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Snap Judgment – inFAMOUS: Second Son (PS4)

The first time I saw a preview for inFAMOUS: Second Son, Sucker Punch’s third entry into the series and first on PlayStation 4, I was compelled to go back and make sure I finished the original PS3 titles.  If you’ve read my judgments on those (first and second), you’ll know I thoroughly enjoyed them, so I was definitely salivating for this one.

Look at any snapshot or gameplay video and you’ll realize immediately that this game looks ridiculously great.  For the first time in the series’s run, the setting is a real: Seattle, home of the creators.  While Empire City and New Marais were both fun locations to explore and wreck havoc within, running around an almost photorealistic city that is incredibly faithful to the real thing takes the impact to another level.  One of the best side effects of modeling a real city is that this one feels more alive and more varied from area to area, especially compared to some of the monotonous streets of the previous titles which featured numerous reused assets.  Now, Seattle gets a bum rap for being a rainy city (it was actually ranked 44th among major U.S. cities in 2010), but Sucker Punch was sure to include at least some of that world-famous precipitation in the game, and to wonderful effect.  The morning sunlight mirroring off scattered puddles during an early part of the game looked stunning; truly, this is one of the most beautiful games ever made.  Just scale a tall building and look over Puget Sound and have your breath taken away.

From a gameplay standpoint, the new protagonist, Delsin Rowe, has a far greater trove of powers to harvest.  I don’t want to spoil too much, but he possesses the ability to copy the powers of any conduit he touches, so as you progress through the game, whole new power trees will open up for you to invest points into.  (This is done with blast shards, but the manner in which you collect these is a so much better than the PS3 games.)  This upgrade system feels much more dynamic than ever, and the delineation between Good and Evil Karma powers is appropriately distinct.  Another massive improvement is environmental traversal: while inFAMOUS had decent climbing mechanics, there were times when it just didn’t work the way I wanted, or when it felt annoyingly slow; inFAMOUS 2 improved up these greatly, introducing a couple of powers towards the end of the game that really made cross-city travel much easier.  But inFAMOUS: Second Son puts both games to shame as each power tree that Delsin acquires has some kind of fast movement option that allows him to scale buildings with little effort, or cover ground with blazing speed.  Best of all, Sucker Punch does not hold back on giving you these abilities; you will be master of Seattle from the get-go.

The voice acting is quite good, featuring the incredibly talented Troy Baker in the lead role.  (Hardcore fans will recognize his work from The Last of Us, BioShock: Infinite, Batman: Arkham Origins, Far Cry 4, Batman: Arkham Knight, and what seems like a million other titles.)  That said, the dynamic between Delsin and his brother Reggie isn’t quite as good as was found between Cole McGrath and Zeke Dunbar from before, but the playfulness was still quite enjoyable.

Storywise, Second Son felt like a smaller plot than either previous inFAMOUS game, both of which felt like they had world-altering consequences.  Instead, Second Son feels like the world has already changed and the presence of conduits is simply a way of life now, something to be dealt with by law enforcement.  In fact, Delsin’s motivation for the entire game is considerably more tangible in its small scale, much more personal than Cole’s far more epic journey.  There are certainly pros and cons to both kinds of stories.  Similarly, alas, the villain comes off as considerably one-note throughout most of this game as well, similar to how antagonists were treated in earlier titles.  That’s okay, but the best villains are the ones who think they’re the heroes of their own stories.  Second Son’s Augustine borders on having that quality, but it remains unexplored until a brief expositional cutscene near the end, and even then, her methodology is inconsistent with her intentions.

Despite these shortcomings, inFAMOUS: Second Son is another incredible achievement.  Some reviews will probably note that the game is shorter than its forebears, but I happen to appreciate that.  Second Son feels about as on point as any game I’ve played in recent memory; as such, I would characterize this as a must-play for the PS4.  A

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Written by Michael

11 September 2015 at 11:05 pm