For this current generation, those games exist as well. Ryse: Son of Rome features stunning graphics but extremely repetitive combat and a forgettable story, whereas Killzone Shadowfall suffers from a near identical fate, and Knack has been an all around mess. But one other inevitable fact from every console launch is that fans usually remember with the utmost fondness that first game that solidifies each console as having “arrived”.
Just a few short weeks ago, Xbox One received their flagship title in the form of the multiplayer-only shooter Titanfall, which Evan gave a glowing review. Now the Playstation 4 has it’s long-awaited release, Sucker Punch Studios’ inFAMOUS: Second Son. The third in the series, Second Son ditches the heroic efforts of inFAMOUS regular Cole MacGrath in favor of a new protagonist, the Akomish (the fictional Native American tribe he belongs to) Delsin Rowe. The young Delsin is a rebel at heart, he goes out of his way to stand in the face of his brother Reggie, the authoritative Sheriff who joins Delsin on his journey to infamy.
For the uninitiated, the world of inFAMOUS is basically pulled straight from the pages of your comic book youth, a world which has recently come to learn of the existence of a super-powered mutation in the human genome known as conduits. The first two games centered around the aforementioned Cole as he dealt with the initial outbreak of Conduits and the world’s struggle to accept them, as well as adapt. Now, however, Second Son takes place 7 years following the very public events of inFAMOUS 2, with a world that now fears and controls conduits even going so far as to blanket them all under the term bio-terrorist.
The head of the government agency tasked with rounding up and subduing all bio-terrorist, the Department of Unified Protection (D.U.P.) is Brooke Augustine, who introduces herself in the opening moments of the game as a truly horrific and imposing force. A bio-terrorist herself, the motives behind her methods to eliminate the conduit threat remain a mystery for most of the game, but her use of powers, specifically concrete-based attacks, is ruthless and sets her up as a very easy to hate character.
The story of inFAMOUS isn’t going to blow anyone away, though I can say it is a step up from the previous entries. While Second Son features much of the same tropes as it’s predecessors, in the terms of gaining new abilities and unlocking upgrades through the collection of items spread throughout the world, a cast of funny albeit underdeveloped side characters to help and deter the hero along the way, the narrative of Second Son is stronger, and wraps the player in more than it has in the past. You feel for the Akomish tribe who’ve been attacked by Augustine, for Delsin who learns very early in the game that he, too, is a bio-terrorist and his brother’s struggle to accept Delsin’s fate of not being “normal”.
Much of that is likely do to the presentation of Second Son. In terms of the crop of games available on the new consoles, inFAMOUS is far and away the best looking game we’ve seen on either system. The power of the Playstation 4 is on full-display in this early effort and it’s clear quite quickly that this is a game that simply couldn’t have existed in the previous generation. You get attached to Delsin thanks to the tremendous performance of gaming’s hardest working voice talent, Troy Baker, and the performance capture used to accurately depict his emotions throughout the game. Delsin is possibly the most realistic looking character I’ve ever seen in a game, and Bakers performance is top-notch. Every word comes out with deep-carved lines of concern or anger in his face, his skin features textures and tones that help him appear more lifelike than what we’ve seen before, and while he may look a step above his supporting cast, Sucker Punch has taken great care to make the difference negligible at best, to help avoid a disparity for the player.
But Delsin isn’t alone in his beauty in Second Son. The world of Seattle, the first time the series has seen a real-life city, is on full display in second son. From destructible D.U.P. bases scattered through the city to well known land-marks like the Space Needle, this is a living city the has as much beauty and expression as the characters that inhabit it. That beauty is clearest to the player at night, when Delsin has progressed beyond his first acquired power of smoke, and gains the power to absorb energy from neon signs to run and jump through the streets with a beautiful lighting system that shows accurate reflections on every surface, from passing cars to rain-slicked streets and puddles, everything lights up at night, and shows the power of this hardware. It’s a joy just getting around the city and seeing the intense care and effort put into creating this world.
Really, inFAMOUS is about power. The quest for power, the stifling and controlling of power, and the unending thirst for more power. Second Son does it’s job incredibly well when it comes to making the player feel all-powerful. As Delsin continues to upgrade his abilities through the collection of blast shards scattered throughout Seattle, dispatching D.U.P. officers in the streets, sometimes in numbers as high as 15 or 20 at a time, becomes an effortless joy. Much of that is owed to the variety of attacks at your disposal. While each power shares similarities in terms of having projectile, grenade-based and movement-based attacks, there is a clear cut difference in strategy that each power entails, and I’ve yet to hear of a clear-cut winner in terms of player favorites across the board.
What becomes immediately evident to players is that inFAMOUS: Second Son makes use of the new features of the Dual Shock 4 controller better than any other game on the market. The game opens with Delsin using his obvious talent of graffiti and stencil art by defacing a billboard featuring his brother, a theme that will continue throughout the game. This short mini-game that can be repeated throughout the game on various buildings and billboards throughout Seattle is the best use of the controllers features I’ve seen to date, and does so in a way I personally never would have thought of. Using the motion control capabilities of the DS4, you are asked to turn the controller on it’s side and hold it clearly like a can of spray paint, your index finger conveniently finding the trigger, and point the lightbar at your television screen as you paint the wall in front of you. The small touches are what makes this feature work for me, as the speaker on the controller emits the sound of the can rattling as you shake it as well as the paint actually being sprayed in the game, and the lightbar actually changes to the color of paint your using, for that last touch of immersion. It’s the best example of unique use for this controller, and also helps to create some truly beautiful artwork that also doubles as great comedy for the game.
Yet, for all inFAMOUS: Second Son does right, there are a few things it struggles with. The third game in the series picks up right where the original two left off, in giving players a choice in the moral path that they take, whether they play the role of the city-favorite superhero or the infamous conduit who’s only out for himself, and will hurt or possibly kill anyone who gets in his way. The difference in play style and the way the city inhabitants react to Delsin is nice, but I can’t help but feel like the game would have been better suited just picking one of those paths and presenting it as a complete vision, as the choices are little more than blanket opposites with no moral grey area to speak
All-in-all, though, inFAMOUS fully succeeds in showing the power of the PS4 and giving players a truly fun sandbox to explore to their hearts content. With around 10-14 hours of content to play through on each side of morality, players who take their time and explore every corner of Seattle will be rewarded with one of the most purely fun games released in the past few years, even if the story side of it ends up lacking just slightly. In terms of showing what this new generation can do and making great use of the new controller at our disposal, though, there’s no better alternative available at this time.