inFAMOUS Second Son
Sucker Punch games have a reputation for turning out quality games. After their debut title, Rocket Robot on Wheels (on Nintendo 64), the studio was quickly snapped up by Sony, and they then went on to create the beloved Sly Cooper series on the PlayStation 2. Their next series, Infamous, became an instant classic on the PlayStation 3, and fans have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of ‘Infamous: Second Son’ on the PlayStation 4 since its announcement in February 2013.
Infamous: Second Son has finally arrived, and while players would be correct to assume that it offers similar gameplay as previous Infamous titles, it also manages to refine that gameplay and offer up the best Infamous experience yet.
Infamous casts players as Delsin Rowe, a mischievious graffiti artist who is also a member of the Akomish tribe of Native Americans. His brother, Reggie, is the local sheriff and therefore, frequently arrests Delsin for his art crimes.
Infamous: Second Son takes place seven years after the events of the previous Infamous games, including the death of Cole MacGrath. During this time, the Department of Unified Protection is formed with the goal of protecting the public from Conduits, who they label as “bio-terrorists”.
At the beginning of the game, Delsin is vandalising a billboard of his brother (and being arrested for it) when a prison van containing three Conduit prisoners crashes nearby. Reggie runs off to investigate and Delsin drags a Conduit survivor out of the flaming vehicle before it kills them. Upon touching him, powers are awakened in Delsin, with visions of fire and smoke flashing before his eyes. Delsin struggles to both remain calm and control these powers, and gives pursuit to the Conduit in order to gain some much needed answers. Showing great skill (and enthusiasm), Delsin quickly masters his new “smoke” powers. It has to be said, that while superpowers are nothing new in games (or entertainment), but Second Son’s take on them is refreshing, and very exciting. Leaping from building to building, whipping enemies with a chain infused with smoke, ash and flame and teleporting through chainlink fences and other surfaces is exhillerating when you first experience it, and the enjoyment only increases when you gain additional powers.
It isn’t long before Delsin encounters the head of the D.U.P., Ausgustine. She is also a Conduit, and has the ability to turn people to concrete. If Augustine wasn’t terrifying enough, she has also found a way to transfer some of her power to her Conduit-converted soldiers, who invade the Akomish property like an army. After interrogating Delsin, Augustine tortures the remainder of the Akomish tribe, her technique meaning a painful death for the Akomish tribe – but there is hope – If Delsin can gain control over Augustine’s powers, he may be able to save them.
The story in Second Son manages to be both entertaining and emotionally-engaging, an increasingly difficult thing to achieve in video games today. Too often, games either portray people so realistically that the story feels mundane, or they create characters so unrealistic that it is impossible to relate to them or emotionally invest in them. Worse yet, some games leave their characters deliberately blank or uninspired (Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard, various FPS grunts) so that players can more easily “project” themselves onto them (see themselves as the character). Second Son avoids all these traps by delivering realistic and engaging characters that will captivate players.
My only complaint with Infamous: SS’s story, is with the sudden moral dilemmas that are abruptly thrown your way. You will be watching a cutscene or completing a mission, when you are confronted with a huge decision. While these might test some players, I felt as though I was well and truly committed to being a hero rather than a villain from the minute I got my powers. I was never in a grey area, nor was I challenged by any moral choice in the game. These are usually as simple as “sacrifice this good person to revel in your evilness” or “turn yourself in because you’re a stand up guy like that”, with no option in between. Given that you will spend your experience unlocking abilities that depend on a particular moral leaning (such as increased damage due to your obvious badassery), its unlikely that players will deviate from their set path considering this will mean they are unable to keep those benefits from a high moral level.
In addition to the story missions, Infamous: Second Son also offers a wealth of side activities to partake in:
- Graffiti missions – where the player holds the PS4 controller on its side and mimics the shaking and spraying of a spray-paint can (which is actually quite cool) in order to bomb a large piece of scenery. Players can choose either a positive or rebellious artwork, which accelerates their moral progress as well. I have to say, I’m very impressed with the art used for the graffiti side activity, and though it is a blatant ripoff (or inspired by, your call) of Banksy’s style, I couldn’t think of a more perfect graffiti artist to imitate.
- Drug Busts – Throughout the city, Delsin will encounter drug deals where he can mercilessly kill every criminal, or knock them out and destroy the drugs. These are fun, but what annoys me about these is that the criminals simply stand around holding their guns, without any variation in their behaviour. Everything begins and ends with Delsin’s intervention too, which is a shame. I would have liked to have had the ability to wait around for a few minutes (or longer) and witnessed the actual deal go down, as it would be a far greater achievement (in my mind) to take down both sides of the drug deal, instead of just the dealers. That, or perhaps after completing 10 or 20 drug deals, the opportunity to destroy the drug syndicate itself would arrive, giving a greater overall sense of accomplishment to the Drug Busts.
- D.U.P. Spy Missions – The D.U.P. has hidden spies in the general public. These Conduits are gathering intel and Delsin has to spot them out in the crowd with a photo he’s provided. These can be quite a challenge if the player is unprepared, as the Conduits will escape using their powers, such as running through walls or leaping over scenery. Once you get used to them, these are a blast to do.
- District Takedowns – There a number of actions and activities that cause the D.U.P. to lose power in a particular area. Freeing captive Conduits, destroying intelligence drones, strongholds, APCs (Armoured Personal Carriers), as well as other side missions all lead to a District Showdown, where Delsin taunts the D.U.P. into a battle for control of a district. Sometimes, there are squads of D.U.P. Conduits who vastly outnumber Delsin. Other times, there is a heavily-armed helicopter, or both.
In addition to these side missions, there are also protest rallies (protesting “bio-terrorists”), busking musicians, gang members and sign twirlers, which can be interacted with by the player. There isn’t really anything to it, you can either kill everyone or break up the activity non-lethally, which might sound rather pointless but they add some variety to the game nonetheless.
Completing side activities and story missions awards the player with energy shards, which can be used to upgrade Delsin’s abilties. These upgrades can include perks being added to abilities (such as larger explosive radii on projectile attacks), or simple upgrades to health and ammunition. He will also encounter other Conduits throughout the game, who will provide him with different powers. Each of these are equally awesome, and I can’t remember the last time I was this impressed with an open-world game’s story and gameplay.
- Fresh gameplay in an otherwise tired genre
- Great characters, story and writing
- Amazing graphics and lighting
- Moral decisions too shallow and obvious
I honestly can’t remember the last time I was impressed with an open-world game. Infamous: Second Son manages to look gorgeous, play brilliantly and enthrall players with its unique and darker take on super humans and society. Easily a must-have title for the PlayStation 4, Second Son is well worth a purchase.
Score : 9/10