Review: inFAMOUS: Second Son
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“Enjoy your Power.”
The final marketing slogan for Sucker Punch Productions was very appropriate in my opinion. My opinion, by the way, has been formed after two playthroughs and the earning of Second Son’s coveted Platinum trophy. There have now been two games that I’ve played from 0-100% without removing the disk from my system: BioShock: Infinite and now inFamous: Second Son. It’s an amazing experience from beginning to end (mostly) but allow me to explain where it excels and where it falters.
Taking place in 2016 (seven years after the finale of inFamous 2), Second Son puts you in the skate jeans of Delsin Rowe: the sixth member of The Breakfast Club if there ever was one. Hell, the game introduces Delsin while he’s defacing a billboard with his brother’s face on it with spray paint. Delsin and his brother, Reggie, are members of the Akomish American Indian tribe living near the city of Seattle, Washington. While Reggie is the local sheriff, Delsin plays the free-spirited graffiti artist and local delinquent. This dichotomy is carried well throughout Second Son’s story and makes for some interesting banter (although it really feels weird if you are playing as evil Delsin, for reasons that would enter the spoiler territory if I continued).
Early on in the story, Delsin discovers that he is a Conduit (people with supernatural abilities in the inFamous world) capable of “stealing” powers from other Conduits. Shortly thereafter the game’s villain, Brooke Augustine, and her band of DUP (Department of Unified Protection; specifically, this organization’s purpose is to round-up Conduits) show-up and terrorize the Akomish tribe while trying to extract information. This cruelty is what leads Delsin and Reggie to Seattle in order to exact revenge and gain the power to save the tribe.
Saying much more would be a disservice to Second Son which, I believe, weaves a solid tale that carries the player across the rooftops of every building in Seattle and allows for some awesome powers even after the credits roll. The thing about inFamous, though, is that the powers and the gameplay are the main course. While the story is good (very good), I feel that inFamous’ strength is in its gameplay.
Just like in the previous inFamous games, you are able to choose whether to play as the hero or the villain. While this mostly changes dialogue throughout the game, the biggest change that it makes is in how you play. For example: a hero is more interested in subduing his foes and the villain is more interested in killing everyone, no matter the cost. As you subdue your enemies and decrease collateral damage, you become more heroic and beloved by the people of Seattle. You also unlock a separate set of specialty powers that an evil Delsin won’t. Conversely, the more enemies that you kill earns you specialty powers. Smoke and neon both have powers that allow you to subdue or kill your enemies by shooting various parts of their bodies. With neon, shooting the legs of enemies subdues them and headshots disintegrate them. While my favorite playthrough was my hero playthrough, the sense of power and awesomeness that came from my evil playthrough and pulling-off headshots with disregard for bystanders was pretty cool.
Playing similarly to a third-person shooter, inFamous doesn’t shy away from allowing you to decimate your foes in no fewer than four ways. The digitally rendered city of Seattle is beautiful (although I have no idea of how faithfully it was recreated) and the destruction that you can wield across it’s districts is no less so. Dashing throughout the city at night with Delsin’s neon powers leaves behind a glowing trail of color. Shooting up into the sky and rocketing back down to the ground with the force to disintegrate your enemies and destroy most anything around you displays an incredible amount of particles being thrown every which way. Most every power in Second Son is a visual treat. It’s appropriate that Delsin is an artist of sorts because he uses his powers as a beautiful paint and the city of Seattle as an already beautiful backdrop.
What’s slightly less beautiful are the times which traversing the environment gets slightly tedious, which is pretty much any time that you have to climb a building without your powers. One of the reasons that I never got very far in the first inFamous was because of its awful climbing mechanics. For some reason or another I never felt like I was going the right way up a building. While scaling buildings is slightly easier in Second Son, I feel like it is still ages behind the likes of Assassin’s Creed and a few other titles. So it’s a good thing that your powers make traversing vertically a breeze. Unless, of course, you get stuck on the environment while using your powers. While these times are few and far between, they always seemed to crop up at the most inconvenient times. For example, on my expert difficulty playthrough, there was one moment in particular where I contemplated chucking my beautiful new DualShock 4. Then I manned-up and carried on.
Second Son doesn’t just look and feel good, it also sounds good. The voice acting in particular is of note. I cannot remember hearing a line that wasn’t performed well. Along with being voiced well, I feel as if they were all well-written also. Second Son’s antagonist, Brook Augustine, is my favorite character on offer. It’s not that I liked her; I was just very interested in studying her, something that paid off as the main story progressed. I might go as far as to say that Augustine is my favorite villain in recent memory.
While I really enjoyed the main story-line, the side missions were very much… side missions. Rooting out and killing DUP informers, finding audio logs, and subduing drug dealers never felt too stale and finding blast shards this time around was far more tolerable than in previous inFamous titles. However, aside from finding audio logs, none of the side missions really contributed to the story. Clearing the various districts throughout Seattle was fun as they all require different tactical approaches. Besides, I was having too much fun perfecting my use of powers to get bored from pushing the DUP out of the city.
One of the reasons that I really enjoyed inFamous was that the story gave me reason to explore the awesome powers. The original inFamous dropped you in Empire City with an unlikable protagonist and some awesome powers, but even after playing a few hours I really didn’t feel like I had a purpose. Cole was a puppet. Delsin is the farthest thing from a puppet. He might be too “teen-ish” for some people, but the decisions that he makes are far from that not to mention that he has much more personality than previous characters in the series. Second Son is a banquet and Sucker Punch sets its table early for a quality four course meal comprised of visuals, audio, gameplay, and story that whets the player’s appetite and keeps them drooling until the credits roll.