Despite its flaws, I hold the inFamous series close to my heart, as it was the first superhero series to make me feel emotionally attached to its story, world and characters. While inFamous: Second Son builds upon everything the first two games did right and eliminates many of its predecessor’s nuisances, it still feels like it’s stuck in the past, struggling to find itself, much like the series’s new protagonist.
The Cole train stops here.
inFamous: Second Son follows the story of Delsin, a rebellious young man who finds himself even more autonomous once he stumbles upon some superpowers. The story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but it’s packed full of personality and a level of character development few superhero games have managed to touch on. Right from the start, Delsin won my heart. He reminds me of a younger version of myself. Well, at least the cocky superpowered version I always dreamed I would grow up to be – and this makes his struggle between right and wrong all the more relatable.
If you haven’t played an inFamous game yet, Second Son is the perfect place to start. The story from the first title isn’t taken too much into account, and fans of Cole can get their fill through some preorder DLC that touches more on the events of inFamous 2. On a very basic level, the story is about humans with a special gene and the corrupt authority that wants to harness their powers for their own. Like I said, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s the way Second Son presents the journey that makes it stand out.
inFamous: Second Son (PS4)
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release: March 21, 2014
Much to the pleasure of Uncle Ben, the inFamous series has attempted to perfect the struggle of balancing power and responsibility. Delsin is the perfect conduit for such internal conflict, with his enthusiastic outlook on his powers shaping him into the ideal avatar for exploiting the good and bad within us. Unfortunately, the karma system is still very much black and white as it was in the previous games. We live in a world with plenty of gray and that’s something Sucker Punch seems to have trouble understanding. The basic right or wrong decisions that pop up in Second Son feel outdated by today’s standards. However, there is now a brief excerpt of the result of choosing either good or bad during the decision process, so you have a decent idea of how the choice will play out. This helps prevent your choices from playing out like Cole Phelps’ bipolar outbursts in L.A. Noire. Regardless of the decisions you make, the story stresses the difficulty of those choices through Delsin. When you made a tough choice, it reflects back on Delsin as realistically as it could for someone in his shoes. It’s a shame that the NPC’s can’t react accordingly.
The way everyday folk react to your choices is beyond comical. Even if you commit the most minuscule deed, the general public will treat you as either a god or monster. Within minutes, everyone knows your name and will chant “Delsin for president!” or run for their lives at the very sight of you. I can understand their reactions coming after hours upon hours of decision-making, but to have them happen within mere minutes and over moral choices that can barely be considered morally questionable creates a complete disconnect from the game. And that’s a damn shame.
On a core gameplay level, Second Son plays like a last-generation brawler mixed with third-person shooter elements that fail to innovate. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but even with all of Delsin’s acquirable powers, the gameplay is nothing you haven’t experienced before. Throughout the game, you will gain three distinct powers that can be switched to by consuming a related fuel source in the world. They all look and feel different, but at their core, they are still relatively much the same. Each power is awesome in its own way and the skill tree does its best to try to make each indistinguishable, but it still manages to fall short. Their distinct differences are more of a hindrance, than anything else. For example, one has powerful ranged attacks, but greatly limits vertical mobility. In addition, I found hunting down fuel sources to be bothersome, especially during battle. Since Delsin can acquire three different powers, it would have been nice to have him duel wield or merge them to custom tailor the combat. Instead, you’ll have to find a fuel source to draw power from. Sometimes this means removing your preferred power set for the sake of staying alive.
While I’m not a fan of the bare-boned morality system, I’m even less of a fan of select skills being unlocked depending on your moral alignment. Despite playing as a hero, I felt compelled to slaughter innocents just to unlock the cooler, eviler skills. I understand that this should play into the player’s decision making process and even influence a second playthrough, but it’s still a burden; especially when the hero skills are boring in comparison.
From a graphical standpoint, Second Son really does a fine job of demonstrating the power of PlayStation 4, but it does have some graphical hiccups that pull you out of the world. A large chunk of the game involves scaling shiny buildings without reflections. I went from “Oh, this is so pretty!” to “Oh, goddammit!” the moment I found myself dangling in front of the cleanest window in Seattle. On top of that, I’ve encountered a fair amount of NPCs and cars clipping into the environment and spawning in weird positions, like a car doing a 5-0 grind.
Without a doubt, inFamous: Second Son is the best inFamous title yet. Despite my critiques, it’s still a fantastic game capable of supplying 10-12 hours of expertly executed story, solid yet familiar gameplay, and a wealth of collectibles and easter eggs to discover. At the time of this review, it’s the best well-rounded game the PlayStation 4 has to offer, and naturally, a must buy for anyone looking to scratch that superpowered itch.
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