As one of the first exclusive titles from a venerable series this generation, Infamous Second Son has high benchmarks to live up to.
The third title in the series sees a new protagonist to replace Cole McGrath. Delsin Rowe powers into Seattle and brings the series crashing onto the PS4. I could prattle on about the game’s successes: its sizable and gorgeous representation of Seattle, the diversity of the powers, or the variety of challenges Second Son offers. This would not do the game justice.
The true triumph is the detail that went into the design of the world. You can lose yourself in the city, the characters are captivating, and the story is poignant.
inFamous: Second Son
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Care for Dead Rising 3 spoilers in the next paragraph
A while ago, I wrote on narratives in video games and whether or not they were necessary. Nothing illustrated this point better to me than Infamous Second Son. When I was playing Dead Rising 3, I found the latter chapters a chore to plough through. Partly because each story objective was placed on either end of an effectively one-way street packed with zombies and partly because the advancement of the plot was so meaningless. I just couldn’t bring myself to care when
[toggle title=”Click for Spoilers”]Rhonda loses her arm or Diego gets his head blown off [/toggle]
The characters were so fundamentally bland or downright unlikeable. I was going through the motions of completing the missions just so I could put one more game on my shelf into the finished pile, not by any genuine interest in the development of the world.
It is here where Infamous Second Son shines. Unlike Cole from Infamous and Infamous 2, Delsin’s reaction to his powers is youthful and exuberant. He wants to use them for anything and everything. In a sense, Delsin represents what so many typical gamers would be if they found themselves suddenly able to use abilities such as Smoke Dash or Neon Sprint.
In fact, all the characters are a delight. Their motivations are clear, their individual stories are deeply woven and touching, and we can clearly understand why they do what they do. Even the villain, Brooke Augustine, is a treat. She is the character you love to hate. She is cruel and she draws the player into a game-long desire to defeat her. Of the cast, Delsin and Brooke make the greatest mark. Their battle, both on a personal and grand scale, is what resonates with the player and drives him or her to action.
The environment surrounding these players is equally powerful. Second Son’s Seattle borrows themes from X-men and George Orwell’s 1984 (think Big Brother). D.U.P. checkpoints and armoured cars darted about the city really drive home the idea of Conduits (Infamous’ term for people with superpowers) and the government persecution. As Delsin became more famous, I started noticing regular civilians apologising to me when I barreled into them and bowled them over. Small touches like these are a delight and serve to engross players in the narrative of Second Son.
Short but sweet: Story missions take just over two days to get through entirely.
A large portion of the exposition about the game’s background comes through one-liners or loading screen messages. This is regrettable that so much information has to be given away outside the realm of the game world. On the other hand, it is refreshing that so much thought and detail went into the design of the world.
Interestingly, the pacing of Second Son and its story missions really does lend itself to the strong plot. If compared to Grand Theft Auto V, this is one of Infamous‘ greatest strengths. Seattle is large, no question. But with respect to Delsin’s ability to travel at speeds (mostly using Neon Sprint), crossing the huge distances is fun and not nearly as time-consuming as you would expect.
Infamous also allows you to complete story missions at a time of your choosing. I could barely contain myself getting through the plot. When similarly engrossed in the narrative of GTA V, Michael and Trevor would take an impromptu vacation in Hawaii and I would stick with Franklin’s missions of dog training and the incomprehensible Lamar.
Good and Evil – inFamous: Second Son
The karma system is central to the series. I was initially sceptical as most karma-based games only offer a series of choices asking whether you want to be good or bad. X-men Destiny fell into this pitfall. An assortment of inconsequential choices that moved a status bar between X-men and the Brotherhood. Second Son also utilises this strategy alongside several in-combat karma changes; for example, killing an enemy results in negative karmic change whereas subduing one results in positive karma.
It is disappointing that “good or bad?” decisions take a lot of the fun out of shaping your Infamous adventure. Players can then use the indications of what is good and what is bad to exploit the mechanics of the game. More fun, I find, would be offering two somewhat-ambiguous choices and not tell players what impact they have on their karmic alignment until after. Second Son, however, gets around this thanks to its powerful story.
I strove to be a hero, not a villain, and when presented with the final karmic decision, I struggled to choose the side of good. So moving was the presentation of the plot, I was sorely tempted to choose to kill the subject of the choice. In the end, I played the game’s mechanics to level up and access new powers. I was still pretty angry about doing so.
inFamous: Second Son Overall
Ultimately, I could sing Infamous: Second Son‘s praises for any number of reasons. But any reviewer could tell you about the gameplay elements. If there is a reason to play this game, it is not for the fun of running around and blowing things up.
It is because the writers have created a game world that you will genuinely care about and characters you will actually worry about what happens to them.
Infamous: Second Son is available on Playstation 4.