inFAMOUS Second Son – PS4
Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: Sucker Punch Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: March 21, 2014
Reviewed by ChronoSloth
The first two inFAMOUS games, which are great by the way, were marketed on their moral choices. Promo art of these games shows protagonist Cole McGrath contemplating whether he’ll be using red/bad lightning or good/blue lightning and what path he’ll take as he decides the fate of two cities and countless lives. On the other hand, inFAMOUS Second Son’s marketing is focused around the phrase “enjoy your power,” and most art shows our new main character Delsin smiling or smirking while using his superhuman abilities. This tonal shift reveals a lot about the differences between the first two PS3 entries in the series and Second Son. Story, twists, and moral dilemmas were the focus of past games in the series, combined with open world gameplay traversal with parkour and the ability to manipulate electricity. In Second Son, while the story is engaging and the presentation is remarkable, gameplay is king.
Second Son takes place 7 years after the events of inFAMOUS 2, whose good ending has been decided as canonical. A government organization known as the Department of Unified Protection hunts down and captures or kills individuals with superhuman powers by using military weapons, and ironically, superhuman powers that their leader has infused all the soldiers with. As Delsin Rowe, a 24 year old street artist and all around trouble maker, you are thrust into the middle of the conflict between the “DUP” and “conduits” after accidentally discovering that your power is to absorb the ability to manipulate forms of matter from other conduits. Starting with smoke, you will acquire three more powers in your quest to rid Seattle of the DUP, with the help of Delsin’s brother Reggie and two conduits who’ve escaped DUP captivity. The series’ moral choices have returned, and they change your powers, appearance, missions with your conduit companions, and the ending of the game depending on your decisions. However, these choices don’t change the entire plot as much as in past games. They are often simply alternate targets with the same mission structure depending on whether you have evil or good karma, and a few cutscenes will be different. Your path through the game will be more or less the same regardless of your choices up until the ending.
In my opinion, inFAMOUS Second Son is the first game to truly show the gap between 7th and 8th generation console power. Even after acquiring the game’s platinum trophy, I still find myself in awe of how great the game looks at any given moment. The weather effects and lighting you’ll see in this beautiful, digital version of Seattle never fail to impress either. Character models are incredibly lifelike, the cast did a great job with voice acting, and the way that Delsin and Reggie resemble each other in the way that real siblings do, down to their facial animation, is a technical feat both creepily realistic and amazing. These graphics aren’t just dressing either; the incredible visuals the PS4 provides the power for bring the city, Delsin, and his powers to life. The game’s soundtrack is great, and seems to play contextually. Calm, relaxing music would play at times when I was flying through the city looking for blast shards, and then there are intense tracks that play as soon as you’re engaged by enemies. The speaker, motion sensor, and touchpad on the controller are all used surprisingly well. You can hear your power being absorbed through the controller, which is initiated by pushing in the touchpad until the source is dry. The click of the button provides a unique feel, and having to hold it down and feel the tension of it trying to pop back up is a strangely satisfying feeling combined with the sound of the power drain and the image of the matter leaving its source and enveloping Delsin. Spray painting sequences also task players with holding their controller sideways and using motion to control the path of the paint. Shaking the controller results in an a very believable rattle, just like real paint cans. I love the way that there’s still ash, smoke and embers in the air after using smoke powers, how I can look behind myself after running up a wall using neon and see a slowly dissipating stream of transparent light, and how after dropping to the ground from 80 feet with a powerful strike using the video power, visual glitches appear in the air that scramble around the area so that even after all the enemies are incapacitated or obliterated and the carnage has stopped, evidence of my handiwork lingers for some time.
There’s plenty of carnage to be had, too. DUP troops will be there to try and stop you every step of the way in your journey to take down their leader, and their attacks hurt. There are lots of different types of soldiers who seemed to have absorbed the organization’s shared concrete powers to different degrees. Normal footsoldiers can create concrete columns beneath their feet for a boost and later use concrete shields to block your shots. There are also officers who are constantly surrounded by a protective aura of concrete and later there are heavies with miniguns or the ability to summon huge spikes of concrete from the ground and levitate in the center of them. As powerful as these enemies are, Delsin is more than a match for them. Just as in previous games, you can use the matter you command to shoot enemies and this will be your bread and butter for the entire game. However, Delsin’s four powers allow for quite a bit of variety in dealing with foes. Every power has a dash of some sort with the circle button; smoke will have you jet forward in ash form, allowing you to travel through vents or chain link fences, neon lets you run at super-speed even up vertical surfaces, video lets you fly for a bit, and concrete covers you in rock and charges through obstacles. Enemies do lots of damage, and this encourages you to constantly move during your battles. Some power sets allow you to float and shoot simply by aiming in mid-air, you can upgrade how high you jet out of vents with smoke, and more. You also can’t simply cycle through your powers, and you’ll have to drain the particular matter from a source to use abilities that need it. There’s a trophy for attacking an enemy with three of your four powers before knocking him out, and I received it without trying for it. Battles are hectic and will have you flying from rooftop to rooftop with your video-wings, then dropping to the ground with a powerful shockwave before draining the smoke out of the destroyed military vehicle you just caused to explode and dispatching the remaining enemies.
As in most open world games, there are main story missions as well as things to tackle on the side. All but a few of these revolve around fighting DUP soldiers. This combat never grows old, as there’s so much variety and room to toy with your enemies using your four powers. You can hunt down blast shards that allow you to upgrade powers, destroy DUP bases and radar blockers to lessen their hold on Seattle, spray paint street art, break up drug deals or attack anti-conduit protestors. None of these really qualify as side-missions; they’re more like small diversions that allow you to improve Delsin’s power, swing his karma whichever way you want, and then get back to the story. They’re fun anyway, but with the game wanting you do repeat these actions over and over from area to area, completing 100% of these does get a bit tedious.
Overall, inFAMOUS Second Son is a a very fun, very pretty game that anyone with a PS4 would be doing a disservice to themselves by not playing. While Delsin’s story may not be as engaging as Cole’s, his city and abilities are much more impressive and varied. That’s not to say Second Son’s story is completely without high points. Delsin’s interactions with his brother and two fellow conduits are always entertaining, and there is definitely chemistry created by the skilled motion capture models and voice actors. Delsin proves to be a very likable, “cool” character, where other edgy, sarcastic, mischievous characters fail (like the incredibly annoying New Dante from DmC and Jake Miller from Resident Evil 6). The beginning and ending of the game were also pretty moving as well. So while I believe Second Son could take a few pointers from inFAMOUS 2 in the plot department, Second Son should not be ignored. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your powers.
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