inFamous Second Son Review

While Killzone Shadow Fall stepped away from the series’ traditional formula, inFamous Second Son has much more in common with its predecessors. It’s unmistakably a sequel, unbelievably fun and undoubtedly another great exclusive for Sony.

Delsin, the protagonist and titular second son, is quite a bit different from Cole. His general demeanour and energy makes him seem much less mature, and he’s not quite as grounded as his electric precursor. It’s quite fitting that the game starts with a subdued introduction, nowhere near as explosive as inFamous 2. It takes the form of an odd motion control sequence, but introduces Delsin in a suitable way.

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He’s clearly the catalyst for the direction Sucker Punch have been wanting to take the series. He’s arrogant yet funny, and this comes from a fantastic performance by Troy Baker, who provides both the voice and face for our hero. You may remember how they infamously redesigned Cole before the second game to be less grumpy and more street smart, but flipped the switch in the other direction after feedback – people wanted Cole, but the development team needed to let him go.

And now, that’s what they’ve managed. It’s seven years after the events of inFamous 2 and – with the good ending canon – you’ll meet a world surprisingly devoid of Conduits. Brooke Augustine and her dystopian Department of Unified Protections (D.U.P.) have systematically captured any and all rogue Bio-terrorists – that’s their propaganda driven buzzword for Conduit – with their own powers of concrete, allowing them to control areas and strike fear into citizens.

It’s a new world and a good set up, which leads to Delsin discovering that he can absorb powers when he meets one of these so called Bio-terrorists. While he’ll find it hard to control them at first, you’ll soon be back in full swing of upgrading, using and gaining new abilities as you go. It’s very much the same template as the previous games, but the introduction of a new power in every quarter makes the pacing much tighter and keeps the gameplay fresh.

“The introduction of a new power in every quarter makes the pacing much tighter and keeps the gameplay fresh.”

Really, inFamous is all about powers. Obviously, there are Delsin’s powers, which start off with cool smoke-based abilities, before he gains a stunning set of neon-based powers. A couple of other elements come into play later in the game too, but we’ll save those as surprises for you to find out yourself.

But there are also other powers at work – the power struggle between good and evil plays a major part in the game, for example, and from the get go you’ll want to choose a path, be it blue or red, and stick with that throughout the game. That doesn’t only represent different story choices, but entirely different missions, abilities and even visual changes as Delsin’s smoke glows even more red or his neon hue shifts along from traditional purple to magenta, as the evil red invades.

This is displayed through the DualShock 4’s lightbar to great effect, which edges from a neutral white ever closer to your chosen side. Delsin’s attire changes too, but the biggest change comes with the powers he utilises.

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An ashy, light grey trail of smoke will follow if you’re good, though blood red fiery ash will rain down if you’ve chosen the evil path. Either way, it looks stunning. Delsin breaks up into thousands of particles with a single press of the circle button, his body separating into pieces of ash and then returning to his humanoid form in a matter of seconds during a smoke dash. Beyond that, there are traditional shooting mechanics, heavy hitting blasts or huge special attacks, which require a karmic streak to unlock.

“Delsin’s neon powers might be the best and most well-realised effects used in superhero fiction yet.”

While the smoke powers will keep you content for the first few hours, it really takes things up a notch when the neon comes out to play. Once again, there will be differences here depending on your morality – light blue-purple for good, and magenta for evil – but it always looks stunning.

Delsin’s neon powers might be the best and most well-realised effects used in superhero fiction yet. They really give off a sense of otherworldly abilities as they brighten up the sky. Pressing circle is much more impressive with these powers – Delsin will sprint, followed by particle representations of his last actions, creating a line of human figures glowing purple. It’s beautiful in every single aspect, and the devastating karmic streak attack is truly wonderful.

To change between powers, you’ll click the touchpad to absorb that element. That means either smoke from chimneys or destroyed cars, and neon from, well… neon signs and lights. Whether it’s a massive glowing sign, or just a bar of neon light, the way Delsin absorbs these powers is simply gorgeous. The lights fade as they turn into ribbons and particles, filtering down into Delsin’s hand. Open signs disappear to black as the reds and yellows turn to purple as they reach their destination. It doesn’t get much better, and we’re only at the beginning of a long generation.

Sucker Punch have clearly poured a lot of time into these effects, but thankfully haven’t forgotten about the gameplay. It really makes you feel superpowered as you destroy the occupying D.U.P. forces. The interplay of the powers is brilliant, and abilities varied enough to make this extremely enjoyable, while the destructible environments add a further sense of power to the mix.

The morality system once again rears its head here, giving the option in-combat to subdue or execute enemies. It’s a smart decision, and one that pays off, adding anther dynamic to the gameplay.

Much of the game is based around taking out their mobile command units, by first silencing the foes around the base before taking out the unit itself, powering Delsin up and unlocking the area, with further side missions getting it down to 0% D.U.P. control.

It seems pretty standard for an open world game, and the side missions are short and sweet enough that they don’t become too repetitive. There’s spray painting, secret agent hunting, voice recorder finding and more, with things such as destroying security cameras or finding blast shards – which are now in drones, and upgrade your powers – also bringing that number down. Once you’re below 30% control, you’ll be able to engage in a big final battle to rid that area of D.U.P. agents once and for all.

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Naturally, aside from these standard open world mechanics, there are story missions. These are higher-octane and much more varied than the side missions, offering some detective work as Delsin tries to find other Conduits, as well as more action-based missions. You’ll even have a few boss battles, though there often isn’t enough variety in these match-ups. Morality changes things here too, with certain missions taking completely different paths depending on whether you’re fighting the good cause or just fighting back.

“Despite the extraordinary circumstances, Second Son tells a rather straightforward tale.”

Despite the extraordinary circumstances, Second Son tells a rather straightforward tale. There’s nothing quite as crazy as any of Cole’s adventures, and that combined with Seattle makes it a much more realistic venture, where Delsin has been afflicted with these powers. It’s through his brother Reggie that you’ll see how the government has twisted what Conduits stand for, coining the term Bio-terrorist, as he hopes to cure Delsin of what he sees as a curse. Reggie just thinks that he’s doing right, and whether Delsin does right or not is ultimately your choice.

The story hurtles forward at an alarming rate, which might lower the feeling of freedom even though it is always there. It’s a good narrative though, and can either be a tale of redemption or destruction depending on your choices.

While the visuals are absolutely sublime, as mentioned before, there are some strange design choices which perhaps show limitations in development. There’s no dynamic cycle, for example, with the weather and time of day changing at pre-determined sections of story progress. This does make way for some incredibly stunning vistas, such as sunsets which set the tone perfectly, or night time sections which makes the neon power even more majestic. The use of lighting in particular throughout the Seattle environment is another high point.

It’s also only running at 30 frames per second. This really isn’t an issue for Second Son, as the sense of speed is still captured well and the effects still look excellent. There’s also an impressive array of sounds for all of Delsin’s powers, with tone-setting music employed to make battles feel even more incredible. Voice acting fits in perfectly with the almost photo-realistic facial animations, which actually step out of uncanny valley at certain points.

So saying that limitations might’ve hindered Second Son is probably wrong. Sucker Punch have done everything they can to make the best looking game possible, and in that regard they’ve succeeded, as they have with many other aspects of the game.

What’s Good:

  • An awesome, high-octane and truly next generation adventure.
  • Morality system built into every aspect of the game.
  • Incredible visuals, with some startling particle effects.
  • Powers look stunning and play fantastically.
  • A decent albeit relatively straightforward story with a good cast.

What’s Bad:

  • Some strange design and narrative decisions.
  • Side missions are quite standard for an open world game and boss battles lack variety.

Second Son is very much an inFamous game. It doesn’t stray off the series’ beaten path too much, but there are enhancements in terms of gameplay and some stunning effects put to good use to create the PS4’s most fun and best looking game yet.

While the narrative might not have the same impact as previous games, it’s somewhat more of a down-to-earth tale of an ordinary man with extraordinary powers, and that’s an exciting new direction for the series to take.

Score: 9/10

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45 Comments

  1. Loved the first two and I knew this would be quality. Can’t wait to get home tomorrow.

    Gutted I don’t have Internet to dl the day one patch though.

  2. Great review! Can’t wait for tomorrow – Game just text me to tell me its ready and waiting!

  3. The first title that makes me really want a PS4. By the time I get round to buying one this game will hopefully be dirt cheap. I’m a big fan of the previous two games, enjoyed them a lot more than assassin’s creed, uncharted and its other rivals so this will be among the first titles I enjoy on my PS4, one day.

  4. Great review Blair, cannot wait to pick this up at 9am and start playing as soon as I get home xD

    • Alright for some – I’ve got a full days work to do first :-(

      Not jealous, honest… ;-)

  5. This game is stunning. It has been a long time since i took my time to pan around and soak up the visuals of a game – but i have many a moment in this thus far.
    I didn’t put any significant time into the first two – so the gameplay is pretty fresh too, reminding me of my enjoyment with Crackdown funnily enough.

    Great review.

  6. Great read. Preordered and locked for tomorrow!

    Hell yeah!

  7. Lucky me ……I picked this up for the princely sum of £29.00 and a pack of crayons ( don’t ask) using codes from very..
    I loved the sequal and wasn’t keen on the first,but then I really enjoyed prototype

    • Put those crayons to good use maybe draw us a nice infamous themed picture TSA could put it in the TSA gallery :) I wasn’t as into the first as much as I was the sequel nearly platinumed the second couldn’t get the last trophy as I’d ran out of stuff to kill upon completing it the second time.

  8. Roll on tomorrow.

  9. Speaking as a huge Infamous fan (Infamous 2 and Festival Of Blood had me hooked) i’m left with similar thoughts as i had after reading (various) reviews of PS4 Killzone (another series i’ve loved).Both PS4 installments will be inital purchases when the time is right for me to upgrade to a PS4, but niether have ‘pushed’ themselves far enough to convince me to buy a PS4 just yet.

    Both seem to look stunning, superb generation 1 games for the PS4, the frame rates of both are not an issue for myself, they seem to suit both fine, don’t cause any interfernce with gameplay, so jobs a good’un.

    Both K.Z:S.F and I:S.S seem to hint or tease at where developer really wants to take the series (judging on what i’ve read) but seen a little wary, don’t want to put in too many radical changes for fear of alienating the fanbases.Would that be fair comment?.

    I can see why there is a concern, i was a huge Burnout fan on PS2/Xbox, yet i hated Burnout Paradise, the changes just did’nt work for myself, ditto with Far Cry, had loved on PC, bought both Xbox games, but Far Cry 2 i hated, technically admired what they were trying to do, but it just did’nt work.Far Cry 3 however i could not put down.

    So there’s always going to be that gamble, but, the risk is, if Sony were expecting this to sell PS4’s to those still happy with existing systems, it’s Killer-App to combat Xbox One Titan Fall, it’s ‘failed’ (but then so has Titan Fall in that regard, i own a 360, no plans to buy T.F on that, let alone buy an Xbox One.)

    For myself it harks back to when i was an 8 bit owner, when ST/Amiga ‘hit’, increase in power was clear, higher resolution, super fast 3D, sampled sounds etc, things like Starglider looked stunning, but it was’nt until Starglider 2, Dungeon Master etc hit that i knew i HAD to buy a 16 bit micro, as i was missing out.

    Ps4/Xbox One look lovely, delivering solid titles, just needs a little more in terms of WOW factor for myself.

    Hopefully Sucker Punch will take feedback/critiscms onboard and deliver a true PS4 Infamous for the more doubting Thomas types like myself.

    Kudos for a better review than Eurogamer mind.I knew they’d give it a 7, days before review went up.

  10. Still completely loving this game. Finally. Next gen is here :-)

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