The Infamous series takes a big step up in many ways with Infamous: Second Son. New characters, new powers and a new city to explore take much of what is so great about the previous games and does an excellent job of showcasing both the strength of the series and the new strength of PS4 hardware. As I’m running around Seattle, I couldn’t help but marvel at just how beautiful everything looked and felt. The visual style looks much like past games in the series but since it’s on new hardware everything looks so much better. City streets are packed with people and cars who react swiftly and realistically to your actions and when the action hits and powers and bullets start flying, Second Son genuinely looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Visually, this game is stunning.
The story is a good one, with powerful moments and quality characters even if it is all a little rote; some characters may or may not die and it’s not to hard of a guess to figure out who that is. That being said, a well told story is a well told story and Second Son does just that. The main character is Delsin Rowe, a member of a fictional Indian tribe called the Akomish. After an encounter with a Conduit (people with powers… mutants if you read comics) and the US government agency D.U.P, which hunts down and captures Conduits, Delsin discovers that he has the unique power to absorb and copy the powers of other Conduits. Eager to explore this new power and raise a ruckus, he and his reluctant and much more responsible brother Reggie head to Seattle to steal the concrete based powers of the head of D.U.P, a powerful and intimidating woman named Brooke Augustine, so that they can help members of their tribe whom she has injured. Death, struggle, new friends and a fair amount of maturity are in store for both Delsin in what is really a classic hero origin story.
Delsin is a great character. In some ways, his status as an Indian is unnecessary, but it’s a nice touch that Sucker Punch really didn’t have to do that adds a layer of tension and rebellion to the character and his struggle with a highly powerful arm of the US government. Playing as an Indian who is trying to save his family from the excesses of the government is not something that I expected from a game like this, but it is one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Delsin may be annoying at times, but he’s a teenager; they’re supposed to be annoying. And anytime we get a minority protagonist is a good thing far as I’m concerned; even if it’s mostly background, I think it’s important to show a different kind of main character. Voiced by the highly talented and seemingly ubiquitous Troy Baker, Delsin comes off as a much more three-dimensional character than Cole ever did in the first two games. The rest of the cast is pretty strong as well, but much less developed. Reggie and Delsin have a strong relationship that is easily believable. There is a mission where Reggie has to pretend to be a terrorist that is particularly funny and really captures the joking and loving nature of their sibling relationship.
Delsin’s Conduit power is that he can absorb the power of other Conduits and in order for him to do that we have to meet other Conduits. Of the three we meet, Fetch is by far the most interesting and well done. Her backstory and power set are interesting and powerful. You get why she is doing what she’s doing even if it’s wrong. While Delsin resolves her issues a little fast, watching her put the past behind her is a nice subplot to the game that adds a great deal of heart and melancholy to the game. The antagonist of the game, Brook Augustine, is a formidable woman and a great adversary, but since we don’t get her rather interesting backstory till the very end of the game, she comes off as a very static character. A series of side missions, or a small amount of collectibles in the game that explain her past would have added nicely to the overall story.
In console gaming, the step from one generation to the next often represents a fundamental evolution of the games themselves. They often take on a bold new aspect or something to coincide with their new digital home. Unfortunately, the morality system in Second Son does not make that step. The morality choices in this game could not be more stark or uncomplicated. You end up either being a saint with almost unlimited amounts of empathy and forgiveness, or a murderous nightmare that dooms everybody he meets. There is no middle ground. And maybe there shouldn’t be; this is a hero story after all so perhaps it should be good vs. evil. However, after Dragon Age: Inquisition, such stark morality feels a bit dated. Not all choices are good or evil; most aren’t in fact. They are just choices that come with their own set of consequences and effects that we have to deal with as human beings. Seeing a series of choices like that might be to high a bar for a video game like Second Son to surpass, but it would have been nice.
What did make a big jump however, is the gameplay, which is about as smooth, responsible and powerful as I could ever ask for. Smoke powers are the first powers you get and they offer a solid starting point; they are powerful and fast and very reliable. However, as soon as I got neon powers I used those as often as was possible. Navigating the map is pretty simply and very fast no matter what power you use but it’s best with neon because it turns you into a Flash like runner who can run up buildings and run across town in a handful of minutes. Running around enemies, zapping them and than being gone by the time they return fire is a really fun and powerful feeling that never gets old. In the first two games, it was common for me to run into battle, fling electricity and cars around and than awkwardly run away to regain health but in this game, that awkwardness gone. Running, flying or zapping around the battlefield is incorporated into the gameplay much better. The enemies themselves are diverse and powerful. You have to think your way through a battlefield instead of trying to brute force it, but the game never feels unfair either; you feel powerful as Delsin but never overpowered. Running around town and fighting never got old in this game.
Sucker Punch makes great games and Second Son is no different. It’s a fun, great game that offers a compelling story and great gameplay. Delsin is a fun and engaging character that I hope we see more of. Sucker Punch has a pretty great world they have built with these games and I would love for them to evolve the world at large as much as they have the gameplay and storytelling. Games like this one are what make console gaming so great; they offer unique experiences that are not available elsewhere.
Next Movie: Furious 7 or Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro
Next Book: The Private Eye by Brian K.Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente