Videogame Review: ‘Infamous, Second Son’
Available on: PS4 Exclusive title
I never played the original two InFamous games. They were a franchise that slipped through the cracks for me, for no discernible reason. What’s not to love about super powers and a karmic balance? When the news about Infamous, Second Son released though I was hooked from the first video. It looked fun as well as gorgeous and the final release game lives up to these first impressions well.
Set seven years after InFamous 2, Second Son is the story of Delsin Rowe, a Native American political activist and graffiti artist drawn into the world of super-powered bioterrorism by an accident early in the game. From here on in, the game is a fight to evade, subdue and defeat the DUP – the Department of Unified Protection – a kind of Orwellian government agency tasked with keeping the population safe from the Conduit Menace by any means necessary. At their head is Augustine, a vicious woman who uses her own Conduit abilities to round up, abuse and kill those of her own kind as well as any human sympathisers that get in her way. It is Augustine that serves as Delsin’s prize; if he can collect her power, he can save his people.
That’s where things get interesting in Infamous, Second Son. Delsin’s Conduit ability is similar to the X-Men’s Rogue in that his power is to absorb and then use the powers of other Conduits. There’s no limit, besides the games usual four given to the player, on the number of powers he can collect and all are added to his arsenal. Unlike Cole McGrath, Delsin can do this naturally and requires no device. He is granted the powers of “Smoke” – fiery manipulation – at the game’s outset, acquiring the second powerset “Neon” at around the 20% completion mark.
Switching between powersets is simple. Want to use smoke, just absorb some from a car wreck or smoke stack. This grants abilities like shooting fiery projectiles, heating your chain-weapon to slash at enemies, or becoming literal smoke itself to dash quickly through small openings in fences, gates or through vents to reach high ground. Want to use neon? Easy. Stand under an neon sign and draw the pretty colours downward in a stunning display of particle animations. This grants the ability to run at super speed with a trail of neon behind you even directly up walls, fire bolts of plasma and hurl stasis bombs at DUP enemies and structures, freezing them and causing massive destruction to their towers and vehicles.
The final two powers were kept deliberately secret by Sucker Punch and I’m not going to be the one to spoil them for you here. Needless to say they’re an entertaining and welcome addition and it’s nice to see them branching out from the Fire and Ice elementals of previous games and also not making you choose between them. As said a moment ago, all four powersets are open to you, regardless of karma – what you do with them is up to you. Evil actions (killing enemies rather than subduing them for example) open up bad karmic abilities like executions. Good actions (eg. rescuing civilians from the DUP) open up positive karmic abilities like healing during vent travel.
That said, the switch is a difficult one. You can be quite high on the positive karma trail, do a few too many negative actions and then lose your positive karma bonuses – often without gaining their negative counterpart. It’s advisable to pick a playstyle at the outset and stick with it, going against my personal style of “do what I would do” which tends to tred too much middle ground for the game’s liking.
There are a few disappointments. Despite the day one patch tweaking the pedestrian population, Seattle does still seem remarkably barren. There’s a little traffic here and there, but not as much as I would have hoped. GTAV had more cars on the road and the sidewalk bound pedestrians are frequently replicated, sometimes with as many as four identical models in the same crowd. It seems like something we’d have ditched with the last generation, and I’m hopeful upcoming games like Watch Dogs and The Division deal with this because it’s an irritating holdover.
The second complaint I have is with the Cole’s Legacy DLC. Sadly despite getting the special edition and the download code, I do not have the DLC because it wouldn’t download. Having entered the code, I was thanked for redeeming it, clicked okay and then… nothing. Nothing downloaded. Nothing was put in my cart. Subsequent attempts told me the code had already been redeemed and yet nothing was provided for it. I was told it may be activated as a service, but that too showed nothing. I’m hopeful it simply allows content already on the game’s install but right now, it doesn’t look like it.
It’s still early days of the PS4 but for such a major platform exclusive, and flag bearer franchise, I would have expected a bit more fine tuning to ensure small issues like this did not rear their heads.
InFamous, Second Son though is an excellent addition to the series on the whole and does, for the most part, make use of the PS4’s incredible hardware effectively. It’s stunning to look at – those screencaps above are really what the game looks like. Environmental and weather effects are gorgeous. In a nice bit of serendipity it began raining on screen just as it did at my home. I doubt that’s a feature, but it was pretty great.
It looks great, plays with both familiarity and innovation and has elements that will please both fans of the series and welcome newcomers to the world. If you have played any of the previous InFamous games and liked them, get this. You’ll be pleased. If you haven’t, you should check it out. The fact it’s a PS4 exclusive is a double edged sword; many people without a PS4 have no way to play this, and the console doesn’t have a majority foothold yet by any stretch of the imagination (well, it does but only within the confines of the new generation, not the previous). That said, by not having to meet the requirements of old systems it isn’t held back the way Thief was, and sadly the way I anticipate Watch Dogs to be.
Games made exclusively for the next gen consoles might not have as much player base right away, but they look, feel and play better for the sacrifice and I for one welcome the upcoming games shirking the old in place of the new.