Sucker Punch Productions make the jump to next gen with their latest in the inFamous series: inFamous Second Son. Like other developers keen to publish on Sony’s new console, Sucker Punch show why games like Second Son could never be made for the PS3.
With amazing visuals, dynamic combat and fantastic scope, Second Son sets a new benchmark for what to expect from the latest generation of gaming.
Set 7 years after the events of inFamous 2, the stage is set for gamers to return to the world of conduits or experience it for the first time. Following the story of Delsin Rowe, a small time street tagger living on the outskirts of Seattle, Second Son tells a gripping origins story of a new hero/villain and how he comes to terms with his power and what it means to wield it.
Like previous games, Second Son features a karma system that allows you to choose either the path of the hero, or that of the villain. The system is great for adding choice into the narrative and extending the gameplay through additional playthroughs to experience both sides of a decision. However, the decisions Delson faces are incredibly black and white. With a real lack of grey area in the game, moments of nuance or inner turmoil of having to make a tough decision are never explored, leaving the narrative somewhat shallow and generic.
Despite these placeholder story beats, the game gets a lot of its narrative right. Delsin embraces his power in a way that the games’ previous protagonist never did. Cole MacGrath from inFamous 1 and 2 had always reluctantly accepted the powers thrust upon him, seeing them as a burden. Delsin on the other hand is in a constant state of glee, revelling in the thrill of his newfound powers, and setting out to acquire more. For the player, the attitude of Delsin is far more relatable: these powers are exciting and you’re not the only one to think so. One only has to listen to the whoops of joy that punctuate Delsin’s attacks to know this is a conduit that loves his gifts.
The relationships of Second Son take on another level of depth as well, partly due to the increased fidelity and detail of the PS4’s graphics, but also due to the fantastic voice acting and motion capture performance of the cast. Troy Baker especially shines as Delsin, and his interactions with other characters add a number of human moments and realism in a game about superpowers. The variety of the cast also help to flesh out the protagonist in a way that the previous chapters couldn’t for Cole.
From the brotherly jabs between Delsin and Reggie, to the worry and protection Delsin feels both for and from Betty, the relationships of this game tell the story of how the hero or villain comes to be because of, or in spite of the people around him. This is not necessarily true for all characters unfortunately, with other conduits stopping by for what feel like cameo side missions.
The missed opportunity to see interactions between fellow escaped conduits is a shame, as it could have added further character and story development all-round, as well as fleshing out a backstory.
The visual quality of Second Son works to improve not just the believability of the characters, but the life of the city as well.
Choosing to set the game in the real city of Seattle, as opposed to the fictional cities of Empire City and New Marais is an added challenge that Sucker punch handles nicely, replicating the living, breathing feel of a real city that seem to stand up to scrutiny.
Elements for Delsin to play with and absorb feel truly natural and justified in their placement within the world of the game to the point of being just another set piece until you are actively looking for them.
These elements look gorgeous to play with, particularly neon, which seems to glisten right down to the individual particle. Be it restraining foes as a hero, or obliterating them as a villain with a brutal headshot, the beauty and painstaking detail of each power only heightens the enjoyment of using them.
Each power feels unique but familiar at the same time, meaning you can take on a new power and immediately know how to use it, while still being surprised by its effect.
These powers are staggered throughout the game, adding a new element to your arsenal as you progress, but they are not more powerful than their predecessors, just different.
This creates a degree of strategy in regards to how you tackle a group of enemies. While one player may choose to dash and melee with smoke, another may choose to slow time and snipe from long range with neon. The variety keeps all powers relevant through the entirety of the game, being tools to switch between rather than replace.
This variety extends to the enemies as well, which have a nice difficulty curve, but still feel grounded in a world where they could all exist simultaneously.
The resulting squad could be comprised countless foot soldiers, or only a couple of tough-as-nails conduits or a mixture of both. Any group you encounter can be dealt with quickly, or shut you down quite convincingly, depending on how you engage.
The open world nature of the inFamous games is implemented again in Second Son, however the lack of variety and side missions make for a rather repeatable experience when exploring.
Missions consist of dominating each territory, and partaking in a few karma specific tasks like helping escaped conduits or beating up drug dealers. This content can be chewed through reasonably quickly, resulting in a huge city that feels relatively small. One can only hope that additional content will be added in the future.
inFamous Second Son is both a delight to play as a new installment in the series, and a prime example of the power of next gen hardware.
Hours will be spent running, flying, shooting, dive bombing, and comet dropping throughout the streets of Seattle. While typical playthrough would expect for one set narrative, it is strongly recommended to play through both good and evil to get a true appreciation for the scope and detail of the game.