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inFAMOUS: Second Son Review: PS4's first masterpiece

on 20 March 2014

inFAMOUS 2 was a great game that ended with a big question mark. The bold and rather sudden step of killing a main character left gamers wondering what, if anything, was left for the series. On the eve of PlayStation 4's reveal in February 2013, they got their answer--more inFAMOUS was coming, and first-party developer Sucker Punch Productions hoped to leverage PS4's technology to make Sony's open-world, superpowered franchise better than ever. Finally, more than thirteen months of secrecy later, inFAMOUS: Second Son is here, and the industry is about to find out whether Sucker Punch has delivered on the promise of greatness. We think it did.


inFAMOUS has always been a story-driven game, and never before has its story been so good. Sucker Punch has taken great care to keep pretty much everything a secret except a couple powers and the main premise: Delsin Rowe, street-wise vagabond and Conduit, going up against the Department of Unified Protection (DUP). The DUP is out to eradicate Conduits, humans with the genetic capacity to channel environmental sources like lightning and smoke into superpowers. Like Cole MacGrath before him, Delsin's status as a Conduit garners a great deal of mistrust from authority, and when the DUP, in the wake of inFAMOUS 2's events, starts cracking down on Conduit presence and labeling Delsin and co. "bio-terrorists," Delsin channels his anti-authoritarian nature into the greater purpose of liberation.

Frankly, this is not a story you want to hear any more about. Watching it unfold from a blank slate is part of what makes the narrative so enthralling, like a book you’ve never read or a movie you’ve never seen. The characters tell it very well, and the satisfying ending still left me wanting more--understandable, given it took 10 hours to finish the story while having retaken a sizable chunk of Seattle from DUP control via side missions.


A great deal of what sells the narrative is the character acting, and never has the payoff of motion capture been greater. Delsin and the rest of the cast are very expressive, with an impressive range of emotion--fear, anger, joy, sadistic glee--recognizable on their faces. Body animation ties the experience together; I marveled at the natural way Delsin grimaces when he trips the alarm on a Conduit scanner, and at the more natural way he runs, especially in comparison to the somewhat awkward running animations of the previous games.

In addition, the voice acting is some of the best I have heard from a video game. Troy Baker (Delsin) and Travis Willingham (Reggie) sound like they could be best buds in real life—and it’s not just them. The comedic banter between all the characters, the way they talk to and relate to each other, coupled with the well-done character models, help the player get to know them as individuals and invest in their relationships. They are full of life and personality. You can hear and feel Delsin and Reggie's panic as they discover Delsin is one of the feared “Bio-terrorists” that the government is hunting. The main villain is absolutely contemptible, with the kind of acting talent and body cues that convey superiority and true disdain and draw your hatred in ways that only truly great villains manage to do.

Despite the supernatural powers on display, characters feel very human, which grounds Second Son in a next-gen realism I can't wait to see more of.

Overleaf, we check out Second Son's gameplay and graphics.