Attempting to take the inFAMOUS series in a new direction, Sucker Punch once again dons the mantle of superheroes with inFAMOUS: Second Son. Its protagonist, locations, and powers might be new, but this PS4 exclusive doesn’t stray far from its roots. Using super powers in such an elaborate city makes for both a frustrating and fantastical journey. Are you destined to be the hero of an occupied Seattle or will you let it all burn? The choice is always yours.
For open-world games it’s all about location and Seattle captures the spirit of Second Son. Its characters and personalities are reflections of the city’s misfits, feeding off that anti-establishment energy. Many of the cutscenes were moved in-engine and between solid voice acting and facial capture, you won’t miss the graphic novel style from past games. Hero, villain, or bystander; everyone looks great! The D.U.P., a personification of a corrupt police state, have built themselves into the city itself. Early checkpoints make for destructible environments as the city sheds its D.U.P. skin, but their endgame presence becomes a bit more permanent. If you can’t destroy something from the D.U.P. though, then more often than not you can tag it with graffiti. These new side missions, used for the purpose of characterization, attempt to encourage those feelings of karmic revolution, but they aren’t much fun. The process of tagging is pretentious, with its silly motion controls and Banksy-esque conclusion. Tagging makes the environment more colorful, but even then, having a more unique style might have made it cool individually. Instead, your tag of choice seems solely based on good or evil.
Like past games, the world responds to your actions with adulation or hate and many things take on one of two looks, a very clear duality. This separation between hero and villain appears as little nuances in your powers and some minor aesthetics. It is deliberately black and white, ignoring life’s grays. Enemies on the other-hand are just as uninformed as the architecture they inhabit... so much so, you’ll often find it difficult to tell a grunt and super-powered enemy apart. Until they’re smashing your face into the ground, that is. Mini-bosses do stand out with whirlwinds of energy and concrete. Unfortunately the sensation of uncertainty from the often unpredictable enemy design feels like a misstep. That same misstep somehow found it’s way into the mission structure, adding to the confusion. Objectives will occasionally be vague and leave you to wander for a bit before you’re corralled towards the finish line. It by no means breaks the game, you just end up feeling lost sometimes. It’s quite different when you’re in combat, where being lost will get you killed.
With inFAMOUS being an open-world superhero sim, what it all comes down to is the quality of the powers. In Second Son, the powers are a breath of fresh air to superhero fans! Each provides a unique approach to traversing the city and dispensing with the D.U.P.. The Smoke power creatively uses the building ventilation systems, Neon turns you into a magnetic ray of light and there are other powers which defy gravity altogether. These new powers make you feel god-like, especially when the human aspect of parkour can be a bit finicky. The main character Delsin’s quick access to the height advantage becomes a huge factor when planning your route through an enemy checkpoint. In between being wrapped up in the story, you’ll spend a lot of time disarming D.U.P. Mobile Command stations. These heavily guarded barracks will unlock new side missions and more ability shards once you demo them, gradually winning over a district, concluding in a District Showdown. Win that final fight, the district is yours. You’ll need the to max out those superpowers to survive, though.
The powers Delsin wields are a feast for your eyes. All the animations look authentic, filled with vibrant particles and meaty attacks. With each new power comes a story-guided tutorial introducing light and heavy projectiles, melee combat, and interesting perks. Special Attacks are fueled by karmic behavior, so as long as you’re behaving in-line with your hero/villain path, the more often you will be able to unleash massive amounts of devastation. My favorite was the Orbital Drop, making quick work of D.U.P. hardware and doing it in style. Many abilities branch karmically using the shards, offering less-than-lethal improvements for heroes and damage amplifiers to villains. Injuring citizens for any reason typically results in bad karma, so heroes be cautious when you decide to drop the bomb on an enemy. The start of the game forces you to establish the karmic influence immediately and its narrative essentially locks you into the choice throughout the campaign, for better or worse.
This clear diverging path follows the same philosophy of all games in the franchise, making it hard to fault the design choice. At the same time, the illusion of choice seems almost unnecessary at this point, with the expectation that no matter what you do, this game expects you to playthrough it more than once. This is because at the very start of the game, you will choose the hero or villain path, and be generally locked into that orientation. The karma choices this series is known for are present, but in order to progress your story and powers rely on your previously determined part as hero or villain. This means you cannot easily mix light and dark.
One would think that with as many difficult choices our heroes have made in the fiction of comics that there could be a path between the black and white, where your choices matter, but this isn’t that type of game. Does your experience suffer? Not really. At its core, inFAMOUS knows what it wants itself to be and wanting more only means that you already have something really great to start with.
Altogether my experience with inFAMOUS is one supercharged adventure from two separate perspectives. There are shortcomings in the way objectives are communicated at times and tedious karmic activities you’re required to engage in. This a game all about being a superhuman and using your powers to accomplish a task. The visually stunning world of inFAMOUS, with wonderful new powers and engaging combat makes its shortcomings easily overlooked. If you’re look for an altogether a fun-filled journey through Seattle, then look no further than Second Son.
|ScrewAttack's News Director Sean Hinz worked in logistics for over four years before decided it was time to switch industries. After a couple years spent getting an MBA and freelancing, he finally found a home at ScrewAttack.com. As far as games go, Sean likes to play anything he can get his hands on, but especially enjoys third-person action RPGs. Is that really a genre?|