Review – inFAMOUS Second Son

As a new PS4 owner in early 2014, I was very much interested in the release of inFAMOUS Second Son by Sucker Punch Productions in March of that year.  I had multiple playthroughs of the first two in the series on PS3, so this better looking, larger open world version was definitely going to get my attention.  Of course, I also knew that Sony had eventually released the first two inFAMOUS games as part of the PSN Instant Games Collection, so I was reluctant to buy the game when it first released and it eventually fell off the radar.  It wasn’t until September 2017 that Sony finally followed suit and I got a crack at the title.

inFAMOUS Second Son takes place seven years after the events of inFAMOUS 2 in which Cole sacrifices himself to destroy The Beast, taking many of the Conduits along with him.  Between the two games, the government establishes a new task force called the Department of Unified Protection (D.U.P.) to round up the “bio-terrorist” Conduits and place them in a detention facility located in the pacific northwest.  And so enters our protagonist, Delsin Rowe, who is a parkour running, mildly law breaking youth of the Akomish Native Americans.  Delsin encounters one of three escaped Conduit and quickly discovers that he has the ability to take on the powers of other Conduits.  The D.U.P., led by turncoat Conduit Booke Augustine, enters the scene to find the escaped Conduits and hurts many of the Akomish.  Delsin and his brother, Reggie, a police officer for the Akomish (of course he is) then travel to Seattle to fight those who have done harm to the Akomish and hopefully steal enough powers to save some of their people.

The story of Delsin and Reggie continue to Seattle in search of powers.  Delsin travels around the city in hopes to find the three escaped Conduits in order to have enough power to stop Augustine and take her concrete power.  Seattle itself has been taken over by the D.U.P. while they search for the escaped Conduits, creating districts in the city.  The story is relatively formulaic, but above average to good for many video games.  I found that I knew what was going to happen with each sequence well before it actually did, similar to watching a mid-range movie in a very familiar genre.  The character of Delsin is a bit hard to follow in the game.  In one instant he’s a power hungry Conduit who only wants to grow stronger and in the next he’s desperately trying to save people and get back to the injured Akomish.  I imagine that this is impacted by the return of the karma system, creating good and evil choices and ways to play the game.  The normal attitude of Delsin likely rides the fence in order to tell the story while not needing to write multiples of each bit of dialogue.  The karma choices themselves are also rather obvious in nature with each represented by blue (good) and red (evil).  Takedowns of enemies also drive karma with traps adding to good and headshots adding to evil.  

Much like the previous inFAMOUS games, each district can be cleared by accomplishing side missions, which include tagging (painting the side of building with an interesting mini-game), finding hidden cameras, taking down enemy special agents, and destroying a variety of tracking gear.  Once the side missions are accomplished, a district battle begins for the final unlock of the area and a fast travel point.  The district play grows very repetitive, but the benefit of growing the powers with each side mission completed and the relatively short nature of the full game itself makes them compelling.  

The setting of inFAMOUS Second Son is rather well done, but I would say it does little to accurately represent the true city of Seattle (having only been there once myself, perhaps I am missing some of the nuance).  There are areas of the map that change the look, going from a standard city setting to one with Asian influence to a more commercial/tech heavy area.  However, there are very few distinctive features that make the city feel unique, a contrast to the New York of The Division or what I have seen of the San Francisco of Watchdogs 2 (still need to play that one).  That being said, the tall buildings provide a great playground for the use of the powers in the game.

The gameplay in inFAMOUS Second Son is only second to graphics as a selling feature of the game.  The powers Delsin collects through the story feel just that…powerful.  Each of the powers carries very much the same components as in the first two inFAMOUS games (a single shot, a grenade, some traversal, etc), but having three or four of them to control adds a good variety.  The traversal powers are perhaps the best addition to Second Son.  I had a great time zooming across the map with the neon power (it was probably my most used just for that reason).  Taking down enemies is also extremely satisfying whether it be with the single shot or the area effect powers.  Zapping enemies after they have been launched in the air is always a good time.  In addition, the “bomb” ability that is charged after multiple good or evil takedowns is quite impressive and extremely fun to use.  All that being said, the movement outside of using the powers could have used some more tuning.  The running feels just okay and the jumping is floaty, often leading to some issues when trying to land on a specific spot after jumping.  

The graphics really stand out in Second Son with the game being essentially a launch title for the PS4.  The character models, especially the faces, look very good, on the way to the bar set by Uncharted 4 a full two years later.  The cinematic scenes are generally very good, but do suffer from some animation issues in which movement feels too fast, like nothing carries any weight.  The city is rendered well with parks and buildings receiving enough detail to be believable.  Draw distance is above average, but the game does suffer with a bit of pop-in of non-playable characters (the citizens) and the enemies when looking out and traveling quickly over a distance.  I did not notice much pop-in with static items.  The power effects are very good with excellent particle effects and lighting.  Using the neon power made me want an HDR television to show off what I am sure is an impressive sight.  The overall presentation is very good and holds up well against today’s games released more than three years later.

My experience with inFAMOUS Second Son was a good one.  It is a shorter open world game that can be enjoyed in maybe 15 hours versus the 30+ hour games that came out in 2017.  The game compels the player to move along and does not suffer much from any pacing issues.  If you received inFAMOUS as part of a PSN Plus membership, then I highly recommend putting in the time for a playthrough.  If you have yet to play the game and did not get it in the Instant Games Collection, it is still a good one to play for a low price (less than $5 for a digital copy given the age of the game).  If you have no background in the inFAMOUS series and limited game time, I would say skip this one and pick up some of the more recent titles like Horizon, Uncharted 4, etc.  

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