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inFAMOUS Second Son Review – Evolution of the Franchise
Since the early years of PS3, Infamous has been the representative of the PlayStation exclusives lineup in the open world action genre.
Now the franchise makes its return as the second AAA exclusive title on the adolescent next-gen system trying to represent the power of the PlayStation 4 as well as the creative vision and ability of Sucker Punch Studio in a positive light.
After having played through the end product, it is safe to deduce that Infamous Second Son manages to accomplish both of these tasks outstandingly.
The greatest strength of the game lies in its accessibility.
Not only is Second Son an appealing game from a presentation and technical standpoint but it also veers away from previous storyline which makes it more approachable for gamers who either skipped the previous PlayStation system or were unfamiliar with the franchise for other reasons.
While not an actual reboot, Infamous Second Son does not require knowledge of the previous games and gives a concise overview of the background at the start.
Instead of going back to the main character from the previous games, Second Son focuses on Delsin Rowe, a completely new character with his own set of problems and abilities.
Deslin has a vibrant personality that comes out through his brash and snippy dialogue and suits the narrative much better than the gruff blank slate that was Cole Macgrath.
Even with a distinct and powerful personality, the changes brought forth from good or evil karmic choices are handled in an organic manner where the character never loses his inherent personae to become a straight shooting do-gooder or a mustache twirling villain.
Speaking of Karmic choices, while the developers have added little ancillary details to the system like the Dualshock 4 controller light bar changing according to the character’s Karma Level. Second Son utilizes the same morality system that has been present in the previous Infamous games.
The game still incentivizes rewards consistency in player Karma choices. So from the beginning of the game, players chose the side of morality they want to pursue and the game rewards them only if they stick to that side of karma.
Second Son also retains the basic mechanic of parkour movement from the previous Infamous games.
When compared to its contemporary open world action game; Assassins Creed Black Flag, the movement style might seem clunky and floaty at first however the difference in controls allows traversal in Infamous feel less autopilot and once the players spend some time with it, the controls fit right into the style of gameplay.
Similarly the touch pad controls can get annoying at first, however spending a little time with the control scheme allows players to get adjusted to using that part of the controller and the experience stops feeling like an intrusive gimmick.
Unlike the previous iterations of Infamous, Second Son not only features a brand new melee combat system which seems to be inspired in equal parts from God of War and Arkham series, but allows players to control a variety of super powers,
Delsin is able to replicate and keep the powers of any super powered person, known as conduits, and use them to his advantage.
So as the game ramps up the number and types of enemies encountered by the player, Delsin also becomes equipped with variety of powers and abilities.
Sucker Punch have made Delsin’s abilities much more than mere power replications. The power transfer process is also accompanied by memory transference, which becomes a great story mechanic to organically advance the narrative.
The new powers Delsin gains not only provide the player with variety in combat scenarios but also in the ways of traversal. Complementing the basic parkour mechanic, game allows Delsin to learn movement related abilities fairly early in the game, which makes city traversal fast and fun.
While one power lets you cruise through the city in a very traditional InFamous manner, another power gives a flavor of Hulk Ultimate Destruction/Prototype series and other powers provide further unique ways of traveling the huge city of Seattle.
Though Second Son allows the players freedom to travel wherever and however they please, the game controls its best in open spaces. While not game breaking, the experience is not as smooth and nuanced during hectic battles in tight places.
Another potential control related gripe is related to Second Son’s utilization of motion controls, which are used for the graffiti spray painting element of the game and might come off as annoying and tacked on motion controls for the game.
However the spray painting mechanic rarely comes up as a mandatory task that the players have to partake in to progress through the story and is relegated to optional side quests for the majority of the game.
Even though the graffiti mechanic might not be everyone’s cup of tea, not one player will be able to deny Sucker Punch’s impressive accomplishment when it comes to the game’s visual presentation.
The developers have managed to create an impressively detailed sandbox out of the city of Seattle, complete with inclusion of landmarks like Space Needle and Pink Carwash.
Second Son’s Seattle features beautiful light reflections, large destructible and changing environments, organic shifts in time and weather and an enormous draw distance, which is especially evident when Deslin gets to scale the top of the Space needle.
Moreover, Delsin and the entire supporting cast of characters feature amazingly detailed facial animation which allows them to be visually expressive and infuse greater depth into the narrative.
This visual quality is accompanied by the stellar vocal talents of Troy Baker, Laura Bailey and other voice actors, complimented by witty dialogue which features many pop culture references, but not to a level that they feel forced in or overdone.
Complementing the voice acting, Second Son also features great sound design with music that changes from quitter exploration moments to upbeat tunes when the action ramps up as well as the haunting music that plays when Delsin’s health gets low.
Though it may just be audial nitpicking, some of the sound effects for powers and the impact in battles could have benefited from a more powerful audial depiction of the action presented visually.
The strong performance in audio and visual presentation culminates into a 12-15 hours campaign that features a story that is quite straight forward and adequate as a vehicle for the superpowered gameplay.
Along with the hours of additional fun afforded through the assortment of side-missions to complete, variety of new abilities to unlock and the abundance of hidden blast shards to discover, the changes experienced by each karma path makes the prospect of second playthrough a must for anyone that enjoyed the Second Sun experience in the first run.
In the end, Second Son offers an experience that, at its core, is fairly similar to the one offered by its predecessors. However the variety of powers, subtle gameplay changes and level of polish help to bring forth the next-gen evolution of the Infamous brand and pushes the franchise to greater heights than ever before.
While the game does not deviate much from traditions of the series, where the past InFamous games relied on singular power, Second Son offers players diverse set of powers that allow for unprecedented variety not just in combat but also the manner of open world traversal.
Beautifully realized city of Seattle, amazing draw distance, use of vibrant colours as well as awesome lighting and particle effects make Second Son a true marvel to behold.
Featuring a stellar sound design and exemplary voice acting, Second Son steps ups its chops in the audial performance department, however the game might have benefited from a greater infusion of oomph in certain power and melee sounds to further emphasise the impact of battle.
Second Son features mixture of artful motion comics and beautiful cinematics to tell its tale while making big changes to the user interface, allowing for a simpler yet visually distinct, picture in picture menu system for players to navigate through.
Not only does the game offer a story campaign that can last from 12-15hours and numerous side missions and plethora of power-shards to collect, the series’ emphasis on karma paths ensures that the players can double their fun by taking the alternative karmic path for their second playthrough.
While InFamous Second Son delivers an unmatched superpowered sandbox experience, the game is still anchored in the overall feel of the series it represents.
The game features a plethora of improvements that would delight any fan of previous InFamous games, however it does not make enough changes to be of much interest to those players who were not able to enjoy the first two InFamous games.