The original InFamous was one of the defining experiences for me on the PS3. The open world, the superpowers, the characters; I connected with all of it in a very personal way and it still stands as one of my all-time favorite games. Its sequel improved on everything its predecessor had done, and delivered an uproariously satisfying conclusion for the characters I had grown so close to.
So, as you can imagine, when Sucker Punch announced InFamous: Second Son at the PS4 reveal event last year, I was incredibly excited. With an original cast of characters, a new city to play in, and an entirely unique set of superhero abilities to experiment with, I could not wait to get my hands on it. Now that I have finally had the chance play it extensively, I can say that it does deliver, but not in the way I expected.
Don’t get me wrong, InFamous: Second Son is a phenomenal game. It plays like a dream, with a brilliantly designed control scheme and combat system, and it looks better than I ever thought a game could this early into the life cycle of the PS4. I enjoyed every minute I had with it, but felt a bit disappointed in one of the most important aspects of the InFamous franchise: the story.
The problem is that the story just isn’t all that deep. While its more grounded, realistic tone works for the most part, I never connected with the characters or story the way I had with the previous games. Sucker Punch has been very vocal about their desire for Second Son to be a good starting place for newcomers, and in that regard the game succeeds, but there’s still something missing to make the story especially memorable.
Maybe its because the characters themselves just aren’t as developed as they should’ve been. While I grew to like new protagonist Delsin Rowe, played by the always fantastic Troy Baker, his brash demeanor and sarcastic sense of humor took some time getting used to, and his motivations were never clearly defined or given any meaningful weight.
However, it’s mainly the secondary cast I have a problem with. On more than occasion, we would be introduced to a new, interesting character with a developed backstory and personality, just to see them mysteriously sidelined for the remainder of the story. It made little sense, and I really wish the story hadn’t been as streamlined so that we could’ve gotten to know these characters more.
Even Delsin’s relationship with his brother Reggie didn’t have the needed weight to give some of the more important moments in the story the power they were intended to have. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the brotherly banter between the two of them, and they have some great scenes together, thanks to the natural chemistry between actors Troy Baker and Travis Willingham, but I wanted to see more.
The villain of the game, the cold, calculating Brooke Augustine, fares much better, and has a real threatening presence when on-screen. She has some fantastic, chilling lines, but with her only bit of backstory and development coming so close to the end, she didn’t feel like a real threat until you confronted her head-on, although that confrontation did end up being an incredibly fun scene.
With all that said, however, InFamous: Second Son succeeds at being so much fun to play that it’s hard to hold its shortcomings against it for too long. I don’t think I have had this much fun playing a game in a very long time, and the sheer amount of freedom for exploration and experimentation at our disposal made it very difficult to put the controller down.
Sucker Punch’s representation of Seattle is fantastic, and while I didn’t feel the kind of connection to the citizens that I did in previous games, I never once got tired of playing in the city. The streets consistently became battlefields for gleefully destructive confrontations with Augustine’s super-powered military force the D.U.P., and the before and after of every fight was a thing of beauty.
While I would’ve liked seeing more variety in the side-missions, some of my favorite moments of the game came from the totally unscripted combat scenarios I frequently found myself in. Whether I was breaking up a group of drug dealers in a back alley as a hero, or silencing anti-Conduit activists as a villain, or even tackling one of the many D.U.P. strongholds littered throughout the city, I was always invested in what I was doing.
Unlike Cole MacGrath from the previous InFamous games, Delsin isn’t confined to just one or two powers, but several. I won’t spoil them, as part of the fun is discovering them for yourself, but any one of them could easily act as the basis for an entire game. They’re familiar enough to each other to quickly learn to use, yet unique enough to provide a multitude of approaches to any given situation.
All this is made even better by the incredible amount of detail and precision put into every single visual. The lighting, particle effects, character animations, and sense of scale are the best I have ever seen, and it’s amazing that we have a game that looks this good so early on in the life of the PS4. I continually found myself left speechless at the breathtaking city vistas, and frequently just sat back and admired the view.
However, the game’s morality system still leaves a lot to be desired. As is custom for the series, Second Son allows the player to choose to be either a hero or villain to the people of Seattle, and while it does allow for two mostly unique playthroughs, the choices you have to make are so black and white that they came across as outdated and even a bit silly.This is certainly something I would love to see Sucker Punch address in the future.
InFamous: Second Son isn’t quite the masterpiece I was hoping it would be, but is still the best game on the PS4 right now and everyone owes it to themselves to give it a try. It is truly one of the first great next-generation video games, and while it relies on some cliched mechanics, which are especially evident in the boss battles, the game rarely felt repetitive and I was always finding new ways to enjoy my powers.
I might have a few issues with the story and its characters, but this game succeeds at being so much fun to play that I can look past its few flaws and just enjoy the experience as a whole. I loved nearly every minute that I have spent with InFamous: Second Son, and am anxiously waiting to see what Sucker Punch does next with the series.