Since the PlayStation 4 launch back in November 2013 gamers have had relatively few new games to pick up for the system (a similar issue on Xbox One), and even less blockbuster exclusive titles to show the true power of the new hardware they spent $399 on. At launch we had a few games like Killzone Shadow Fall that showed glimpses into what the PS4 was capable of (at least graphically), but since then it’s been a bit of a dry spell. Thankfully this last week marked the launch of inFAMOUS Second Son from Sucker Punch Productions, a game that was built specifically for (and only on) PlayStation 4, and one that helped end the short gaming drought we had been on. The question is, did Sucker Punch change up the formula inFAMOUS followed last generation and try to reinvent the game for the new console using all that new power, or did they merely make a better looking version of inFAMOUS?
Second Son is set seven years after the events of inFAMOUS 2. Cole is dead and the world has come alive with people, called conduits (or bio-terrorists depending on what side you are on), gaining powers. As with most movies or games that deal with this kind of diversity (*cough* X-Men) the world largely doesn’t like people running around all willy-nilly shooting fireballs. The result is the formation of the Department of Unified Protection (DUP) to gather up everyone with powers and lock them away from the general public (all except those on the DUP payroll, that is). Change is scary, and dudes robbing banks with lighting powers doesn’t help public image, so everyone suffers the same fate in the eyes of the DUP and their leader, a conduit with concrete powers named Brooke Augustine. This is where me meet the main character of Second Son, Delsin Rowe. Delsin is an Akomish Native American living in Washington with an eye for graffiti. While out practising his craft, and trying to avoid his police officer brother Reggie, Delsin witness the crash of a prison transport containing conduits. He attempts to help a conduit named Hank and in the process absorbs some of Hank’s fire/smoke powers and comes to the realization that he is also a conduit. This leads to the first run-in with Brooke, who subsequently drives concrete spikes through the bodies of Delsin’s friends in an attempt to get him to talk about what happened to him. Fast forward and we find Delsin and Reggie in Seattle, attempting to power up enough to take on Brooke and get her power in order to save his friends and family. The plot of Second Son is fairly typical, and a bit cliche, but it’s not terrible. Troy Baker (Booker from Bioshock Infinite, Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins, Joel in The Last of Us, etc., etc.) does a fantastic job (as usual) as Delisn, and the other actors hold their own which always helps draw you into the plot more, even if it’s not amazing. It has just enough hooks to keep you a tiny bit interested and is pretty funny at times, but the real draw in Second Son is the world, and to a lesser degree the gameplay.
The best thing about Second Son is the world in which you play. Seattle looks fantastic in full HD on PS4 and you can tell that Sucker Punch really tried to pull everything they could out of the new system. While the layout of the city isn’t quite right (likely for gameplay reasons) all of the notable attractions, including the Space Needle, are there. There is a lot of fun to be had just roaming the city and stumbling upon side missions or collectable shards (for leveling up). Sometimes you’ll even just find yourself sitting on top of a building and looking at the sunset. The world Sucker Punch created is beautiful and detailed.
Gameplay in Second Son largely resembles the first two games. You run around shooting fireballs (or other powers) in typical third person fashion and eventually unlock other, stronger moves that get mapped to other buttons like rockets, grenades, etc. If you’ve played inFAMOUS 1 or 2 you’ll get the gameplay pretty quickly. I feel fairly mixed on it overall, as traversal still feels a bit off. You’ll stick to ledges sometimes and miss them other times, and running around just doesn’t feel as solid as it should. It misses Assassin’s Creed fidelity of control even, and I have issues with the way those games play as well. In the long run the game is fully playable, though, and you’ll get over the minor annoyances and have some solid fun. Shooting works well and blowing up guard towers with full destruction is very satisfying. It’s a bit odd that only certain things can be destroyed, but you’ll get past that too. You collect blast shard in various ways to level up Delsin’s powers, health, etc. and you’ll need them. The game isn’t hard, per se, but you will die quickly if you get in the middle of too many enemies as there are various kinds of baddies in Second Son with varying levels of power. Overall the gameplay, while a bit frustrating at times, is fun and keeps you entertained over the 12+ hour campaign. Karma also returns in Second Son and is always measured on-screen and allows for certain powers to be unlocked depending on whether you are good or bad. Some of the best moves in each of the 4 power-sets are from getting enough good or bad karma and hitting down on the d-pad to do a super move. No skill involved, but they sure are pretty to look at.
Overall inFAMOUS Second Son suffers some of the same setbacks as other close-to-launch or launch games. All the new power allowed the developers to make a much prettier game with more effects and a bigger environment, but some of the core gameplay issues from past entries are still present. The movement needs an overhaul and the side missions need much more variety. Don’t get me wrong, though, Second Son is a great game overall and looks gorgeous. Issues aside, anyone looking for a blockbuster game to pop into their shiny new PlayStation 4 should consider inFAMOUS. It’s a visually stunning power-oriented third person shooter and Sucker Punch deserves credit for getting it out so early in the PS4’s life cycle. I only hope for the next game they start to look into the base issues with the game, now that they know they can make pretty graphics and a great world.