Second son comes close to first
Let me start off by saying that “Infamous 2” was one of the first games I ever earned a platinum trophy in because I just couldn’t stop playing it. I may not have put as many hours into it as I have games like “Skyrim” or “Far Cry 3,” but I vacuumed up the content it had to offer quicker than a Dyson. The same can be said about my experience with “Infamous: Second Son.”
The third installment of Sucker Punch’s “Infamous” series starts off with paint cans set to full-auto in the hands of our new hero (or antihero), Delsin Rowe. This charming, denim-wearing punk-rock delinquent has a mischievous but cultured past. However, the real star of the show is Delsin’s “conduit” powers. His recently realized ability to absorb other conduits’ powers quickly earns him the capability to bend smoke at his will. This is where the fun begins.
I don’t care who you are or where you’re from — everyone, at some point, has wondered what life would be like with superpowers. These fantasies come to life in “Second Son” in ways you’ve probably never imagined. Being able to control elements like smoke and neon put you behind the wheel of an unstoppable, power-hungry gaming machine. Effortlessly gliding from rooftop to rooftop and charging up the walls of skyscrapers is empowering. Never before have I played a game with such a spectacular sense of freedom and movement.
But that’s not to say that each of Delsin’s powers are alike. Using the four elements you come to obtain makes you feel like some sort of hipster Avatar. Where smoke is intangible and explosive, neon is fluid and elusive. These same attributes apply to the offensive aspect of Delsin’s abilities. Firing smoke missiles from your hands and turning your enemies to ash is a total contrast to neon’s precise lasers and devastatingly quick melee attacks.
These opposing powers are further enriched by the game’s karma system. Good karma allows the player more control of their actions, but sacrifices evil karma’s raw destructive power. Subduing live enemies feels clean and tidy, but admit it: Part of you is always going to want to unleash hell upon all who stand before you, enemy or not.
And it’s never looked better. “Second Son”’s Seattle setting is as flawless as it is gorgeous. The lighting alone is something to marvel at, and each and every explosion and environmental texture is beautiful. It might be safe to say that offline lag is a thing of the past, whether that can be attributed to Sucker Punch’s programmers or the PlayStation 4’s raw processing power. I don’t care as long as I get to keep blowing up everything around me in seamless, stunning HD.
“Second Son”’s narrative is arguably the weakest point of the game. Not only is the story predictable, it’s a cookie-cutter replica of previous “Infamous” games. We’ve seen it all before: A woman with powers of her own is leader of the Department of Unified Protection, a military-like organization out to demonize and capture all known conduits. Delsin fights back and rescues said conduits, only to end up fighting one in the end over the future of their own kind.
This second-rate story could have at least been split up into two differing narratives based on each specific karma path, but regardless of what you choose, the result is the same.
The karma system isn’t as fleshed-out as it could be, either. The choices you make are so blatantly black and white that they practically cease to require any real thought. Want to be good? Pick blue. Want to rain fire upon the city and watch it burn with a smile? Pick red. It’s that simple.
The next generation of gaming has promised advancement in both gameplay and storytelling. “Second Son”’s gameplay keeps that promise, but its narrative falls very short. That being said, its script is incredible. Despite disappointingly stereotypical characters, the dialogue between them is witty and well-written. As cliche as it is, the dynamic between Delsin and his do-good police officer brother helps to establish Delsin as a character and adds a fair bit of humor to the mix.
The reason “Second Son”’s story was arguably the worst aspect of the game is because it’s rivaled by the lack of content it has to offer. Each of Seattle’s dozen or so districts has the same five or six objectives to complete. Think “Assassin’s Creed” — the first one. That’s how repetitive “Second Son”’s content is. While it’s still fun to go destroy security cameras and capture secret agents with awesome superpowers, the size of this game along with the quality of the gameplay forces me to be critical of how little there really is to do.
The number of possibilities for subplots based either upon supporting characters, Delsin’s past or additional conduits are plentiful, but “Second Son” fails to deliver on all accounts. Limited editions of the game include two short DLC missions, one of which uses second-screen technology cleverly and is mostly effective.
However, I would argue that content like this should have been included in the game to start with, given how minimal “Second Son”’s variety of content is.
I wanted to love “Second Son,” and it turns out that I do. But it isn’t the PlayStation-exclusive powerhouse I wanted it to be. As fun as it is to fly around a detailed Seattle with an arsenal of incredible powers at your fingertips, the lack of things to do with these powers is unfortunate. What could have been the poster-child for next-gen consoles ends up being nothing more or less than a great game with even greater potential.
“Infamous: Second Son” is a must-play for any PS4 owners or fans of the original series. This game is a blast and a great way to spend a couple dozen hours. But the fun stops there, as the content ceases to satisfy.
However, just as “Infamous” laid the foundation for the incredible improvement that was “Infamous 2,” “Second” Son has set the stage for a possible knockout followup. It’s too early to tell if a sequel is in the works, but I certainly hope “Infamous”’ reign as one of the most fun series out there doesn’t end any time soon.