Infamous: Second Son (PS4) Review
Kalvin Martinez / Apr 10th, 2014 No Comments
Infamous: Second Son takes place seven years after the events of Infamous 2 and features a new protagonist. This is Sony’s first major exclusive for PlayStation 4 following the system’s launch in November.
The game is a well produced, gorgeous-looking package with gameplay that actualizes the Infamous series’ potential, a tonally fitting score and only a few flaws.
Deslin Rowe is a rebellious graffiti artist and his brother Reggie is the local sheriff. Deslin’s vandalism is an area of contention between them. The two brothers find themselves involved in something heavy when a prison bus transporting bio-terrorists crashes in the Akomish territory.
Deslin and Reggie try to help. Two of the bio-terrorists escape, but one is injured. When Deslin tocuhes the man, he blackouts and wakes up with the power to manipulate smoke. Freaking out, Deslin chases down the man who did this to him. Reaching a fish cannery, Deslin finds the man is holding Betty, his friend, hostage. Deslin uses his wonky powers to save Betty and catch the man who did this to him. Once he gets a hold of the bio-terrorist, he absorbs more of the man’s power and learns his story.
The man escapes once again and Deslin chases after him to find armed DUP officers and their leader outside of the cannery. Augustine has the man cornered and incapacitates him with her concrete powers. She interrogates Deslin, giving him the option to save his tribe by giving himself up or sacrificing them by refusing to talk. After the events of his encounter with Augustine, Deslin figures out his power is leeching powers from other conduits. With this knowledge, he embarks on a mission into a DUP-controlled Seattle to take down Augustine and gain the power to save his tribe. Along the way, he runs afoul of the DUP and meets other conduits.
Compared to previous entries in the series, Second Son’s story has surprisingly low stakes. Deslin is not trying to save the world from an apocalyptic event or enemy. His motivation is personal; he is trying to help the people closest to him.
Deslin’s mission gains importance as he meets Fetch and Eugene, and uncovers information about Augustine and the DUP. But even then the thrust of his showdown with Augustine remains on solving a problem for the Akomish people. This approach allows Second Son to build more believable and compelling relationships between Deslin and the game’s secondary characters.
The interplay between Reggie and Deslin is funny and natural. Their relationship is one of the best components of the game. There remains the problematic issue of moral choice in Second Son. There is little character ramifications for Deslin doing good or evil things in the game. If Deslin murders cops and civilians, there is only minor bristle back for the transgression, but the characters all still move forward with their tasks.
Seattle makes for a great sandbox for Deslin to run around in and use his variety of super powers to cause havoc. As a power leech, Deslin gains access to multiple powers throughout the game. Unlike Cole’s electric powers, they all feel unique and interesting.
Each power gives Deslin access to melee, ranged, projectiles and super moves to combat the nearly endless amount of DUP soldiers populating Seattle. All powers are upgradable, with general upgrades and morality-specific ones. The combat side of the powers have basic similarities in move types, but each power has its own particular uses and strengths in combat. Experimenting and finding out what power works best in a situation gives combat a good sense of depth.
All powers have sources that Deslin can drain to replenish his power. Fighting in areas with multiple sources allows for a dynamic style of combat. While combat feels solid with each power, the main strength of each one is that they allow for a unique mode of travel around the city. It is the quickness and variety of travel across the open world that may be the biggest strength of Second Son.
The main missions use the scale of Seattle well, but as with any open-world style game, they are the shortest aspect of Second Son. The bread and butter of Second Son’s length comes from performing side missions to take over districts. The side mission variety is decent enough and it is thanks to solid combat that performing them many times over several districts doesn’t become too boring. Many are combat related, but others include chasing down spies or finding hidden cameras.
Graffiti missions are the best of the district side missions. They are simple in execution–Deslin heads to a marked spot, initiates a sequence and spray paints stenciled street art somewhere in Seattle. Players can choose to paint good or evil art. Street art plays well into Deslin’s character.
Graffiti missions use the Sixaxis to simulate a spray paint can. Players perform subtle motions to paint on the walls. As colors change on the stencil, the light bar changes. These missions are not tough, but it is because they are so different from the combat-focused side missions that they standout.
Graphics and Sound
For a city so oppressed by a totalitarian paramilitary group, Seattle looks so beautiful and serene as the sun sets in the game. While the beauty of Second Son’s Seattle is impressive, there are still some open-world issues.
As good as the main character models are, NPCs tend to behave oddly, glitch out and bunch up in clusters of similar faces. It is a minor quibble, but when the city feels so actualized, it sucks when the people populating it feel so wooden. The bar has been raised for creating an open-world city, but work still remains on populating it with meaningful civilians.
Yet, the facial animations in cutscenes are insane. There is a level of detail and realism captured in the performances that skirts right out of the uncanny valley. Deslin and other principal characters feel real without feeling alien. Second Son also has the best video game fingers around.
The score from Marc Canham, Brain and Nathan Johnson tonally captures Second Son’s story and sense of place. While the score doesn’t lean as heavily into the grunge sound as the game’s trailers do, it does a great job of approximating that sound. Brain’s portion of the score shines the best with the standout track from the OST being “Speed of Light.”
Voice acting in Second Son is superb. While Troy Baker got a heavy shine last year for voicing main characters in Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us, he gives a decidedly different performance here. Granted it is the most Troy Baker-y of his recent triple-A work thanks to being heavily snarky and sarcastic, but there is a decent amount of emotional depth displayed. Baker is complimented by standout performances from Travis Willingham as Reggie and Laura Bailey as Fetch.
It is surprising how fully realized Infamous: Second Son is so early in the PlayStation 4’s life cycle. It cracks the code on what makes Infamous interesting as a series. Sucker Punch finally made a sandbox game with super powers as fun and dynamic as it should be.
The game world of Seattle is impressive but it leaves something to be desired. What Second Son pulls off visual is a tremendous feat. With great voice acting performances from the principal cast and a great score, Infamous: Second Son sounds amazing.
What players get out of Infamous: Second Son likely will be dependent of how they feel about the series. Baggage aside, it is a great game with only minor flaws. Sony’s first big PS4 exclusive is a major victory for the system.
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