FanBros! If you have a Playstation 4 and haven’t played this, you’re losing.
Second Son is the third in the inFAMOUS series (parts 1 and 2 released on the PlayStation 3) and the first to be featured on the PS4. Quick breakdown: the Infamous games are open-world third-person action games with a heavy emphasis on platforming, as well as performing melee and long-range elemental attacks. The player is tasked with finding power upgrades and hidden narrative collectibles while accepting missions from NPC’s. The big catch is that your actions determine your karma alignment,; so everything from blowing up government tanks and chasing down purse snatchers will affect what powers you gain and story beats you encounter. Spare the aforementioned thief and you’ll unlock a new defensive special. Choose to disregard the safety of civilians and collateral damage during fights and you’ll see your reputation plummet, but gain the ability to rain down electric missiles on everyone.
Second Son picks up seven years after the events of Infamous 2, where protagonist Cole McGrath saved New Orleans and exposed Conduits (the Infamous version of mutants) to most of mankind. Since then, the government has allowed the creation of the D.U.P.–Department of Unified Protection–an organization that sends troops and lesser Conduits to capture and/or destroy any rogue mutants not willing to be detained. Our new hero is Delsin Rowe, an Akomish (Pacific Native American tribe) 24 year old some people (read: old folks) would call a “ne’er-do-well.” He spends most of his time tagging graffiti and making murals in town while his older brother Reggie polices the town and reservation. After a chance run-in with a crashed transport bus of Conduits, Delsin’s own abilities manifest and lead him outside of his constrained state of reservation life and youthful aimlessness.
When you first set eyes on Second Son, the first thing you notice are the incredible visuals. The hype is real; Sucker Punch managed to make their PS4 debut a showcase for new gen graphics and fidelity. Everything from individually animated fingers and bits of debris moving realistically, to huge bosses and the visual effects for each of the game’s powers (Smoke, Neon, Video, etc) come together to make the fantastic seem plausible. I’ve heard a lot of criticism about this game’s motion capture and facial animation being planted too deeply in the uncanny valley, but the attention to detail and small imperfections were impressive and only drew me in. Infamous’ version of Seattle is fairly accurate (scaled down a bit), and I must applaud Sucker Punch for making sure there were plenty of power sources and quick traversal aids strewn all over the city. Because of this you’ll never be without access to recharge abilities or stuck on one side of town dreading the trek to your next goal. I must make mention of the visual effects once more– all of the powers affects the look of Delsin and the action.
The choice to have the protagonist be Native American was handled quite well. I would like to point out that Delsin is voiced by the “new Nolan North” Troy Baker (a white man). It would’ve been awesome to see a young man from a real tribe as the main character’s voice, but Baker is talented and charming and adds to his resume another above-average performance credit. I was relieved that during promotion and in the game itself, there was no heavy-handed message of “Look! we put a minority in our game! We’re so forward-thinking!” There is a scene near the start of the game involving Delsin’s reservation community and the D.U.P. that was very reminiscent of US Cavalry/Indian tribe standoffs. It evoked enough of a response as to provide motivation, and avoided going the easy route by using race as a gimmick or cheap plot point.
On the technical side, the game performs well. The framerate remains smooth and only slows down for precision aiming or during powerful, screen-filling special attacks. Gameplay feels smooth and responsive, though longtime fans of the series will notice the absence of the “snap-to” feel where the the character model snaps to the nearest surface for climbing or landing. The music is nothing special, (I’m looking at you, awful cover of “Heart-Shaped Box”) but gets the job done while the sound effects are the star of the soundtrack. Ambient dialogue from the people of Seattle, the crackle of Delsin’s powers and the voice acting all have a depth and sharpness to them that add to the immersion.
Pressed to put a rating on it, I’d give Infamous: Second Son a 4/5. It’s gorgeous, fun to play, and the light and dark choices actually make for two vastly different endings. With 14+ hours to complete, I’d say the game feels somewhat short if you have an open weekend to blow through it–but that shouldn’t stop anyone with a PS4 from throwing it on the rental queue or purchasing out-right.
The Buddha has spoken.