[As Read on GIO.]
Infamous and Infamous 2 are two of my favorite superhero games of all time, and certainly beat out Superman 64 on any super powered games list. What made those two titles epic was the combination of strategy in platforming through an open world and the super powered combat Cole MacGrath possessed. Even better, the narrative choices were pretty much all up to players as well, so you could choose to be a hero or villain as you willed and upgrade powers and abilities accordingly. For these reasons, not just from the narrative continuation itself but from the core concepts, Second Son is yet another successful sequel, one of the best looking games to date, and also a very enjoyable romp through a near-future Seattle.
You now assume the role of street artist and pun rebel Delsin Rowe, a conduit with a large array of powers- stemming from his interesting ability to siphon power from other conduits (super powered people) and keep them for himself. Delsin’s main mission, after some narrative introduction, is to take down the Department of Unified Protection (DUP) in order to free other conduits and allow for greater choice and freedom in the United States, and specifically Seattle. Whereas Cole MacGrath battled the forces of evil in order to promote a future where conduits and humans could live together peacefully, Delsin must now battle the misguided DUP in order to maintain this dream and truly see it come to light.
The character of Delsin Rowe is really an interesting and highly believable one, as like most ordinary folk, he is a multi-faceted individual. He puts on a mischievous, rebellious attitude to hide his truly sensitive and family/friend-oriented spirit underneath. He isn’t just some douche who has no cares in the world- however devil-may-care he acts. He really cares about protecting those closest to him, which plays heavily into Second Son’s narrative at times. Since he is a street artist, he often times uses his graffiti and wit to attack the DUP and his adversaries just as much as he actually physically assaults them, leading the charge with a psychological attack on them. His humor never failed to make me crack a smile, even if some of his one-liners fell through in tough situations.
Sucker Punch isn’t afraid to call upon their heavy hitters early on in the game, and does so by pulling Delsin’s family and friends into the fray as well, leading to some very interesting complications of things. It all begins tied to conduits and the DUP, and surely it fittingly all ends that way as well, though the circumstances are somewhat turned about in that case. From the very getgo you’re tasked with making decisions that will establish your legacy alongside Cole’s, and craft you into either a hero or a villain. The progression system is tied perfectly into the narrative and the choices, and each upgrade fits equally well into the story and seems legitimate as well.
Delsin is inadvertently drawn into a complex DUP search and plot mainly because of his assumed connection with an escaped conduit, and the implications it has for his family and friends. After being shown that he will never be safe with the DUP around, he decides to search for answers to his questions, tie up loose ends, and take down the misguided, almost evil department. For a superhero or villain romp around a futuristic Seattle, Sucker Punch does a great job of making Second Son look and feel as realistic as possible. Even the story cohesively gels together and makes sense given many of the circumstances- something that could not often be said about the first and second Infamous titles.
Delsin’s powers themselves evolve as he progresses and as he encounters conduit minibosses essentially. Since his specific power is essentially parasitically adapting to learn powers from other conduits, each new encounter further imbues him with the strength and upgrades he needs to continue his one conduit assault on the DUP’s consolidated power in the city. This method of learning new powers and incorporating ones I otherwise wouldn’t have really thought of pays off and makes for a much more interesting experience than one simple set of powers, or even the three associated ones of Infamous 2 (shocking, burning, and freezing).
What is particularly amazing is that you only really encounter four or five major conduits throughout the several hour experience, and yet you come away with a plethora of awesome powers from each and plenty of leveling capabilities as well. Powers not only factor into obvious things as combat, but also into general locomotion and traversal of the urbanized environment as well, making traveling much easier and simplistic as the game progresses too. Each skill set comes across as extremely powerful or helpful, or even both, and most of all- surprisingly enjoyable to utilize across your adventures in Seattle and the surrounding areas.
Without ruining much, I can say that if you haven’t at least tried the game you’re certainly missing out on an unconventional and entirely enjoyable experience. I mean, who else can use smoke and mirrors like a super hero who can literally use smoke powers and others? Delsin’s smoke-based powers alone enable him to traverse areas and sneak in undetected as a puff of smoke and particles, shoot far-off enemies with cinder shards, and physically whip them with a smoke and fire imbued chain wrapped around his arms. It may seem like something out of Ghost Rider, but it is much more epic when you take into account that this is only one of his many power sets.
He can also utilize power-based energy sources in a fashion that reminds me of something Cole would do, as well as effectively cloak himself in pure energy for shield and invisibility bonuses- for a short period of time anyway, which is particularly helpful in organizing getaways. Overall, all of these powers and abilities are easy to switch between thanks to an extremely solid control layout and the dynamic visuals they represent. Speaking of the graphics themselves, not only do they look excellent but they react realistically to stimuli as well as environments and scenery go- crumbling and exploding dramatically and in total realism. And even better- the frame rate very rarely suffers, thanks to the quantity of power provided by the PS4.
As excellent as everything has been that I have mentioned thus far, there are still a few minor (and major as well) issues that keep the game from shining as brightly as it has the potential for, similar to the faults of the previous titles. Repetition is probably the largest qualm I had with the game. While the majority of the main content is excellently crafted and diverse, the plethora of side content doesn’t show the same level of attention to detail and care. There are a host of side activities to partake of, yet each is easily completed within a few minutes and ranges only from destroying targets or fighting DUP forces. These reward players with upgrade capabilities, but aside from that are pretty much a waste of time and effort.
As these upgrade pieces help you to essentially power up faster and therefore progress quickly through the main content of the story, they are essential to some degree, which seems like a crappy reality to be sidled with. However, as large a component of gameplay as that is, and as large of an annoyance as it is, I can think of many flaws that would’ve been a lot worse to implement in its place. These side missions and small objectives aren’t bad per se, just extremely menial and boring and repetitive.
It is great to see a sequel that sheds many of flaws of the original two games and even gains a new perspective through protagonists and powers without fully forgetting where the series has come from and how far it has gone already. I’ve been particularly happy with the Infamous series over the years, and this game was definitely one of the better ones in my honest opinion. Not only did it look wonderful but the controls felt tight and the overall aesthetics were pleasing and impressive through and through. I loved the choices presented to players as well as the options in response, coupled with the narrative itself and the vivid characters. Truly a wonderful start for the next generation, and a graphical masterpiece in both setting and particle effects in explosions, fires, and powers.
Concept: Explore a realistic setting in a possible future as a super powered conduit named Delsin Rowe, battling the oppressive DUP and fighting for freedom and equality.
Graphics: It’s the little things and the attention to detail that really make the experience, but the excellent animation work pulls it off as well.
Sound: The soundtrack and voice work are both excellent, although the soundtrack pulls the experience along better than the one-liners and humor do.
Playability: Not only is it fun and enjoyable, but highly usable and playable to boot. The makings of an excellent experience if there are any.
Entertainment: Highly entertaining as an adventure and as a story go, for not the first or second, but the third time in a row.
Replay Value: Moderate.
Overall Score: 8.25