying to be a true evil bad guy. His sole purpose in the game is to help the Akomish back home, so killing innocent women, and buskers, and protesters to raise bad karma doesn’t fly with me. Luckily, I played the good side the first time through and it wasn’t as much as an issue, but on the second play through, it was definitely a distraction.
I also would have liked to have seen more open world stuff to do. Each neighborhood is essentially a zone that has the same few quests to accomplish before Delsin moves on. That’s 13 secret DUP agents to catch and kill, 13 secret audio logs, 13 hidden cameras, etc. The checkpoint stations vary in number in certain zones, and later neighborhoods have more than one mobile command center to take out, but it still feels too much like handholding and even on expert difficulty, is a little too easy.
InFAMOUS Second Son is the kind of game that I could easily see myself booting up and playing for long stretches; saving people and beating DUP occupation, even after the story wraps, but Sucker Punch didn’t give me the opportunity. Sure, there is some post-game content involving random DUP manhunts, and there has been a free DLC mission called Paper Trail that links the events in Second Son to Cole McGrath from the previous games. These give the game a little more life, but not like a true open sandbox would have. Hopefully, Sucker Punch realizes this and can build on it, as this is a game I could spend hundred of hours playing if there was just something more to do.
Taken for what it is, InFAMOUS Second Son is arguably the best game on the PlayStation 4. It’s visually stunning in almost every way, it plays clean and is ridiculously fun, and the writing and voice acting are incredible. The problems lie in the story and what the forced morality choices do to weaken that story. And personally, I wish the game was more open world/sandbox with more stuff to do. I don’t hold this against Sucker Punch, I just hope that a GTA-style InFAMOUS game is in the works, because it would be one of the greatest games ever for any generation on any system, if Second Son is any indication.
InFAMOUS Second Son was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a copy purchased at retail. It released exclusively for PlayStation 4 on March 21, 2014.
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