March 21, 2014 by Paul Curtin
An open world and superpowers… it’s the peanut butter and chocolate combination of genres in the video game industry that lets players vicariously live out their fantasies through a character with almost no limits. It’s what videos games have always intended to do and it’s what developer Sucker Punch has been getting better and better at delivering with each and every game they make.
Infamous: Second Son is Sucker Punches first game since the last Infamous and is the first major title to be released by Sony since the PlayStation 4’s launch four months ago. Ending the PS4’s games drought, you’ll no longer assume the role of Cole McGrath from the first two games, and instead come to know the new more charismatic lead, Delsin Rowe, a young adult hipster with a bit of an attitude.
The acting and character development easily outshines anything we’ve seen in previous Infamous games. Sucker Punch have caught a lot of flak over the years for their characters being dull and lacking the star power you would come to expect in a superhero or villain, so it’s good to see them taking the time to address these issues and improve the franchise. While Delsin might first come off a bit immature at times, he’s a normal young adult who’s easy for most gamers to relate to and his maturing is what makes his development an even stronger arc. Delsin’s motion capture animations are some of the best looking in the industry and unlike previous protagonist Cole, he is voiced wonderfully by the industry’s own rising star, Troy Baker.
Cole himself is nowhere to found in this story as it jumps forward seven years after the catastrophic events of Infamous 2. Conduits with special powers are now being rounded up and imprisoned by a special task force known as the D.U.P. which is lead by the ruthless Brooke Augustin. The D.U.P. end up capturing Delsin and his brother, Reggie (who is also voiced amazingly by Travis Willingham), after Delsin comes into contact with an escaped prisoner through which he accidentally gains his own powers and becomes a Conduit himself.
Once caught and interrogated by Augustin, she uses Delsin’s tribe as leverage against him. This is where the morality system comes into play with Delsin having the option to betray his tribe as the villain or sacrifice himself as the hero. Either choice leads to dramatic results and is satisfying whether you want to be good or evil. These decisions don’t have as much of a drastic change on the storyline as you would want and either way after making this difficult decision, Delsin is let go. Seeing what terrible things Augustine has done to their people and is capable of doing to others, Delsin and Reggie head off to Seattle in an effort to get justice and put a stop to the D.U.P.
Sucker Punch’s beautiful take on Seattle makes you wonder how anyone could ever get bummed out by living in the real thing. Taking full advantage of the new hardware on PS4 and not having to cater to the previous generation of systems, Sucker Punch has yet again created the best looking open world urban environment on the console market. The neon lights pop in contrast to the dark skies and it just gets better when it rains and you can see just how detailed the game is with every puddle flawlessly reflecting and rippling the visually-stunning world around you.
But while the level of detail in the level design is phenomenal, life in the city feels slightly dated and more of what you would expect from an open world game on PlayStation 3, not 4. Aside from standing out visually, nothing really stands out as a new or innovative feature that we haven’t already seen done in other open world games. Interesting new characters show up, but they just aren’t utilized enough to make a lasting impression. Missions consist of similar tailing tasks, finding secret agents, or wiping out enemy checkpoints that are required to be repeated over and over again. We’ve been here and done that countless times. There are a few detective style missions that are intriguing, but there aren’t enough to bring this beautiful world to life and keep you around after beating the campaign once.
Like the missions, the superpowers and abilities haven’t received much of an upgrade either. The big change is that now Delsin can consume elements around him to switch between Smoke, Neon, Video, and Concrete. Unfortunately, all four of the powers are too similar and you’ll often find yourself sticking to just the one you like best. For me, it was the Video ability because it allowed for the quickest and most enjoyable form of transportation via launching Delsin flying into the air with wings out of rooftop satellite dishes – a feature the Infamous serious desperately needed and that avoids the repetitive combat encounters you’ll come across on the streets.
Even with the powers feeling similar, I did find myself enjoying them from time to time when everything clicked in chaotic combat situations. But what’s the point of sweet new powers without big challenging bosses to use them against? One of the best parts of Infamous 2 was its addition of giant monster boss fights in the streets. Second Son devolves back to using the generic boring enemies of the first game where quantity is used in favor of quality. Rather than using any form of real strategy most boss fights result in having to run away to seek cover after taking damage… over… and over… and over again.
Even the three main bosses aren’t tests of skill so much as they are tests of patience that require wearing them down hit after hit before you wear down yourself from all the repetition. Thankfully, the soundtrack is amazing and helps keep you motivated at just the right times when you feel your enthusiasm stating to fade.
The true motivator that pushes you forward from start to finish is Delsin and Reggie’s story. Baker and Willingham play off each other like true brothers and the level of detail in each character’s face really brings out a level of emotion that we rarely see in video games. Like any good superhero story, you believe in these character’s struggle, and you want to see them bring justice to those who deserve it.
Sucker Punch has proven once again that they’re one of the best at making great-looking open world games with their latest installment in the series. Repetitive combat and mission issues aside, Second Son is another step in the right direction from the developer who has delivered much-needed improvements to a wide range of areas that needed fixing. Sucker Punch has found their new poster boy with Baker. This is the best Infamous yet. Infamous Second Son gets 4 out of 5 stars (Great).
- Story delivers with amazing characters and voice-acting
- The best looking open world urban environment yet
- Much needed improvements to gameplay
- Awesome soundtrack
- Combat and missions are too repetitive
- Interesting supporting characters aren’t utilized enough
- City looks great but doesn’t have much to offer