Initially ‘Infamous: Second Son’ was setup to be a launch title for the PS4 and it would have been a perfect showcase for the new console; offering tremendous graphics, improved physics and standing on a franchise that already had an established fan-base. That turned out to be impossible in the end and the game was pushed back to March 2014 and is now finally available after almost a year of promotions.
The game itself isn’t a true continuation of the original, almost everything about ‘Infamous’ has either been updated, or rebooted since we last visited the series. There’s a new protagonist, a new timeline concerning Conduits and how they are viewed in society and the series gets a chance to start fresh without being rooted too much into the original story.
Coming off such a popular first-installment there a few corners that developers can cut (gameplay has already been defined and fans have given feedback on what worked and what didn’t, characters have been outlined and a generic overall-plot has usually been established) but sometimes it felt that the game could have gone further in a few key areas that have already been established from the beginning.
As a huge fan of the original, I was excited to jump into the game and get things moving. Story-missions are always my favorite to-do list when starting an open-world game and a new character and a new setting was the primer I needed to eagerly want to start my adventure.
The story is key to my gameplay experience, and the side-quests and collectables will all be waiting for me if I need a break, or to gain new EXP, or for when I’m finished the campaign. It was because I was so excited to get to the story-missions, that I couldn’t help but feel they were underused and really under-developed. Many of my tasks were very repetitive, almost the same theme of trouncing crowds or leading an NPC were bestowed on me time and time again. It’s a common element to be found in open-world games, but the series has now had three installments to really create some exciting and challenging missions.
Living in an open-world, the idea of unlimited possibilities can’t help but fuel my excitement to play the game, so when I’m asked to do the same thing over and over again, it might as well just be linear, and not have me run all around the city to start them up. This wasn’t a consistent problem however but worth mentioning, and knocking out a few routine missions wasn’t exactly a mood-killer for me while I was dashing from streetlamp to building-side to skull whenever I felt frustrated.
I was happy to meet a new protagonist, named Delsin. I will admit that I couldn’t identify or even like the first protagonist Cole in the initial first two games. It didn’t ruin the games for me, but to be honest I wasn’t one of Cole’s adoring fans. For me personally, Zeke Dunbar was the saving grace.
Players meet Delsin and quickly learn of his antiestablishment ideals, all of his rebellious and seething traits are soon unleashed when a traffic accident leads him to come in contact with Conduits that bestow his unique powers on him.
In the first two titles Conduits were to be feared, they were unusual and powerful and many people viewed them as a threat to their very existence. In the original games you could sway public opinion by either being a steadfast hero, or a villainous maniac depending on your choices.
In the new installment Conduits are “Bio-Terrorists,” and they are kept inline by the Department of Unified Protection. Just like a popular comic-series that will go unnamed, Conduits are often hunted down and imprisoned to keep their powers in-check, while some people fight for their rights, and others want them destroyed or harnessed.
Now with the traffic accident Delsin gains his powers, but it also releases other Conduits that were being moved to a prison facility. This breakout puts Delsin in the crosshairs of the DUP and has the public scared of escaped Conduits running around Seattle, causing the DUP to issue martial-law. This is where the game picks up.
It’s you against the DUP, already developed as a rebellious upstart, Delsin and the player are set against a tyrannical government and must slowly gain ground in the fight to save the very people that shun him for his newly received powers.
The game does do an impressive job at pushing the player to unlock the map. Just like in previous Infamous games when you had to turn on the electricity, you are set to unlock portions of the city one section at a time, but doing so is much more rewarding than in other games.
You of course will gain even more powers as you play, unlocking choices and powers is crucial to the series and this game doesn’t disappoint with the various unique powers given to the player at different times during gameplay. The game does bring back the “Power Shards” mechanic from the earlier games, but luckily you need much less but this time around they are better hidden. Upgrading your powers grants you different attacks and gameplay styles, from AEO blasting multiple enemies, to silently stalking DUO troops, there is a chance to craft Delsin into a character you enjoy playing.
The powers themselves are creatively designed and very fulfilling to use when unleashing your fury on those that sim to hold you down. Delsin wasn’t painted into a corner the way that Cole was centering around electricity, and the game benefits from that decision.
On a personal note the same terrible Karma system is used in Infamous Second Son, and it’s true that other games still use a similar system to this day. Players will have to choose from being a “good guy” or a “bad guy” and the choices that they make will be based more on what powers you get, rather than what you actually want to do. The system is entirely built on extremes, and I was hoping that Karma would be finer-tuned in this installment.
Giving the player a choice in the game is the perfect opportunity to make the game personal, when you connect that choice with powers, or only offer choices to lead you to two distinct paths, the game is less about choice and more about a final outcome. This is a personal moment for me, and I can’t hold that exact gameplay mechanic against the developers but it is something that I would like to see changed in the future.
Moving about the world was an incredible improvement, thanks largely to Delsin’s new smoke-powers and ability to move through ventilation shafts like an old-school Vampire. Other powers take the monotony out of open-world traveling system, without using fast-travel as a crutch.
One choice in development that I will find fault with is the developer’s choice to make the PS4 Dualshock touchpad a mandatory input device. This seems like it was purposely shoehorned into the game when Infamous Second Son was still going to be a launch title. At crucial moments of the game, and at just basic moments of the game, you will be asked to swipe the controller’s touchpad. It’s complexly unnecessary and not an option. It’s reinventing the wheel at its worst, but it does work, in the sense that when you want to open the door, it opens.
Infamous Second Son is a finely-tuned Infamous installment. The graphics are better, the story is creative and the difficulty is evenly paced while you level and explore. It is always encouraging to see open-world games improve features, without removing them, and the revised travel and exploration methods used in the game are a terrific example of this.
The character of Delsin depends on your choices in the game but in both outcomes his reactions and traits ring true to the path that you are exploring with him. It’s everything about Infamous that you probably enjoyed, in a shiny well-crafted parcel. I will say the gameplay is addicting, the world is seamless in design and before I knew it I had been bouncing around the city tearing down cameras and flooring security guards for twenty-minutes before I remembered I was actually heading to another mission. That’s a feat that few games can achieve and is always welcomed.