inFAMOUS: Second Son (PS4) Review
inFAMOUS: Second Son has been on my radar since E3 last year. A big reveal to go alongside the announcement of the PS4, I was certainly interested but not nearly as interested as I should have been. If it hadn’t been for review duties I would have faithfully checked the scores upon release and debated whether to get it right away or wait for a price drop. As much as it pains me to admit it I could not have been more wrong to have thought to put it off. Second Son is easily the best game Sucker Punch has ever released, easily the best game available so far on the PS4, and easily the one game that every PS4 owner should purchase.
While inFAMOUS 1 and 2 followed the story of Cole MacGrath we are now introduced to Delsin Rowe. It has been 7 years since the events of the end of inFAMOUS 2 (the good ending mind you) and what remaining conduits there are have been rounded up and are being transported to a prison facility in Seattle, WA by the Department of Unified Protection. One particular truck carrying three conduits (rebranded as Bio-Terrorists by the D.U.P.) crashes near Salmon Bay where Delsin, his brother Reggie and the people of the Akomish tribe make their home. Through a series of events Delsin absorbs a smoke power from one of the escaped conduits and we’re off on our journey. Shortly after acquiring this ability Delsin is forced to make a decision that will put him on the road to becoming a hero or the road to becoming infamous. If you’re anything like me you’ll go the good guy route because even in a game I feel awful about being mean. For the sake of the review I advanced both story arcs and even though being bad was fun, and easier too as you’re not concerned about casualties, I still felt really, really bad about being such a jerk.
The first thing you’re going to notice about this game is exactly how pretty it is. I remember being taken aback by Killzone at launch but in my eyes this spanks it by a long shot. If people were looking for a game that felt completely and utterly next generation then this is it. After the events in Salmon Bay, Delsin and Reggie begin their trek into Seattle and come across the carnage left by the escaped conduits. They find neon streaks across scarred and battered pavement and vehicles destroyed with digital looking arrows plunged into them. It’s a lot to take in and will likely be your first ‘oooooh aaaaah’ moment of the game. Of course as you’re making this trip to the city you’ll start to further develop Delsin’s powers. Up until his meeting with the escaped conduit he was just an average slacker interested more in graffiti and sticking it to the man than anything else, so adjusting to these powers is new to him. Using D.U.P. core relays you destroy them to open up new smoke powers and then collect blast shards to enhance the new powers even further. This becomes an integral part of the gameplay as you’ll need to advance your powers considerably if you want to get anywhere once you reach Seattle.
Once you hit the city you’re really able to appreciate the work that Sucker Punch put into Second Son. Located in Bellevue, WA the team at Sucker Punch were essentially able to create their own backyard in loving detail from Mt. Rainier in the background to the Space Needle to Pioneer Square. Now it’s obviously not 100% faithful to the city but many landmarks and recognizable spots are there for you to come across. You’ll find that the entire city is separated into districts and upon your arrival every single one of them are controlled by the D.U.P. In order to advance the story you begin to break apart the D.U.P. bit by bit in the Queen Anne district by taking out their video cameras, their mobile command units and their drones. Not only that, you get to hunt down secret agents and decorate the concrete jungle with graffiti stencil art. Once you’ve sufficiently decreased the D.U.P.’s stranglehold on a district you’ll be able to have a final showdown for control of the area. There are 13 districts in all so this adds up to a huge amount of gameplay that is peppered in with the more mission based story line that you follow as well.
If all that wasn’t enough you can also access the inFAMOUS Paper Trail which will add over 5 hours and 19 side missions to what is already a fairly lengthy game. The first mission has you chasing down a very creepy conduit with paper powers and when I was done with it I was desperate for more but that’s the only taste I got. There will be more of the Paper Trail missions opened up in the coming weeks and you’ll need to sync up your PSN ID with the Paper Trail website to unlock everything.
As in previous inFAMOUS titles your karma plays a big role in your character advancement from the powers available to unlock, the way people react to you, how your story unfolds and more. Various opportunities exist in the city of Seattle to help in your quest for true heroism or an unbridled rule of terror. You can bust drug dealers and heal people for good karma or knock off annoying sign spinners and street buskers for evil karma. Well to be honest it’s real easy to gain evil karma… go nuts on any city block and the civilians will feel your wrath! Depending on your karma route you’ll have different choices open to you when you advance your powers. As you gain strength to your smoke powers you’ll be able to aid your ability to subdue and heal for example if you’ve chosen good but be able to melee and kill if you’ve went the opposite route. The smoke powers culminate with orbital drops that you earn by going on karma streaks and they are crazy powerful. You’ll damn near empty out an entire city block if you use the evil orbital drop and it’s awesome to take in. Smoke powers are only the beginning however as Delsin learns many other abilities as the story progresses. I’d hate to ruin the surprise for players opening it up themselves so apart from the smoke powers and neon powers that were previously revealed I’ll let you unlock it for yourself. Suffice to say that the neon powers are an absolute blast to use and some of the other powers you gain will definitely give you a tactical advantage… well that is if you consider being invisible a tactical advantage, which I most definitely do.
Despite all of the powers at your disposal don’t assume that the combat is necessarily easy. The AI is smart enough to hunt you down if you try to hide in a corner and challenging enough to keep you on your toes if not by skill but by sheer numbers. There were a number of times I was simply overwhelmed by too many enemies for me to handle so I needed to re-evaluate my attack strategy. That being said there were a few times where I caught soldiers being unaware or easy to catch, but more often than not they were prepared for me and were a challenge to take down. A few of the boss battles were really frustrating and without getting into detail of exactly what I was fighting I can assure you that there was a good amount of dying and trying again… and again.
No matter where you look this game is a joy to take in. Watching Delsin reduce himself into a wisp of smoke or a blur of neon is incredibly detailed. In fact, when Delsin does his smoke dash he is split into 11000 individually textured particles each time. How’s that for attention to detail? The first time you use Delsin’s neon powers and have to draw fuel from one of Seattle’s many glowing signs you’ll be in awe watching the light flicker away into thousands of glowing particles. The motion capture is spot on with cut scenes really giving you that movie feel. A nod has to be given to the art department too as the stencils that Delsin is able to paint are awesome and often quite funny too. He’ll use an object within the environment and incorporate it into his artwork. Not only that the graffiti, posters, and signage (with lots of homage being paid to Sly Cooper might I add) that litter the streets are all really well detailed. I often caught myself wandering back alleys and under bridges just to take in the murals and Banksy-like art stencils. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sucker Punch prowled the streets of Seattle late at night recruiting taggers and graffiti artists for their talent. Again, as you advance further into the game opening up more powers and areas you’ll absolutely enjoy the amount of work that went into presentation for Second Son.
As good as any story is or as gorgeous as the presentation is it can all be ruined by the wrong choice in casting. In the case of Delsin they could not have cast him any better. Usually known for his voice work, Sucker Punch hired Troy Baker (Booker in Bioshock Infinite, Snow in FF XIII, Joel in The Last of Us) to be not only the voice but the face of Delsin Rowe. He is perfect in every sense for the role. Even when Delsin was being a total jerk I couldn’t help but like him which made the play through for both campaigns (good and evil) extremely enjoyable. The motion capture is done so well that the great acting alongside the video does a fantastic job of conveying real emotion in game. Whether it was a smirk or a sparkle in his eye it felt as if Delsin Rowe was a real person more than just an animated character. This of course goes for the entire cast in Second Son. The characters you meet along the way all add to that feeling of being real people over animations. The main antagonist was done so well that I actually found myself hating her very, very passionately. The last time I hated a character that much was Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and I hated her so much I nearly had to leave the theatre I was watching the movie in. That broad gave me the creeps.
Finally, tying it all up into one amazing little package is the sound production. Everything is on point from the music to the effects. You’ll hear the buzz of neon as you walk past signs and the rush of air as you descend off a rooftop to the streets below. The music can be moody or fast paced but it always suits the situation you find yourself in. Painstaking attention to detail is the order of the day as I mentioned so many times above. One of the early powers you obtain, the smoke bolt, has 1024 different sounds for every single time you fire it ensuring that you almost never hear the same sound twice in a row. That sort of quality is extended to nearly everything else in the game.
I truly can’t say enough good things about inFAMOUS: Second Son. A winning combination of great gameplay, challenging combat, solid acting, gorgeous visuals and more makes it one of the PlayStation 4’s absolute must own titles. When you play games as a reviewer it is more than refreshing to actually come across a game that you can’t put down and such was the case with Second Son. In fact I can’t even come up with much that actually deserves criticism and that’s my job so that speaks volumes about what they’ve done with this game. I doubt this is the last we’re going to see of the inFAMOUS series. After this joyride I am literally frothing at the mouth for the next installment.