Written by: Corey Bonanno, Special to CC2K
Infamous: Second Son is downright beautiful. It’s the first title to show off the power and promising future of the Playstation 4. Sucker Punch Studios has really flexed their might and intentions to be considered even keel with Naughty Dog Studios (creators of Uncharted) in Sony’s stable of first-party developers. With a believable new protagonist, solid set of core powers, and a city brought to life through graphical accomplishment, Infamous: Second Son has set the standard for the PS4’s future.
The story takes place seven years after the events of the original two titles, leaving behind series protagonist Cole McGrath. Second Son introduces a new set of characters and struggles for newcomers to jump into without feeling lost. The game begins with small-town delinquent, Delsin Rowe, tagging graffiti over a large billboard of his brother Reggie, the town’s sheriff. At the sound of approaching sirens, Delsin books it to a party his tribe is throwing across the bay. Upon his return, Delsin is greeted by his brother and immediately questioned about the billboard and his whereabouts at the time. Almost out of nowhere the story goes into a sequence of events involving the overturning of a conduit transport vehicle on the road right in front of both Delsin and Reggie mid-argument.
Hank, a prisoner on the transport vehicle, makes a quick escapes out the back of the vehicle. Upon spotting Reggie in full sheriff garb, he grabs Delsin from behind and takes him as hostage. It is during this skirmish that he unknowingly causes Delsin’s conduit genes to activate. Delsin discovers his power is to steal other conduits powers through touch and that he has absorbed Hank’s smoke-based abilities. A chase ensues, and Hank simultaneously spews details of how the Department of Unified Protection is holding conduits in an off-shore prison facility where they are labeled “bio-terrorists”. Shortly after, the D.U.P arrives in the town, and threatens Delsin and his tribe with violence for not cooperating with their questioning. Brooke Augustine, the head of the D.U.P and a conduit herself, punishes the village by stabbing concrete into their bones. Augustine sets herself up immediately as quite the villain, her intentions as a character are known from the moment you meet her.
Delsin takes it on himself to save his people, but he must travel to Seattle where the D.U.P has set up shop, and completely shut down the city. He hopes to absorb Augustine’s power of concrete and use it to remove the otherwise fatal concrete daggers from his friends. Along the way, he meets the other escaped conduits and can choose how to meld them, whether he redeems them on their path and creates a team of do-gooders, or shapes them into narcissistic psycho-killers. What ever choices you make affect how the narrative is shown to you, the dual sides of Delsin and those who take up his cause.
Karma, a regular staple in the Infamous series is back, and almost more black and white than ever before. There is absolutely no middle ground, but it does allow for extremely different play styles and warrants at least two play-throughs of the campaign. In one story mission, you choose to either shut down a drug operation and rescue kidnapped prostitutes, or go on a murder spree of protestors across the city. Morality is a tough system to pull off in video games, but it is blatantly one sided in Second Son. Playing as a hero and paragon of the city, Delsin’s character feels believable and it really seems like the appropriate choice for the mood of the game. At the same time, evil Delsin just comes off as a serious moody brat and quite frequently just a plain ol’ shitty dude. The Karmic sides do affect the path of your power options with specific traits to powers depending on alignment.
The cast of characters is rather small and you don’t spend as much time with them as I would have liked. The performance of, Fetch, the neon wielding conduit and ex junkie, really stuck out to me. The characters step in to Delsin’s life and then step out for long periods of time, which left me wanting more substance. However, this allows for the introduction of the next conduit for Delsin to absorb the power of and for the decision of whether to corrupt or redeem them. This isn’t to understate the pacing of Second Son, because it is super slick. The game is constantly sweeping you through the narrative with such strength that you might not notice the absence of the supporting cast. It wasn’t until they showed up again that I noticed just how long it had been between interactions. However, it could also be my opinion simply because of how easily I was distracted by all the side activities in order to quench my unending thirst to eradicate the D.U.P presence in all the districts of Seattle.
The powers you acquire in the game are a gorgeous presentation of particle effects, the particles draining down from a neon sign and filtering into Delsin’s hands is an animation that never gets old. Popping in and out of ember rich smoke clouds, darting between enemies, and then whipping them into obliteration is beyond satisfying. Each power set has its own unique look and the special abilities that you build up to through submitting or killing enemies are stunning and viscerally satisfying. Traversal of the city changes drastically with the power you choose. Personally, I found neon was the way to go for crossing the city at rapid speeds and I found it especially useful with its time slowing targeting system to incapacitate troops for a boost in good karma. However, there is a repetitive problem in the powers. They all rely on the same functionality of each other and feel a bit pallet swapped. Combat overall had a frantic and enthralling quality, so it didn’t become dull as quickly as I expected. The amount of time spent fleeing to safety for a quick health regeneration, returning to the fight, and having to flee again was definitely an issue. It was quite disruptive, but I still found the precision and gritty beat downs satisfying enough to keep me entertained for all fifteen hours I’ve spent in the game.
Visually, Infamous: Second Son achieves something refreshing and exciting for what the future holds. With a city that is beautifully realized and rich with impressive lighting and weather effects, Seattle looks like an authentic representation with a dystopian twist. For all that is glossy and colorfully built up in the sandbox, it still feels a bit empty, lifeless. With the current generation consoles upon us, I absolutely expected a more populated and involved city dynamic, but it is early in the life-cycle to predict(?) what will come.
Infamous: Second Son, is a must own game for Playstation 4 owners. Though not perfect, and at times feeling a bit stiff and outdated in its gameplay mechanics and sandbox structure, it excels in as a demonstration in the systems capabilities. Sucker Punch has created the standard for all PS4 games in the future, but I don’t believe it will take to long to raise that bar again. Infamous is fun and does give you a sense of power over the environment, it succeeds in providing players a freedom in play-style and combat strategy with the superpowers and mobility it offers. I hope to see a sequel involving Delsin Rowe. He turned out to be an enjoyable and involving protagonist, and there is definitely substance to the overall enjoyable series. I hope that together, Sucker Punch and Delsin continue to evolve with the PS4 and will bring out the true potential the series has. Infamous: Second Son is a successful and beautiful installment with its own hang-ups, but don’t let it deter you from seeing for yourself.
Infamous: Second Son earns an impressive 8.0 out of 10