The stalwart Sony series returns with it’s prodigal (second) son. An exclusive touted as a display of the PS4’s power and grunt, wrapped up in an open world and all trussed up with super powers. What’s not to like?
Starting out as an ordinary day, our denim jacket sporting, Akomish rouge Delsin is quite happily defacing public property with a few cans of spray paint, when, luckily for us, his day takes rather an odd turn of events. After reconvening with his understandably disapproving sheriff brother Reggie, a crashing armoured truck interrupts their argument. Always trying to help in some form or another, Delsin helps the survivor up, only to discover he’s a bio-terrorist (or conduit to the sympathisers). Not only that, but it turns out Delsin can, in some way, absorb the powers of conduits through touch alone. After a pursuit and a stilted battle with the generous ‘donator’ of your new smoke power, you eventually find yourself at the feet of the, soon to be, antagonist Augustine, the hard as nails, concrete wielding, conduit hunter. Upon her torturing your Akomish clan members for information, Delsin vows to help those afflicted by the torturous concrete and sets off on his quest to attain Augustine’s ability and rid her of power.
Whilst Cole MacGrath might not have been to everybody’s liking due to his almost dull and uncaring demeanour, our new (anti) hero Delsin Rowe provides plenty of, occasionally, misguided attitude to go around. His ‘punk’ look also might not appeal to everyone (myself included) and despite how his denim jacket might ripple and flap in the wind, I’d rather he had just the hoody from the start. As per usual, significant karmic sidings will alter the appearance of your character, a red tone for evil and a light blue/white for playing nice. Usually, I’m rather partial to the angelic guise of a karmic hero, however Delsin takes the form of a badly dressed 90’s hipster, adorned by faded light blue denim. Making their return are the ironically linear karma choices, which naturally boil down to a few key decisions throughout the game. Of course, you can assist the ascent to heroism or the downfall to becoming infamous via performing various good or evil deeds around the city, most of which you’ll recognise from the previous titles. Drug busts can be averted, officers of the law can be ‘restrained’ and many other karmic decisions can be taken advantage of due to the regular spawns of activity. The problem being that they’re a limiting means to an end. The end being, which set of bonus powers do you wish to acquire, the blue or the red?
In the past infamous games, side missions were plentiful, and often fraught with karmic dilemmas. Not so much the case with Second Son, the main plot is really the only structure this time around; you’ll find yourself slightly disappointed by the distractions on offer. Side missions come in the form of the rather repetitive ‘find the hidden item’ game which consists of most of the quests on offer. In several different guises, the game will ask you to find hidden cameras, search for hidden audio logs and scour the area for a hidden spy. Thankfully, there’s plenty of mindless destruction to take part in too, each district has it’s own percentage of occupation by the DUP (Department of Unified Protection) which you must whittle down by destroying surveillance cameras, radio masts and of course, the liberal use of graffiti. Once below 30% you can initiate a stand off with increasingly snarky conversations to a bio terrorist hotline operator; once you’ve fended off the competition, the DUP will not only have a reduced presence, but you’ll also be able to fast travel to and from this point. Honestly, why you would want to fast travel when it only takes a couple of minutes to traverse the map with some of the latter abilities I don’t know however.
As opposed to the stereotypical format of evil powers being superior to the reticent heroic ones, second son doesn’t really give you much of an incentive, in terms of combat effectiveness, to be evil. Instead of offering a straight up choice of upgrades for each power, you’ll find some abilities are next to useless with the evil side, whereas on the path of righteousness, it may have several advantages. A short example being the neon powers standard attack; the baddies amongst you may enjoy a faster fire rate, whereas the aspiring hero’s will savour an almost overpowered period of slow motion whilst aiming.
Whilst each set of powers have the same basic functionality, each feel completely different in combat and general city traversal. The smoke power relies upon guerrilla tactics, grenades and a proper utilization of the smoke dash as a means of controlling the distance between you and your foes. In contrast, the second, neon power, rewards accuracy and patience, the later powers also require you to employ corresponding play styles, but I won’t spoil those here! Switching between powers is done via draining the appropriate source, so if you fancy roaming around as the Lost smoke monster for a bit, you’ll have to drain smoke stacks, chimneys, and damaged cars. To switch to the neon set, you’ll have to absorb some of the many neon lights that adorn the beautiful Emerald City. Even though it would be nice to have access to all of your powers simultaneously, it makes for a hectic moment or two in battle; also a surprisingly tactical decision before hand too. It’s worth mentioning too, that Sucker Punch have also done a fantastic job of making sure that each power source is always within grasping distance yet, as neon signs and chimneys blend in quite well, they’re not ostentatious in the typical video game way.
Traversing the sprawling city of Seattle can be a little hit and miss at times as the standard climbing mechanic seems to have been altered in such a way that you’ll get frustrated at Delsin as he scrambles at thin air, unable to ascend the most basic of buildings without inanely mashing the jump button. Fortunately, each power has it’s own method for getting about town, so the problem is quickly forgotten. A slight quibble is that the smoke power is much slower at covering long distances, so much so, that you may find yourself swapping powers, seemingly unnecessarily, just to reach your destination, before swapping back to it.
Seattle, may well be the second star of the show, with each district painstakingly detailed and full of that all important colour. Shop windows and puddles reflect the city around them; there’s nothing quite like making use of all your spectacular powers in a gigantic, city block sized fight against a super powered squadron. The ridiculous amount of particles that render whenever you press circle whilst using the smoke power still amazes towards the end of the game and the neon effects are like nothing you would expect, they’re genuinely awe inspiring. The characters facial expressions are also beyond impressive, remember L.A. Noire? Well this blows it out of the water, with ease. You could probably mute the cutscenes and still understand the context. In fact, the facial MoCap and, consequently, expressions are that impressive, it makes not being able to skip the cutscenes less of an irritation. Add to this, another Troy Baker stellar performance; it’s difficult not to be drawn in. The music, however slightly under utilized it may be, does a fantastic job of rousing the player as a large battle is about to erupt; can be especially poignant during some of the major scenes.
It might be on the short side, (it’ll take less than 15 hours to see and do everything in one playthrough) the controller gimmicks and the not so subtle nods to other franchises may be a little cringe worthy and the melee perhaps a tad dull, but inFamous Second Son will keep you coming back long after you’ve beaten it; due to the paper trail free DLC on offer, you’ll want to! Second Son is one of the best open world ‘super hero’ games of all time, it’s also, without doubt, the prettiest console game you’ve seen thus far; as such makes it a must buy for any and all PS4 owners.