Review: inFAMOUS: Second Son

Set seven years after the events of inFAMOUS 2, Sucker Punch’s first foray into next-gen gaming tells the story of a new protagonist, Delsin Rowe. A young, cocky Native American with a penchant for street art and misbehaving, Delsin is thrust into the world of the super-powered when a prison truck carrying three captured Conduits crashes in his hometown. An encounter with one of these fugitives grants Delsin the ability to manipulate smoke. When the Department of Unified Protection’s leader, Augustine, attacks his people in an attempt to weed out information on the runaways’ whereabouts, our hero/villain decides to use his new found gift/curse, as well as the help of his reluctant cop brother Reggie, to expose the lies of/take revenge on the woman (delete where applicable). Welcome to the world of inFAMOUS: Second Son.

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Release Date: Available Now

BRB-Score-4

After a strong launch, Sony needs another injection of enthusiasm into the PlayStation 4. What better way than to get another entry in a popular, first-party series onto the platform? In this case, Sucker Punch Productions have delivered, with a follow-up to their PlayStation 3, comic-book-themed superperson franchise inFAMOUS.

Changing protagonist may seem risky but it appears to have worked for them because Delsin Rowe is a pleasure to be around and take control of. Unlike the B-movie-esque characters from the previous games (*shudder* Zeke), the tone of Second Son is more grounded and calls for more grounded characters in turn. Key to this success is the central relationship between Delsin and his older brother Reggie. Living in a world post-Conduit catastrophe, the brother’s relationship is fraught from the moment Delsin gets his powers. Their interactions illustrate their deep concern for each other and as the game progresses and the stakes continue to increase, your investment in their characters adds a lot of drama to the situation. Troy Baker and Travis Willingham’s work here must be commended, as well as the solid script and narrative.

Regardless of the story, if the game isn’t fun to play, you have a non-starter. Thankfully, Sucker Punch are no slouches in this regard, building a superbly detailed playground and giving you all of the tools to go nuts. Set in a realistic recreation of Seattle, the city feels alive and bustling. Once again for an inFAMOUS game, traversal and locomotion are key elements. Getting from one part of the city to the other is enjoyable all on its own.

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To help make these trips more fun, you are given a number of powers to play with – all of which are slowly but purposely revealed to you throughout the game. The two powers revealed before launch were smoke and neon so I will stick to these to avoid spoilers, but they actually illustrate my point on their own anyway. With smoke, for instance, you are given ash- and fire-based projectiles to shoot; a dash that sees you dematerialise and rematerialise in an instant, even up the smoke stacks of buildings for easy access to the roof; and an explosive ground-pound attack to wipe out a large number of opponents when things get crazy. However, with neon, all of these abilities have analogues but are altered at the same time – instead of a short dash, you burst into light and can scale buildings by defying gravity; instead of explosive projectiles, you get laser beam equivalents; and lastly, your big move involves what can only be described as a localised supernova. Each power is distinct and varied enough that the game feels fresh every time you pick one up.

The basic structure of the game mimics the previous titles in the series – you firstly liberate an area from enemy control by taking out mobile platforms. You can then take on side missions that range from cat-and-mouse chase missions to using the DualShock 4’s motion capabilities to spray paint your own Banksy-like original on the streets of Seattle. The main missions can be achieved more easily if an area has a lower level of enemy forces so you are encouraged to do these early. The enemies themselves are relatively diverse, ranging from standard gun-toting grunts to armoured behemoths – though the inclusion of helicopters just brings to light to lack of other vehicle threats. Tanks, jets or even mechs would have been welcome to spice things up.

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Despite being a distinguishing factor when compared to other series out there, inFAMOUS’ morality system has never been the most subtle or well-designed. Any major choice you have to make involves a game-stopping screen to appear and blue or red options to glow on-screen. Second Son doesn’t overcome these issues, as your choice is basically made at the very start. Once you choose good or evil, it is pointless to change as you are actually hurting your chances of upgrading your powers fully.

There are improvements to the formula however. For instance, the upgrades I mentioned once you choose a path are tailored to help you continue on that trajectory. An example is the Karmic Streak, which is the big supernova move I mentioned earlier. To fill up the meter to access the move requires certain actions from you, such as subduing enemies rather than killing them on the good side, or keeping up a killing streak on the bad. A small thing I noticed too was the DualShock 4’s light bar – as you go down one karmic road or another, the bars light either gets more vibrantly blue or red. A minor touch but it was appreciated.

Finally, I have to comment on the game’s visuals. They are astonishingly good, as you can no doubt tell from the screenshots above and the trailer. The particle effects when sucking powers up from smoke chimneys or neon lights are gorgeous and the lighting tech is jaw-droppingly impressive. The only hiccups I saw were during the equally impressive moments of destruction where entire structures would collapse. If the action got too heavy, there can be a few frames dropped but nothing to distract you too much.

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The improved characters and story add a level of drama not seen in this series yet
The various powers and their implementations are well thought out
The game is quite simply stunning to look at
Once again, the morality system is just too clunky

Despite the recent influx of other AAA titles, inFAMOUS: Second Son is certainly worth your time. Delsin’s story is engaging, his powers are fun to use and the city is a true playground for you to enjoy. If Sony can maintain this level of first-party content, the future is bright for the PlayStation 4.

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The review copy of this title was purchased by the author.
Official Game Site

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Comments

  1. I’m with you that the whole good choice / bad choice thing is a bit dated at this point. I really liked the two companions. My beef is that we spend so little time with them. Nowhere near as long as we got to hang with Kuo or Nix in the previous game. Was also nice to see women in this game who looked real, rather than making them super sexy props. The visuals and gameplay are the best the series has seen yet. The powers are all super fun, especially the TV based ones. All that said, his basic jump looks ridiculous. The early part of the game where you find yourself hopping up ledges without super powers is just silly looking. I dug how Native heritage was just a foundation rather than just another walk down cliche street.

  2. So I’m actually a huge defender of the binary karmic system in inFAMOUS. Main main argument is that superhero fiction generally revolves around hyperbolic morality figures. Good guys are (usually) really good, and bad guys are really bad. The clash between good and evil tend to make these universes so compelling (in addition to the, you know, lasers and stuff). Perhaps a different system would work if the game was about a non-powered human, but I find it to be super appropriate for a superhero game. i also can’t think of a way to incorporate a morally grey path into the power upgrade system (but that’s why I write about games instead of making them right?)

  3. Main main? I meant “my main.”

    It’s 3:30 AM and I spent the entire day playing and writing about Fez. My brain is officially broken for now.

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