inFAMOUS: Second Son – Review
Greatness awaits – that was the tag line used with the launch of the PS4. Unfortunately, with the scarce release of PS4 exclusives, gamers have had nothing to feel all that great about. Until now. The release of inFAMOUS: Second Sun from Sucker Punch finally brings that feeling of greatness to the player, putting you in control of some awesome powers and giving you free rein to use them as you see fit as you traverse the wonderfully recreated Seattle.
Our ‘hero’ of the game is Delsin Rowe, a delinquent whose biggest claim to fame prior to gaining powers is his affection for graffiti art and a penchant for antagonising and being arrested by the local Sheriff, his brother, Reggie. Delsin is a part of the Akomish tribe and after a truck transporting three conduits crashes and reveals that Delsin is also a conduit, he encounters the Department of Unified Protection, a government organisation with the task of capturing and imprisoning/ killing conduits. The D.U.P is led by Brooke Augustine, a ruthless and sadistic conduit with concrete powers. After Augustine decides to pierce the rest of the tribe with concrete shards, Delsin and Reggie set out to Seattle to get her to undo what she has done, declaring war on the D.U.P and setting the town on fire, so to speak. The story is not only about Delsin’s quest for vengeance for his people, but also explores how much people are willing to sacrifice for security and does the end really justify the means. While that may seem like the usual social commentary in some of today’s games, Second Son turns it around, and by the end of the game it had me looking at the situation in a whole different way.
Running at about 10 to 14 hours to complete 100% on either side of the karmic line, you will get to enjoy 4 different powers to use to either save the people, or destroy them. As with the previous entries in the series, you can choose to be a hero or a villain, leading to some changes in the cut-scenes and the ending of the story. As one would expect, following the path of the light makes the game a bit harder, as you need to ensure that should you decide to blow up a car you are not going to injure and kill civilians, something that evil Delsin does not have to worry about. The karmic actions you undertake while playing the game also work towards building up the special meter you have to unleash a devastating area of effect attack, making it prudent to behave as you should according to your karmic choice. These area of effect attacks are truly awesome to behold and make you feel like a total badass when you unleash them, however I found that while playing I would tend to have the special move ready for taking out the Mobile Command Centres or for the district showdown for an easy win. The karmic path you follow also influences the abilities you can unlock in each power-set: being evil can lead to more destructive powers being utilised during your mad rampages. This makes a play-through on the opposite karma interesting as you have to change your tactics to suit the abilities you have access to.
Unfortunately, the dark/light choices feel all to black and white, with the first initial choice you make very early in the game really just about picking a path and sticking with it through to the end. It is very much a choice of being evil or being good, with no shades of grey like that which exist in the real world. The choices only take place in the main story missions and don’t really change the actions or their tones that much, such as the corruption of the other conduits you encounter. It is a shame that these conduit characters are relegated to bit parts and not fleshed out much. Another disappointment were the interactions with Reggie throughout the evil storyline. Despite the fact that Delsin kills civilians and D.U.P throughout the game, Reggie never changes his reaction or his desire to continue helping his brother. While this could be notched up to brotherly love, the fact that Reggie is a cop and is supposed to protect people should have him treating his brother differently, even refusing to continue helping him, thus having the story move in an alternate, if still essentially parallel, direction. This would have made much more sense in the game and given the player a sense of satisfaction at experiencing the alternate play-through. The only true satisfaction came from seeing the evil ending, where you see the consequences of Delsin’s actions throughout the game.
Along with the storyline missions there are numerous side activities to undertake throughout the districts of Seattle. By doing these you lower the D.U.P control on the district and will eventually open up the district showdown and drive the greater D.U.P presence out of the area. While such tasks as the Undercover Agents and Graffiti are interesting, they get way too repetitive, and I just ended up on autopilot going through the motions. At least the Audio Logs added a bit of background to the D.U.P, Augustine and the other conduits you come across in the game. Blast shards also make a return, as part of the D.U.P drones spread throughout the city. Taking out the Mobile Command Centre’s in an area will show Blast shards on the map and their collection leads to a decrease in the D.U.P control. As a result of this if you are the type of person who tends to clear the districts prior to following the storyline, you will generally have enough blast shards stored to purchase any upgrades you get as soon as you get them. In this situation I kind of preferred the original games, where Cole had to power up sections of the city to really access them and the powers were spread out. Due to the fact that you gain 3 different power sets in the main storyline, the abilities in those power sets are all unlocked in very short succession, where you gain an ability, use it to deal with a situation and move on to the gain the next.
For the most part the controls are great, and utilising your powers allows you to traverse the world in a relatively speedy manner, with each of the powers utilising their own method to get from A to B. While I found the smoke powers were not the fastest of the ones you gain, they are definitely the more fun out of the ones you encounter, dashing into air vents to launch yourself into the air and combining them with the floating to chain them from rooftop to rooftop. The combat controls are smooth and simple, never becoming too complex or requiring you to remember multiple button presses to pull off a move. The swipe pad has been integrated into the game in a way that is non-intrusive and does not feel forced. Tapping the swipe pad will drain blast shards and the elements for your powers, and swiping the pad will open the doors of internment cages. The Graffiti actions utilise the controllers axis orientation so you have to guide it by moving the controller side to side and up and down. While novel at first it can become awkward, and the enjoyment of it soon wears off.
Another control issue is the parkour of the game. While admittedly after gaining your powers you do not need to do much parkour, when you find yourself stuck halfway up on a building and have to jump to the top because you don’t want to find the nearest vent, it can seem a bit hit and miss, sometimes grabbing the window ledge with ease and other times not grabbing it at all. I also do not understand why Delsin cannot swim. His tribe lives by the water and unlike the original protagonist Cole, you will not fry yourself with electricity when stepping in water. As Delsin you are able to walk through puddles on the street or jump in water fountains which prooves there are no adverse effects to Delsin when coming into contact with water. Not including the ability to swim seems to me to be an easy way out for the developers. Another minor issue comes from the games camera, specifically during combat. While most of the time it follows Delsin around smoothly, it can sometimes be a pain when in some of the smaller alleyways or indoors.
The graphics and lighting of the game are what really makes this game shine and provide moments where I was literally looking around at the backdrop and marvelling at the power of the PS4. Since the game has been designed to run on the PS4 exclusively, Sucker Punch have not had to make any compromises to make the game run on other platforms. What we are left with is a game that makes the most of the power the PS4 has and it shows, making this one of the best looking games seen on the system thus far.
The story unfolds through mostly cut-scenes, with some of the motion comic scenes we have seen in the previous games included to help tell the back story of the conduits you meet throughout the game. The lighting effects work well with not only the world but with the weather as well, such as in the fog or the rain. You can even see the reflections of not only lights and neon signs in the puddles of water around the city, but when using your powers as well which is a neat addition. The models of everything from the buildings and features to the people roaming the streets are detailed, with the buildings individualised to the point you are never left thinking you are travelling over a number of identical buildings. Of course, it would not truly be Seattle without the Space Needle, and this icon is not only there but climbable. Textures are sharp and detailed, resulting in a brick building actually looking like it is made of the individual bricks rather than a flat plane with a brick wall painted on it. The character models are detailed and lifelike, with both the movements of the characters and their clothes moving and acting in a realistic fashion.
The sound effects for the powers are unique, with each of the different power sets having their own distinct sounds to seperate them from one another and really give them the feel of an impact when using them. The explosions and gun fire are realistic, as are the background sounds you would expect to hear in the hustle and bustle of a living city, from the cars driving and honking horns, pedestrian comments and musical street performers, to the sound of the water hitting the ground when raining and splashing through puddles as you run through the streets. Another little nifty aspect utilised is the controller’s speaker, which plays the audio logs you find in the game along with emitting sound effects for absorbing power elements and blast shards as well as the sound of the spray can used for the Graffiti tasks. The soundtrack is mainly comprised of instrumental tracks but I give the game bonus points for using Nirvana’s ‘Heart Shaped Box’ for the credits.
The biggest piece of ‘wow’ factor though, is the lighting and the particle effects in use with Delsin’s powers. Whether you are hurling fireballs at the enemy or utilising your other powers, the attacks are not only deadly but gorgeous as well. The biggest wow factors come from unleashing the special abilities for the power sets which result in a level of gorgeous destruction you would usually expect to see in a cut-scene. Watching the effects over and over again is what makes it fun to pick a fight with your enemies. Surprisingly, despite having a screen filled with explosions, smoke, enemy fire and collapsing structures, I did not experience any noticeable dip in the frame-rate. The lighting and particle effects are one aspect of the game where I can not find any fault.
While overall, the main story does feel too short for an open world game, inFAMOUS: Second Son gives you a hell of a thrill ride whether playing as a hero or a villain and looks stylish to boot. With the lack of major exclusive games for the PS4, this is the first game to truly show just what the console can do and, unlike most of the games licensed to use existing super powered characters, just how fun it can be to play with them. While it is not perfect, I enjoyed the game and for any serious PS4 gamer I definitely believe this is a must have game.
I give inFAMOUS: Second Son a 9 out of 10.