A conduit for greatness: InFAMOUS Second Son reviewed
If you’ve been holding off on buying a PlayStation 4 because you’ve felt there are no compelling games that you just have to play, hold off no longer. The arrival of InFAMOUS Second Son means there is at least one.
The InFAMOUS series is known for letting you play as a superpower-wielding hero type in a open-world setting, and Second Son delivers all that and much more. It’s InFAMOUS for a new generation of consoles, and it shows – this is one of the most lovingly-created, most beautiful game worlds I’ve ever seen in a videogame, with some incredibly original – not to mention fun - super-abilities to romp through the scenery with.
Second Son is nothing short of spectacular and a wonderful showcase for the incredible graphics the PS4 is capable of, so if you’re in any way a sucker for eye candy, this is the game to get for your PS4.
Second Son, Second Sequel
So who are you, this time around? InFAMOUS Second Son casts players in the role of a young (and restless) Native American Indian called Delsin Rowe, who accidentally discovers he’s a power sponge who’s able to absorb and use the abilities of other “conduits”, unusual people with amazing powers like the ability to manipulate objects and substances on a molecular level, turning them into weapons of mass destruction should they so wish.
This puts him on a collision course with the Department of Unified Protection, or DUP, the government agency responsible for containing such people (referred to by them as “bio-terrorists”), and also gives Delsin his primary enemy: an army soldiers and equipment to fight against and destroy.
The game takes place in Seattle, a large open world city that’s controlled by the DUP, and it’s up to Delsin and his brother Reggie to liberate the city, sector by sector. Doing that requires Delsin to undermine the DUP’s authority by completing side-missions like tagging buildings with subversive messages, destroying hidden cameras and defeating DUP agents, thereby provoking them into showdowns.
When Delsin wins each showdown – effectively a pitched battle against a larger-than-normal group of enemies or specialised combat units like attack helicopters - the DUP is effectively defeated in that area, removing their street patrols and allowing him to fast-travel between liberated sectors.
Reggie is merely a support player, however, helping Delsin from behind the scenes in subtle ways, but their relationship develops in interesting ways as the game progresses, showing a touching maturity not expected from the game. It doesn’t hurt that both the dialogue and voice-acting are top-notch.
Delsin’s ultimate goal is to track down the DUP agent responsible for injuring his tribe right at the beginning of the game, and absorbing her power so that he can make things right back home. Naturally, what actually happens along the way is a lot more complex than that, and there are a few twists and turns that will keep you interested right up to the end.
Story and setting aside, what makes Second Son such a compelling PS4 title is Delsin himself, not only because of his rebellious hell-yeah-this-is-cool attitude but also his powers, a truly impressive arsenal of abilities that really had me feeling like I could take on the world – and win.
Starting out, Delsin can manipulate smoke. He can send himself through vents in smoke form to reach rooftops just that much quicker, fire smoke and cinder blasts at enemies, choke them with smoke bombs, and my favourite, obliterate structures and vehicles with super-powerful Cinder Missiles that are just as destructive as they sound.
The coup de grace in his smoke-powered arsenal is a huge divebomb-like explosion move called an “Orbital Drop” that Delsin unlocks that literally obliterates everything in the landing zone in spectacular fashion, but it has to be charged up by subduing enemies rather than killing them if you’ve gone the “good guy route”. It looks like this:
Spectacular, right? The other power he acquires later in the game, that of Neon, offers another set of moves that do similar things, my favourite being the ability to run up buildings. Awesome.
Mix it up
A healthy mix of these awesome abilities is needed to take down the DUP which throws grunts, heavy soldiers with big-ass weapons and officers with special abilities at Delsin all game long. Defeating them isn’t a walk in the park even with all of his abilities, either, thanks to clever AI that has enemies working together by flanking, distracting and employing their own powers against Delsin. I found that emerging victorious often required more than a little running away so Delsin could auto-heal before re-engaging.
“Blast Shards” are scattered around the world, and serve as the currency to unlock ability upgrades. They can be simply found, collected after a huge battle where lots of things blow up, or salvaged from the quadrocopters that fly around the world, just begging to be shot down.
The game also has an experience system that determines what “level” Delsin is; some upgrades require him to be a certain level while others require him to have either good or bad karma as well. Delsin’s karma is affected by how you play – whether you’re a cold-blooded killer or a more compassionate non-lethal subduer of enemies – so you’ll need to play through at least twice to get the full experience.
Being good or bad involves killing soldiers and civilians (bad) or disabling and healing them (good). Several missions are specifically tailored to each play style, too, and you must choose between them. Whichever one you don’t choose disappears forever, so choose wisely. Me, I chose being good over being
a douche evil for my first playthrough, because I’m not the kind of person who enjoys adding misery to a world, whether virtual or real.
I do like delivering justice where injustice is perceived, though, which made tearing the DUP a new one rather satisfying. Obliterating their barricades, blowing up their finger-scanning checkpoints and generally terrorising them was made all the better by the super-satisfying destructibility made possible by the PS4′s hardware. Not all the world is breakable, though, only specific parts of it which is a bit of a pity.
Like a Boss
As you progress through the game’s story, you’ll come across a handful of bosses, extra-tough enemies who really don’t go down easily. Defeating them is a matter of mastering all of the abilities you’ve been given up to those points, changing your tactics on the fly, exploiting the environment and making sure you don’t take too much damage. As cool as Delsin’s powers are, “not dying” isn’t one of them so you’ll definitely have to work for your victories, especially against bosses like the one below whose defeat demands good reflexes as well as great timing on your part.
While I’ve heard it’s possible to finish the game in less than 10 hours, my first playthrough was much longer as I messed around a lot, I spent a lot of time freeing up Seattle’s various sectors (I like liberating sectors as completely as possible before moving on) and, interestingly, seeking out cool vantage points from which I could just look at the game world. Yes, it’s that pretty.
Thanks to these welcome distractions, my first playthrough took me around 13 hours. That’s not bad at all for a single-player game these days, and even better since two playthroughs are needed to see everything Second Son has to offer, giving you a lot of bang for your buck.
I was a bit disappointed that the closest the game came to collectibles were the Blast Shards scattered around the world - I quite like item-hunting in open-world games and the Blast Shards just didn’t fit the bill as collecting them wasn’t much of a challenge. “Finding” the two other items apparently also considered collectibles, namely the audio logs and hidden security cameras from the find-the-audio-logs and hidden-camera mini-games, just didn’t make me feel like I was doing anything special either since they were also marked on my map. To each his own, I guess.
But I digress. InFAMOUS Second Son is by far the best game I’ve played on my PS4, both in terms of how much fun it is and how nice it looks and sounds. It’s the first truly next-gen game I’ve played, showcasing everything the PlayStation 4 has to offer in glorious fashion, and with any luck it’s an indication of things to come from Sony and its PS4-exclusive developers.
My final word? If you own a PS4 and you want to see what Sony’s hardware can really do, this is the game to buy right now. You won’t regret it.