‘Infamous: Second Son’ Review
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Genre: Action-Adventure Platform Played: PlayStation 4
The Infamous series has become one of PlayStation’s most beloved franchises in terms of quality, excellence in gameplay, and open world adventure. Infamous: Second Son has brought the series into next generation, and has once again proven it is one of the best exclusive franchises PlayStation owners can experience.
Second Son introduces us to a world that has aged seven years since the good ending of Infamous 2, where the events that took place have made the world more weary and fearful of those possessing Conduit powers. Second Son also introduces us to a new protagonist named Delsin Rowe, a Conduit himself, that has the ability to absorb powers from other Conduits. Delsin is strikingly different from original series protagonist Cole McGrath; his young attitude provides a fresh, comical and charming take on the personality of a super hero. Delsin loves his abilities, and is eager to add more power to his arsenal.
Delsin Rowe is accompanied by his brother Reggie throughout the 11 hour narrative, their relationship being quite unique, due to the events in Second Son. Reggie has negative feelings for Conduits (now known by the government as Bio-Terrorists) and when his own brother is revealed as one of their kind, it adds a new element to their family relationship.
Delsin and Reggie’s relationship feels strong, due to the acting performances of both Troy Baker and Travis Willingham. Their strong performances make their relationship feel natural and charming, which made their interactions more meaningful. Thankfully, these brilliant performances can be found across the board, with side characters also getting strong voice work.
Second Son’s story follows a more realistic angle than previous Infamous titles; it conveys the government’s ability to guide the general populous into hating specific brands of individuals, by inducing fear. These actions are delivered by the Department of Unified Protection (D.U.P), and their leader – Brooke Augustine. Augustine has been in charge of creating a smear campaign regarding Conduits and their portrayal to the public. After being introduced to Augustine, she quickly establishes her brutality towards both Conduits and humans alike, which sets Delsin on his personal journey. Augustine is a fearful villain that continued to drive me forward through the story, in hopes of exacting my own personal revenge against the character. When a villain allows you to personally despise their existence, they are doing an excellent job.
Sucker Punch has created a narrative that includes some appealing realistic concepts and some interesting characters. Although these new characters grabbed my attention fairly quickly, the narrative leaves them behind and moves on with Delsin’s story. These fascinating additions end up feeling like throwaway individuals, where instead they could have been developed into strong personalities. The realistic approach to how the public would handle super powered individuals is interesting, but I never felt truly invested in the events taking place, and some moments feel empty, due to the lack of connection with these characters.
Karma choices are once again utilised within Second Son, with the evil and good choices clearly represented at key moments. Depending on which branching attitude you decide to follow, some conversations, missions, and abilities will differ. While your abilities will become more precise and powerful as a good guy, your powers will increase in brutality and destruction as an evil-doer. These differentials encourage a second playthrough to experience with every aspect. That said, the evil version of the story makes little sense when we examine Delsin’s character at the start of the experience. Delsin wants to save those in trouble, and doesn’t seem like the individual who would go on massive murderous rampages. The evil experience feels less important because of this, almost as if the evil playthrough was considered an afterthought in comparison. But it doesn’t take away from the fun that can be had when brutalising your enemies with your destructive villainous powers.
Aligning yourself with either evil or good is the way to play; altering between karma decisions based on the situation at hand will hurt your experience. Picking and choosing between karma decisions will see many powers become out of reach, which will close off some of the most impressive abilities. There is no middle option in Second Son, with the emphasis strongly put on either good or evil; there is no room for both, and that could hurt players from getting the most fun out of Second Son.
Second Son takes place in the real world city of Seattle, which looks absolutely gorgeous on the PlayStation 4 – from the lighting effects as the sun shines through the streets, the reflections from puddles, and even the smoke lifting from vents on the side walk. The detail is phenomenal. The audio aspects of Seattle are also impressive – from car alarms, pedestrian chatter, and even the sound of your abilities hitting different surfaces, bringing life to the city. Throughout Second Son, many sounds will also emit from the DualShock 4; from the sound of a can of spray paint, to phone calls, the DualShock 4’s speaker has been utilised to great effect to increase immersion. All these aspects combine to create a beautifully detailed metropolis to explore, which can look visually breathtaking and incredibly realistic.
Impressively, Second Son never skipped a technical beat, no matter how fast I was travelling through Seattle, or how much destruction I left in my wake. Blowing apart D.U.P structures throughout the city and laying waste to the environment around you with your different abilities looks stunning. Although feeling smaller than previous Infamous cities, the amount of detail makes Seattle’s dense environment feel more alive than any previous city Sucker Punch has created.
One of Infamous’ greatest assets has been the ability to provide fluid, responsive, and generally addictive gameplay. Second Son once again provides this graceful gameplay experience we have come to love. Exploring the city of Seattle and removing the D.U.P stronghold over districts saw me losing countless hours. Completing these side activities never felt like a chore, due to the array of powers and unique abilities to get around the city. It is easy to find yourself in love exploring the vast world of Seattle and creating your own fun along the way.
Delsin’s ability allows him to absorb new powers, and each of the powers he comes in contact with feels completely unique. Visually, each power stands out, but when you start experimenting with each ability, you start realising how unique each skill can be. Smoke will see Delsin transform into clouds of ashes to move around, while Neon will see players evolve into a flash of Neon light as they traverse the environment. Each power has its own personality, yet each also feels fluid and enjoyable. The fact these powers are not your typical “super hero” abilities was also appreciated.
Although Delsin has a huge range of abilities at hand, he cannot swim, or even move in water. It is a drastic halt in proceedings when you’re exploring environments or engaging in combat, only to have Delsin fall in water and be forced to warp him back to shore. Cole McGrath’s inability to experience water made sense in context, whereas Delsin’s lack of movement and the sudden abrupt roadblock when entering water felt out of place in comparison to the smooth fluidity of on-land movement.
Those who have played Infamous titles in the past will feel right at home during combat. The fluid movement and various enemy types are still present; however, combat feels different, due to the different powers at play. Cole McGrath could constantly find electricity to absorb, in order to heal himself and refill his energy. Delsin Rowe, on the other hand, doesn’t have the abundance of choice. There will be times when Delsin will run out of energy, and will have to retreat in hopes of finding a new power source, which brings a strategic element to battles. I found myself be more aware of how much energy and special abilities I had in my disposal, opting to use them at opportune times as new powers can be in short supply within certain areas.
Absorbing powers has also been altered, with absorbing now taking place using the DualShock 4’s Touchpad. Although the change isn’t a huge determent, the Touchpad felt genuinely less responsive during hectic battles than the original button inputs of previous Infamous titles.
Second Son’s camera can be an issue during hectic battles, especially when items or building are in close proximately. There were an abundance of times where the camera couldn’t keep up with Delsin’s flashy and fast manoeuvres, instead getting stuck behind buildings, items, or losing Delsin completely. It isn’t a constant problem, but it reared its head into view too many times that it became quite noticeable. The camera also struggles during environmental exploration, but this is to a lesser extent.
Infamous: Second Son is how I envisioned a next generation Infamous title. It provides a gorgeously detailed representation of Seattle, which is as fun to explore as it is to look at. Second Son’s narrative isn’t the strongest Infamous story we have ever seen, but it does introduce some interesting new characters, albeit if they are only for a short time.
Infamous: Second Son provides one of the best open world super hero experiences, providing enjoyable, graceful and addictive gameplay that will encourage players to explore every inch of Sucker Punch’s rendition of Seattle. Experiencing the new powers on offer looks and feels amazing, providing that empowering feeling Infamous has always delivered.
+ Enjoyable combat.
+ Delsin and Reggie’s relationship
+ Gorgeously detailed open-world
+ Each new power feels responsive, fluid and unique
– Narrative is forgettable
– Evil playthrough feels like an afterthought
– Issues with camera appeared far too often