inFamous: Second Son Review

By Darryl Kaye on March 26, 2014

Sony introduced quite a few new franchises into the PlayStation family last generation, with Sucker Punch Production's inFamous being one that succeeded in generating strong critical praise and also sales. This instalment, the third in the series, offers another chance for Sony to show off their new platform with a tried and tested formula and while it offers very impressive visuals, other elements don't quite shine as bright. Still, inFamous: Second Son does its job and does it well.

Second Son takes place in a very different world to the one we saw in inFamous 2. Seven years have passed and the Department of Unified Protection (DUP) has been forced to hunt down and capture all conduits "“ now dubbed as "Bio-terrorists". Such has been the success of their job that the government has decided to transfer control of said bio-terrorists over to the military, which is where the game starts off.

You take control of Delsin Rowe, a bit of a delinquent who is at odds with his brother, the local sheriff. During one of their routine "discussions" the first transport of bio-terrorists crashes right before this eyes. Delsin is taken hostage by one of the escapees and it's at this point that he finds out that not only is he a conduit, but his power allows him to absorb the powers of others.

As expected due to their efficiency, the DUP hunt down one of the escapees in rather quick fashion, but the head of the DUP, Augustine, thinks something is awry and tortures the local villagers using her conduit powers. Delsin then sets off on a rather tenuous revenge mission to obtain Augustine's powers, so that he can remove the concrete in their limbs and save the lives of the remaining villagers.

Yes, it's very noble of Delsin to travel to Seattle and try to take down the head of a benevolent military corporation to save a few lives, but the story has no real drive. You never really feel that bothered about why you're trying to achieve the objective and it's quite funny, because the few times that Delsin does communicate with folks from back home, he tries to cease communication as quickly as possible due to being busy. If anything, the story just promotes a sense of his greed, as his only drive is to just get more powers and seek thrills.

Ignoring the story's somewhat shallow nature, the characters are very good. This is helped by the technical prowess of the PS4, which adds an extra dimension to character interactions, but there are very strong performances from the likes of Troy Baker, Laura Bailey and Travis Willingham. There is so much more emotion in the faces, postures and mannerisms and it makes everything much more sincere.

Gameplay is very slick and smooth, as you'd expect from Sucker Punch. You will start off with a very limited set of moves, but due to Delsin's powers, progression is very quick in inFamous: Second Son.

Delsin's initial power is based around "Smoke", so this means you will be firing projectiles of varying types, tossing out grenades and using your powers to glide around the city. As you progress through the game, you will gain new forms of powers that are pretty original. The first sees you using the power of "neon", but you will also gain the power of "video" and in the end, "concrete".To explain a little bit more, the power of "neon" sees you shooting lights instead of little fireballs and you also have the chance to aim and subdue/execute people will relative ease. Your smoke grenade, which previously stunned people, gets transformed into a shockwave that shoots people up in the air and instead of gliding, you are now able to run super-fast and scale buildings.

When you get the powers of "video" and "concrete" it's the same kind of deal. Your powers remain the same at their core, but deviate slightly in how they work. It means that each of them has a chip-damage projectile, a powerful projectile, etc, but they do create different play styles. For example, the "video" power switches out a "grenade" weapon for the ability to go invisible, but the objective is still to subdue people, just in a different way.

These powers can also be upgraded by using shards that you can collect, but upgrades don't really increase the strength of moves. Instead, they relate to reducing usage costs or improving the storage capacity. It's an interesting decision to have progression in this way in terms of powers and upgrades, but it means that despite the fact there are quite a few different "move sets" offered by the different powers, it isn't actually all that expansive.

In many ways, this is quite disappointing. Yes, the powers do show off some technical prowess, but it feels as though the game has played it safe and hasn't pushed the franchise on. Creativity is shown in the different power types, that can't be brought into question, but the basic move sets aren't all that different from what we saw in the previous two games.

Although it's still early days for the PlayStation 4, inFamous: Second Son again shows off the technical capabilities of the console. We've already highlighted how this affected the interpretation of the story, but there are so many little things that add to the experience. Each of the different power types need to be recharged or interchanged by absorbing that specific medium "“ this is no different to Cole MacGrath. However, it's a lot more special this time around.

Smoke is pretty obvious "“ you can absorb this from numerous sources including blown up vehicles. It's the additional powers that are a bit more unexpected. For Neon, you need to absorb the light from Neon signs, something which is very granular. You can absorb individual shop signs or huge placards and when done at night, the lighting can dramatically change. The same applies to the video power, which sees you having to absorb the power from TVs and huge advertising boards showing visuals.

Second Son is an open world experience and the game makes it feel like a very open world. You can look off into the distance and see a bustling city, but there isn't actually all that much to do. Aside from the story, the only other main objective is to turf the DUP out of Seattle by performing the same tasks in every single region. It gets a little bit monotonous and it can be done without too much trouble. You will be able to 100 percent remove the DUP and complete the story in under 15 hours and then you are just left with the classic inFamous option of playing through the game as the opposite karma. The main disappointment here is that there's no New Game+ option "“ you have to start all over again with nothing. It means you might end up in the unfortunate scenario of clearing the city of the DUP, inheriting a rather cool power, but having nothing to warrant using it against.

Final Thoughts

inFamous: Second Son is a great technical achievement for Sucker Punch. The new powers showcase the granularity that an open world game can have in this generation, while the cutscenes are a lot more personable thanks to enhanced facial mannerisms and emotion. There's just not much else that drives the inFamous franchise on. The new powers are fun, but they are quite familiar at their core and for a sandbox game, there isn't actually a great deal to do. It's a game that feels very safe, but will hopefully lay the groundwork for inFamous to wow us later in this console generation.

Performances by the actors shine through.
Visuals are very impressive.
Experiencing the new powers for the first time.
There's no new game plus option.
You would expect more content from a sandbox game.
Doesn't do a great deal to push the franchise to the next level.
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