If you’re an Infamous fan, you can stop reading and go out and buy the game. On second thought, you probably already have it. For the rest of you, Infamous: Second Son is the strongest entry in a series that has been adequately successful both commercially and critically, but has never quite gone past that — until now.
Second Son stars a new protagonist in the form of Delsin Rowe, a rebellious 24 year-old who is unsurprisingly proficient in the art of parkour. He’s played by Troy Baker, a talented (and very popular at the moment) voice actor that brings instant personality to the role. Initially I thought his defiant attitude would come across as an annoyance, but instead I found him to be likable, funny and most importantly relatable, which is something I can’t say for Cole in the previous Infamous titles. He acts like a normal person suddenly bestowed with super powers, constantly calling it awesome. And it is.
The third game in the series doesn’t stray very far from previous entries, and some have already levied criticisms at it being just a shiny version of what’s come before. Though familiar, the improved pieces this time around form an even more engaging whole, and the “shiny” is appreciated too. Set in a mostly rain-drenched Seattle, Second Son is one of the most visually impressive next-gen games yet. Textures in the game’s environment are so well done, that developer Sucker Punch has managed to make asphalt and potholes filled with rainwater a sight to behold. Sucker Punch Productions also happens to be located in the same area that the game takes place and it shows, with a dense, beautiful city environment to explore. Traffic doesn’t quite reroute itself as realistically as in a game like Grand Theft Auto V, but it’s a small blemish in an otherwise immersive setting.
For some reason, facial animations didn’t quite seem up to par with the likes of Uncharted, at least in terms of consistency. But the characters are detailed and show emotion, doing justice to the great acting that’s on display. Cutscenes in Second Son aren’t throwaway moments that keep you from all the playable action either, instead I found myself playing to find out what happened next, in addition to the great gameplay.
After two games, it feels like Sucker Punch has almost perfected the formula for this type of game. The entire city is littered with missions that further the main storyline, but there’s a large amount of other things to do. But despite seeming like sidequests at first, these activities turn out to be necessary to advance in the game. The D.U.P. is an oppressive government agency in Second Son, and diversions like taking out cameras, finding secret agents and destroying outposts all contribute to diminishing their control over society. Like in the previous games, there are shards to collect which you can use to increase your powers and learn new abilities. The shards are now found on flying drones that roam the city, a nice little touch that’s appropriate for the times. What’s great about Infamous is that all of these elements are fun to do, thanks to solid mechanics and controls that feel tighter and more accurate than ever. Platforming features a sort of “stickiness” to it that can be found in the developer’s other games, like Sly Cooper. It can take some time to get used to for some players, but once it clicks, it feels like the right choice for the game.
Playing to Delisin’s rebel persona, there are also stencil art sequences. You’re basically spraying graffiti on the wall, but the game makes innovative use of the PS4’s controller by asking you to hold it like a can of spray paint and direct it on the screen as you would in real life. It’s not a revolutionary experience by any means, but it adds personality to the game, personality that I think the previous games lacked. A neat touch is the controller’s light bar actually changes depending on the color of spray paint that’s being used (Thanks Lester!).
Then there are the superpowers. Second Son features a number of powers that are distinct in the way they look, and how you need to play to use them effectively. Sony has wisely asked reviewers to refrain from detailing all the powers, letting players discover them as they play through the game. Those moments of discovery and the steady progression of new abilities is key to the Infamous experience, so I won’t spoil them here. I will say that the game nails making you feel like a superhero, sometimes even more so than actual superhero games.
If you already own a PlayStation 4, Second Son is the first game that validates owning the console this early in its lifecycle. It’s one of the very few games in a young generation that can be considered a “must-own.” It’s a game made out of quality parts and one that rarely falters in what it set out to do, and a title that its developers can safely call their best work yet. Infamous made me feel like a superhero, and it was awesome.
Infamous: Second Son was reviewed by Enrique Manalang on the PlayStation 4. The game is exclusive to the PS4 and is available now in DataBlitz branches nationwide.