Check out the inFAMOUS: Second Son review, which is now part of the September 2017 PlayStation Plus free games line-up. Since the original review, the game has received a PS4 Pro patch.
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 Second Son Story
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.
inFamous Second Son Characters
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.
inFamous Second Son Gameplay
Expanding your powers is, of course, a blast, but especially in the thrill of learning something new. Experiencing Delsin’s shakiness with new powers and helping him turn it into something amazing never gets old. Neither does combat, which is consistently challenging and satisfying without ever feeling overwhelming. From drug dealers to the DUP itself, fighting is fun, and your powers are a big part of it. As you gain new powers, you find that there are places everywhere to recharge them, and switching between them is as easy as draining a corresponding power source, even in combat.
Choice also comes into play. With only a few big turning-point Karma moments to speak of, the Karma system mainly feeds off your mid-gameplay choices. Lethal and nonlethal takedowns, frustrating protesters begging for a beatdown, a surrendering enemy at your mercy—the permutations are plentiful, and giving the player something to think about keeps combat extremely engaging throughout.
Blast shards return from the previous two games, but they are easier to find and very desirable, serving as currency to upgrade your powers. They are also everywhere, so finding them doesn’t usually feel like a chore. This is especially true when the full breadth and destruction level of new abilities becomes apparent; there are pages and pages of available upgrades, and the progression escalates power.
At times, scaling buildings can feel a little slower than in the first games, but then vents are introduced. In seconds, you can use a vent to go from the bottom of a skyscraper to the very top, and vents are plentiful. Then I got neon power and my immediate sentiment was, ‘Well, forget vents. Now I can just run up the wall.’ inFAMOUS has always done traversal well, but never better than here. Traversing Seattle with your powers is amazing fun, especially since travel abilities are different for each power type and don’t drain your resources.
With Second Son’s rendition of Seattle, a totally open world with painstaking detail and a healthy amount of artistic liberty is on offer. Perfectionists and trophy hunters will have plenty to do, but if you would rather just follow the story, you can. By the same token, you could be in the middle of a mission and decide on a whim to chase after a drone carrying a blast shard. Only very key tasks impose a limit on when you can do what you want to.
All told, Second Son carries the sense of exploration, duty, and adventure of an inFAMOUS game. It’s a logical evolution of the series’ mechanics and sensibilities.
inFamous Second Son Graphics
One part of that evolution is Second Son’s visuals, which are simply gorgeous. Warm sunlight glows and reflects in all the appropriate places. The same holds true for other light sources, such as city lights and the neon powers of Fetch, a fellow Conduit. Reflections ground this lighting in realistic application: the sun glints off cars, the sky and skyline are visible in puddles on the street, and mirror images are perfectly rendered in panes of glass. It’s almost redundant to mention that environmental textures are crisp and well-detailed.
If that weren’t enough, particle effects (so many particle effects) are beautifully rendered and move very smoothly. I noticed no strange glitches or graphical quirks, and Delsin’s limbs never awkwardly clipped through a wall or window.
DualShock 4 implementation
Sucker Punch has used the DualShock 4’s features quite intelligently. Most notable is the use of the speaker, which serves up phone rings and conversations on Delsin’s cell. Sound also rushes through the speaker as you drain power. This is strangely pleasant. There’s something about holding the source of the sound in your hands that adds to the experience of the game. That feeling of, ‘I’m sucking up smoke power and I can hear and feel it in my hand,’ is hard to describe, and may sound gimmicky to some, but if Sucker Punch were to patch this game tomorrow and get rid of it entirely, I can honestly say I would miss it.
A couple concerns arose while playing inFAMOUS: Second Son. I even wrote them down, but as I kept playing, I crossed each one out as the game kept addressing them. Scaling buildings feels too slow? Pfft. Now you can run up walls. Retaking city districts from the DUP is getting repetitive? Here are new powers, an awesome story, and more impeccably detailed Seattle to explore.
No game is perfect, but I have spent a lot of time trying to think of a reasonable, significant complaint to hold with Second Son.
I can’t think of a single one.
inFAMOUS: Second Son looks brilliant, sounds brilliant, and plays like a dream. I just finished it, and I already want to play it again. Few games have made me put down my controller at the end and say, “Now THAT was awesome.” inFAMOUS: Second Son has proven itself a rare gem by being one of those games.
I’m going to go back to playing it now.