Developer – Sucker Punch Studios
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Director – Nate Fox
Producer – Brian Fleming
PEGI – 16
Second Son follows on from the dramatic improvements that Sucker Punch made with the second game, and delivers an even greater gaming experience than it’s predecessor. A lot of issues I’d previously had with the InFamous gaming formula were answered, as well as the few initial reservations I’d had when I played the demo at the lock-in event earlier this month, and this is my verdict.
Graphics – 9.5/10
When I first looked at actual gameplay, I noticed that the setting of Seattle, Washington was a lot darker, gloomier, and grittier than either Empire City or New Marais from the first and second games respectively. Although I found that most of the game’s story takes place in the daytime, I felt that it did retain that foreboding atmosphere whenever it turned nighttime, or when it started raining. I felt by that token, the game could also be taken more seriously than it’s predecessors. The fact that the player character’s skin doesn’t turn either black and white or pale if the player decides to take the evil route also means that Second Son can be taken more seriously than the first two games. A graphical element that took me some time to warm to with both InFamous 1 and 2 was the comic book-like cutscenes, but this time around, they play a less prominent role; only being used to explain the backstories of certain characters. To me, that also gave Second Son an even more heightened sense of realism.
Another interesting thing I found about the game’s setting is that whilst it takes place in an entirely different city, there are some elements, which are very reminiscent of the previous games. For example, the DUP booths remind me of the wooden huts in New Marais, and both the Space Needle and the DUP headquarters remind me of Alden’s Tower in the first game. But that’s not to say that they are the only nods to previous games made by Sucker Punch. Their take on Seattle is also littered with Sly Cooper Easter eggs, such as neon signs, billboards, a badge of the Sly Cooper logo on the main character’s jacket, and in a children’s playground, there are drawing on the wall of the three main characters from that series; Sly, Bentley, and Murray. But whilst the game is painstakingly detailed and atmospheric, the visuals lose out on a perfect score on the count of a few graphical glitches here and there. But otherwise, this is one of the most visually compelling games I’ve played for some time.
Gameplay – 9.5/10
Playing the game was equally as exciting as looking at it, and I found it just as enjoyable to play as the other entries in the series. There has never been as much gameplay variety in the series as there is in Second Son, with a much greater arsenal of superpowers at player’s disposal than ever before, a plethora of unique side quests to do aside from the main story, and even a side quest played through the PlayStation 4 and the internet via the website infamouspapertrail.com. Although I was sorry to see the departure of the facility to create missions and share them over the PlayStation Network, and the melee combat isn’t as stylish as in InFamous 2, the final product still makes for some serious fun to be had. The side quests are also literally a lot more creative. One of which involves painting graffiti art around the city. There is also a great incentive for completing the game in the form of an additional superpower.
Controls – 10/10
The fact that I am able to give InFamous: Second Son a perfect score in terms of controls is particularly significant as far as I’m concerned, as I had previously had issues with the control scheme whilst playing through the first two games. This game answered my previous reservations. I found that the biggest problem came with trying to climb walls to reach the top of buildings, but Sucker punch addressed these issues in a number of extremely subtle ways. For example, having smoke powers meant that the character could travel through air vents, instantly taking him from the bottom of a wall to a rooftop with much less difficulty. When the player acquires the neon power, it is also possible to run at inhuman speeds as well as run up walls to the top of buildings, which also made Second Son much easier to cope with than InFamous 1 and 2.
Lifespan – 8/10
Lasting just as long as the previous two games, InFamous: Second Son can make for over 40 hours of gameplay if players choose to play through twice, taking both the good and evil routes. By the same token, there is quite a bit of replay value to be had. However, I do hope that Sucker Punch brings out a few DLC packs in addition to the ongoing InFamous Paper Trail sidequest because the world of InFamous: Second Son is very much worth expanding on further.
Storyline – 8.5/10
Taking place seven years after the events of InFamous 2, the story of InFamous: Second Son follows Delsin Rowe; a member of a native American tribe situated on the outskirts of Seattle. After realizing he is a conduit (a human who can harness superpowers), and after he and his tribe are attacked by Brooke Augustine, a powerful conduit and the leader of the DUP; authorities intent on protecting humans from the threat of conduits (re-branded by them as “bio-terrorists”), he travels to Seattle along with his brother Reggie to harness Augustine’s power and reverse the damage she has done to the rest of Delsin’s tribe. When I first heard that Delsin was going to be an anti-hero in contrast to the previous InFamous protagonist, Cole MacGrath, it made me question how big a role morality would have compared to the previous two games. However, I found that the element of morality plays a much more prominent role in terms of both gameplay and story.
Moral choices affect the outcome of the game to a greater extent, and I also felt that the knock-on effects of how the player chooses to play out the story have much more of an impact on the narrative. But I think the most significant improvement made to the story is that the characters are much more believable and either likable or detestable, depending on what direction the story is taken in. Either way, how Delsin’s character develops throughout the course of the game makes him an even more compelling character than Cole, in my opinion.
Originality – 8.5/10
Overall, despite the improved amount of variety in gameplay, side quests, visual presentation, and story, InFamous: Second Son essentially plays out like the previous two games, and the general premise remains the same. But in all honesty, that’s why I like it so much. I’ve been a fan of InFamous since the series’ inception back in 2009, and although the formula is somewhat similar to Grand Theft Auto, I find InFamous much more enjoyable to play. And what elements that have been added to keep it fresh do well enough to differentiate it from its predecessors, as well as many other games.
In summation, InFamous Second Son for me represents the first look of mainstream excellence in the eighth generation of gaming; it’s intense, atmospheric, explosive, and incredibly exciting. To me, it is unanimously the best game of the first quarter of 2014, and a potential contender for game of the year.