inFamous: Second Son for PS4
Ok, so my perception of this game was always going to be slightly warped by the fact that it’s my first PS4 game, and first step into the next-gen (sorry Wii U, you don’t quite count). As a purely technical display of the potential for a console, it’s certainly worthy, but it’s actually an extremely fun and compelling game in its own right.
I haven’t played the original two inFamous games, not having had a PS3 last-gen, but you really don’t need to have for this game. It picks up in a world where super-powered humans known as ‘Conduits’ have been re-labelled as ‘Bio-Terrorists’ and are now pursued by the government organisation known as the DUP. The protagonist is Deslin Rowe, a Native American delinquent who discovers his unique Conduit ability to absorb powers from others when a DUP truck crashes on his reservation. Augustine, leader of the DUP and a Conduit herself, arrives and interrogates the tribe to discover if Deslin has powers. They cover for him, but are left with life threatening injuries from Augustine’s concrete power, which can only be cured by Augustine herself. Deslin and his cop brother Reggie travel to the DUP headquarters in Seattle so Deslin can absorb Augustine’s power and save his tribe. There’s a morality system, so the methods Deslin uses to get to Ausgustine will vary between different playthroughs.
The actual plot of Second Son isn’t especially interesting, and attempts some pretty ham-fisted social commentary. An incredibly awkward and out of place Rosa Parks reference is an example. What saves this game is its wide range of compelling and believable characters. Deslin is a great protagonist, one who goes on a genuine character journey, and actually enjoys his super powers rather than moping about them. He’s a funny, likeable protagonist and a refreshing change from the gravelly voiced badasses we’ve gotten used to. Reggie plays a good straight man to Deslin, acting as the game’s moral centre. Augustine is probably my favourite character though; a lot of the best videogame villains are the wackiest, but Augustine plays it fairly straight and dominates each scene simply by her presence.
It’s strange actually, I’m noticing as I write this that I’m talking about these characters like they’re actors. This is probably because Second Son has some of the most genuinely human looking and moving character models that I’ve ever seen. You stop seeing polygonal models very quickly, and just see people. The excellent voice acting and motion capture do a fantastic job at bringing these characters to life. The visuals overall are stunning, with a smooth frame rate throughout. The music is nice too, and ramps up well during the action scenes.
Second Son plays as well as it looks. It’s an open world game, with Seattle being the playground for Deslin to show off his powers. There are four powers, of which I’ll only mention the first two, smoke and neon. Smoke allows Deslin to throw fireballs and blast away foes, where neon is more precise, letting Deslin zap certain parts of his enemies and traverse the environments with greater ease. The movement mechanics are certainly fun, but this is the first open world super hero game that I’ve played where the highlight is actually the combat. You’re encouraged to constantly move around, varying between melee and ranged attacks as well as different powers, with a recharging health bar to keep you on your feet. It’s frantic, but never too chaotic, and I always felt in control of the situation. That line between exciting and chaotic is a difficult one to get right, but Sucker Punch did it with aplomb. There’s a levelling mechanic as well, as Deslin can upgrade his powers by draining ‘shards’ from the world.
The main story isn’t particularly long, but it’s exciting throughout with nothing that felt like filler. The side quests aren’t quite so exciting; they’re focused around liberating Seattle from DUP control, and involve completing a series of missions in each separate area. The problem is that these missions get old fast, and quickly feel like a chore. Much more interesting are the Paper Chase missions, which are being released for free over the course of 6 weeks, and link to your computer with an ARG component. It’s interesting stuff, and even if it doesn’t end up working out, Sucker Punch should be applauded for A) trying something new and B) not charging for it.
inFamous: Second Son is a brilliant display of what this console generation will be capable of, and a damn fun game at the same time. The plot is at its best when not taking itself seriously, and I’d certainly be happy to see Deslin appear again. If you already own a PS4…well, you sort of have to buy it, it’s the only exciting AAA game out there and if, like me you didn’t, Second Son is a great place to start.