Sucker Punch really is one of my favorite developers. I seldom run into a game made by them that I would describe as bad. Both the Sly Cooper series that they originated and the inFamous series which they began, and are now continuing with Second Son, have been stellar gaming experiences, with some minor annoyances here and there. So along comes Second Son, on the PS4. I had high hopes for it, as it’s probably the first game Sony showed off at various game announcement shows that looked like it belonged in the Next Gen. I think we should see how it turned out.
So lets get this out of the way immediately, as it is perhaps Second Son‘s greatest selling point. The game looks amazing. Finally the PS4 has a game that looks next gen right off the bat. The Xbox One had Forza and Ryse, games that looked amazing, on launch day. To put it mildly, Sony didn’t. The games were pretty cool, bordering on awesome, but other than the train wreck that is Battlefield 4, none of them really looked all that impressive. Second Son is such a game. Be it the amazing facial expressions on the main characters or in the way it shows off a fictional Seattle, I think Sucker Punch have done awesome job in bringing this game to market.
The story itself is a bit on the short side. Delsin Rowe, our intrepid hero/dastardly villain is a young man who is looking for a way to express himself. When we join him, he has chosen to deface a billboard by spray painting it. After thinking he has outsmarted the police, he suddenly finds himself in the path of an army vehicle carrying three Conduits, or bio-terrorists as they are now called. Delsin stops one from killing his brother and manages to acquire his power, and then we’re off to the races.
Second Son actually does feel like the developers wanted to get the acquiring powers portion of the game over with as quickly as possible. Soon after getting any of your core skill sets, you will quickly find yourself being herded from place to place to unlock new powers to compliment your new ability. In some ways it makes sense; this is the third major game in the series and I think even Sucker Punch is tired of making you wait for your powers, so kudos for that. I can’t help but feel, though, that this rush to give you new abilities kind of makes the entire game feel like it’s moving faster than it needs to. You wind up unlocking your new ability and then complete three or four main missions before moving onto the next ability. This being an open world game, you can of course choose to take your time and complete the side missions to liberate neighborhoods, but aside from the extra opportunities you get to fill your karma bar one way or the other, there is no real need to liberate sections of the city.
As such, the game has to stand on the main storyline, and because it’s inFamous, it has to stand on the two versions of the storyline. After playing both to completion, I have to say that although the hero portion of the game is very compelling and made me want more, the villainous side didn’t exactly feel all that polished. Your brother, who is a cop by the way, continues to aid you in your quest long after it’s established that you’re exactly the kind of bio-terrorist that he is sworn to defend innocents against. There isn’t even any change in most of the dialogue. Some characters do, in fact, change depending on your karma level, but it just felt a little strange that your brother the goody goody wasn’t one of them.
Your powers are acquired when you defeat three other Prime Conduits, that is, people who grow into the ability. Each of these characters are interesting, and the story changes depending on what side of the law you find yourself on, so at the very least you aren’t just fighting the same missions twice. The main enemy is a lady by the name of Brooke Augustine who commands a government agency, the Department of Unified Protection, or D.U.P. She too is a Conduit, but she uses her powers to protect humanity from the Conduits by locking them all up in a Guantanamo Bay style prison. She actually feels quite a bit like Magneto in a lot of ways, because you can sympathize with her motives and the game will make you question who is the hero and who is the villain. Sadly, because she is the final boss, you won’t get her power until after the story ends, and by then many people may just stop playing, having finished the story. This was a poor decision, as you have very little time to play with a very cool power. Yes, you can play after the story ends, but it’s not as interesting to be doing it afterwards.
The story of super powered people fighting against a government trying to strip them of their rights and keep them from the normals is not something new. I’ve seen it said that this game has the X-Men written all over it, and I can’t disagree, but I also found more than a little commentary on the willingness of Americans to give up their rights for the perceived safety that all of this extra security is bringing them. What would you do if you suddenly had the ability to fight back against what you feel is an injustice?
The gameplay is standard inFamous. Many of the powers resemble those found in prior games. Each of them has a hover mode, for example. Some of the powers are just too similar though. Why should I use the Smoke power if Neon has the same ability, and really now, is TV a super power? We are bordering on the nonsensical there. Just turn your brain off at that point. Don’t worry, the game does manage to avoid going off the deep end. At least the final power of Concrete seems more plausible.
You can unlock new powers by finding and absorbing shards, though it’s never revealed if these are the same shards as those found in the first two games. The different power trees have abilities which can only be unlocked by those on the good side of karma or on the bad side. The parkour thing has been diminished this time around, with Delsin taking more of a standard approach to running around. I don’t know, maybe I just don’t notice him doing it because I’m scooting around with my super abilities much more quickly this time around.
The sound design is fantastic, even going so far as to succeed at incorporating the speaker on the joystick in a way that isn’t corny. It plays your phone’s ring tone, and at one time will be the speaker in a fallen security guard’s helmet. The voice acting is superb. Delsin’s voice actor manages to convey the hopeful optimism of a hero as well as the malice of a corrupted soul as the villain as the two stories go. All of the supporting actors are excellent too. Each of them gives a strong performance, and when combined with the character models and their terrific facial expressions, it’s hard not to be excited for what might be possible with this generation of consoles.
I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a more direct reference to Cole McGrath. You see glimpses of his story in Augustine’s back story, but for the most part you are limited to catching glimpses of his name on different store signs. Note that I did not get the limited edition version of the game, which apparently contains a mission which explains some things.
Short Attention Span Summary:
inFamous: Second Son is a terrific game, but a little on the short side, especially compared to the last gen inFamous titles.
What Video Game Release for January 2014 are you most excited for?
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