inFamous Second Son takes the open sandbox world to a whole new level as the latest AAA PlayStation 4 (PS4) release, which lets the player run, fly and blow up whole streets of Seattle with amazing visuals.
The third instalment of the inFamous franchise produced by Sucker Punch Studios, after 2009’s inFamous and 2011’s follow-up inFamous 2, both on the PS3, inFamous Second Son is perhaps one of the first game releases on the next-gen console to live up to the standard in terms of visuals and performance.
Set seven years after the events of inFamous and inFamous 2, which saw the protagonist Cole MacGrath killed following his battle with The Beast, in Second Son, the player takes on the role of Delsin Rowe, the typically smart-mouthed bad boy of a small town in Washington State where he and his Akomish Native-American tribe find themselves on the end of a prison van crash that releases two ‘conduits’, people with superpowers like the previous games’ protagonist, Cole.
When Delsin goes to help Hank, one of the conduits, he inadvertently finds he is a conduit himself and takes on the fire power that the ‘bioterrorist’ possesses.
In terms of gameplay, right from the get-go you can see the power of the PS4’s visuals as the game weans you into the controls in Delsin’s little seaside town featuring a setting sun.
In the early stages, the player is led down a very specific track to understand the controls which, from the off-set, gain increasing complexity as time goes on.
However, unlike the early gameplay, choice becomes a major factor in not just the type of weapons you use on enemies or route to follow, but also the entire story of the game changes based on your ‘karmic choice’, presented just before you begin your sandbox adventure.
After Hank escapes, Delsin attempts to chase and stop him before he creates any further carnage in the small town. Unfortunately for both Delsin and Hank, the government’s newly formed bioterrorist unit, the Department of Unified Protection (DUP), has sent in its own conduit, Brooke Augustine, who has the ability to create and manipulate concrete.
When Augustine and the DUP capture both Delsin and Hank, the player is given the choice of either giving himself up as a conduit or sacrificing his tribe for his own benefit.
After Augustine starts to slowly kill the town with her powers, Delsin goes to find a way of reversing the concrete poisoning that Augustine has inflicted on them.
The karma mechanic has been an integral part of the series to date, but Second Son has ramped up the importance as the player’s choice in this early stage sets the course for the rest of the game’s plot.
Personally, any time the option to choose between doing good or bad in a computer game, I have generally sided towards the good as a natural default. As computer games become more like Hollywood blockbusters, should our characters not mirror the good vs evil we see on screen?
To hell with that. In my own play-through of the game I decided to be evil and sacrifice the tribe. For the rest of the game, the player is rewarded karmic points based off this one decision. If, like me, you decided to go the evil route, you will be rewarded for partaking in arguably sadistic behaviour, such as killing civilians and police officers, silencing protesters, blowing up detaining cells and even taking out buskers.
When you put it into perspective, it can almost be argued that it takes the moral outrage aimed at games like GTA5 that step further as you’re actively encouraged once you choose to go evil to be evil.
In games like GTA, you can, in theory, limit your actions to the storyline and leave the civilians to carry on about their business.
If you choose good, the opposite is obviously the case. Aside from causing mayhem flying or running around using a variety of powers like flames, the karmic choices are intersected throughout the main storyline to guide you to one of two finishing storylines.
Excellent fighting mechanics
Thankfully, you’re not restricted to one or the other but sticking to your originally chosen karmic choice will lead to faster progression.
When not playing the main storyline, you can decide to clear zones in the city by doing side missions, such as takedown surveillance cameras or killing secret DUP agents before clearing the zone with a final shootout.
In terms of the opponents you come against, like the DUP soldiers, there’s enough of a variety, from the regular foot soldiers with machine guns, to the powerful conduit soldiers who shoot across from building to building and are, refreshingly, a formidable bunch of enemies that don’t just run around like headless chickens.
This can be seen especially during the final shootouts and combat scenes which are, in theory, very similar each time, yet you never feel as if it’s just a rinse and repeat approach as the decisions by some of the enemies feels totally random.
There are the traditional bosses also, which make for a considerable challenge like all bosses should do.
Not one for standard weaponry, Delsin rather uses his special powers to blast, explode and subdue (when I began to feel bad for my evil actions) his opponents, which he gains by extracting power from everyday things, such as smoke or lights dotted throughout the city.
The actual engaging of combat is immensely enjoyable from the start and has a pace and enjoyment factor that many games in the past have failed to engage enough with the player.
Blaze of glory
As I had touched on earlier, the visuals and colours on screen are an absolute joy to behold, particularly in the heat of the action when, like in the early stages, you manipulate the forces of fire and even neon to your tactical advantage.
The neon in particular was an early highlight as you run through the streets of Seattle leaving a bright, luminous pink trail behind you.
The lighting of the city, whether it’s a puddle on the ground or a reflection off a building, is really pushing the graphical power of the console, which makes for a city you’re happy just to run around and explore, with its little bits of detail scattered throughout for the gamers, like me, who enjoy a bit of exploring open worlds.
As Delsin’s character was previously a master of parkour, the activity whereby people jump and swing through everyday city objects, you can scale buildings, ladders, drainpipes and windowsills with incredible ease, which makes the gameplay incredibly fluid; the same goes for jumping on to streetlights, monorail tracks and ledges to make that next jump.
Climbing the Seattle Space Needle was one example where the dizzying heights is truly felt as you cling to the side of a satellite dish.
Negatives – few and far between
Of course, there’s some downsides, which does produce the odd audible sigh, many of which were plot-related.
Delsin, for example, is not exactly a loveable lead. His character delves into the annoying on a frequent basis and appears to be stuck in Generation X while everyone else is trying to shake off the term Generation Y.
Likewise, characters he meets in-game have weird missing time periods where, for example, you are trying to chase and stop one character one minute, and then you’re their best buddy the next with no dialogue in-between.
In terms of mechanics, the game is very fluid and enjoyable. That is, until we get to the novelty spray-painting tasks, which appear to be there solely to show off the PS4’s gyroscope by turning it sideways and aiming at a canvas to spray.
The problem is, you find yourself constantly inverting it and missing completely as it tries to line up with the console which quickly loses any enjoyment.
Overall, this is a very solid, and most importantly, fun game and arguably puts it as the best game to be released so far on the PS4. Good game mechanics and amazing visuals are its biggest pluses which is only let down marginally by a relatively straight-forward storyline.
Platforms: PS4 only