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InFamous: Second Son review

Solid
AT A GLANCE
  • Fun story and interesting characters
  • The presentation is magnificent
  • Creative powers and abilities
  • Side content not well-developed
  • Gameplay isn't as 'next-gen' as the visuals
  • A bit short for an open-world game

Every kid dreams of having superpowers. Hell, when I was five years old, I tucked a blanket into the back of my shirt, stood in the doorway to my parents' basement, yelled "I'm Superman!" and threw myself down a flight of stairs. Turns out, I couldn't fly. But while playing inFamous: Second Son, an open-world in which you have access to plenty of powers, I forgot about that trip to the emergency room--I might not be able to teleport or shoot magic out of my hands, but you know what? Delsin Rowe can, and as I launch charcoal into enemies' throats and fly above the streets of Seattle, I can't help but smile. Second Son does a fantastic job of making you feel incredibly powerful in unique ways, even if this PS4-exclusive relies a little too heavily on filler content to pack its open-world with stuff to do.

The game's hero (or antihero, should you choose to go down that path) knows how cool his powers are. InFamous' Delsin Rowe quickly transforms from a boring "Oh no, I have special abilities, what does this mean?" character into a guy who is incredibly pleased to be able to blast smoke bombs at his foes. When Rowe travels to Seattle to make a stand against the obviously evil Department of Unified Protection, he's still unsure what to make of his gift. But before too long, he's snarkily correcting others on the political incorrectness of using the bigoted term "bio-terrorist" when people like him prefer to be called "Conduits". His sense of humor and personality is unique, making Delsin a more relatable, likeable character.

But Rowe's witty demeanor isn't the only thing that makes him stand out--his powers are equally unorthodox. Previous inFamous games gave their heroes control of traditional elements, but Delsin's ability to wield smoke is unique. Tossing smoke bombs, zipping through vents, and shooting black exhaust-fumes into enemies' faces is oddly satisfying, and takes advantage of the game's particle system and high-fidelity graphics (which, as you might guess, are stupidly beautiful). The powers you unlock throughout inFamous make exploring Seattle a treat, enhancing the otherwise humdrum act of navigating the city to liberate the streets of DUP control. 

Follow the trail

Delsin is a self-proclaimed "Conduit sponge", meaning he can absorb abilities from other super-powered individuals he meets. While most are unveiled organically during the story, one is part of a side mission called 'inFamous Paper Trail', which will appear a few weeks after release. I was only able to play the first mission (since the rest weren't available), but it had me chasing a Conduit with the power of… paper. It might sound lame, but it looked really cool, and I desperately want to soak those powers for my own.

Actually, kicking the DUP out of Seattle is really the only thing to do between completing story missions. The actual act of battling enemies stays fun throughout, thanks to a steady stream of new powers and upgrades; you'll constantly go out of your way to blow up an enemy base or pick fights with a group of Conduit-hating baddies. Other missions have you seeking out and destroying DUP quadrocopter drones, battling drug dealers, finding hidden audio logs, and… well, that's about it.

You're never really doing anything different from zone to zone, and while the act of taking out DUP checkpoints and chasing down audio logs might never turn full-on boring, it definitely loses its freshness the further you get. The story itself is enjoyable and unpredictable at times, but even with the side missions, it's a bit paltry when put up against others in the genre. You can finish the main game in just over 10 hours, and you'll easily be able to complete every side mission and optional objective in only a few more.

When the credits roll, you'll be left wanting, especially because you'll be in love with just how good the game looks. Odds are you won't be able to tell that Delsin Rowe's head is composed of 60,000 triangles, and I doubt you'll count the 11,000 individually textured pieces of ash that flutter about every time he uses his smoke power, either. You will, however, be able to admire just how good it all looks in motion.

Everything is crisp and clear, detailed and stylish, bringing a level of graphical fidelity not seen in other games. Delsin's clothing stretches realistically when he moves, and the neon blasts that fire from his hands light up the shiny puddles in the streets. The freaking bricks that make up the game's buildings look like real bricks. 

Sucker Punch hasn't recreated Seattle block for block, but it does manage to capture the atmosphere of the real city in this digital world. And though the city itself is beautiful, filled with details, jokes, and Easter eggs for the eagle-eyed gamer (Sly Cooper references everywhere), it feels weirdly artificial. Yeah, it's a video game, so some level of that’s to be expected, but the problem is mostly in the ways people react to Delsin.

Almost instantly they're either totally on your side, or completely against you. By the time I made my mark by way of moral choices (which occupy the typical BLATANTLY AND REMARKABLY EVIL or A NORMAL THING A PERSON MIGHT DO territory), I was deadened to their praise--the Seattleites had been yelling about me since the moment I stepped into the city, so it almost felt like I was the star of a reality show instead of actually having a meaningful impact. It's so binary that, at times, it almost feels satirical.

The influence of morality on gameplay is actually more impressive, and manages to shape the way you play in clever, organic ways. Different skills are unlocked depending on your playstyle, and you're rewarded with positive karma for debilitating enemies instead of going on killing sprees. It's done in a way that makes sense, and makes you think twice before having Delsin shoot a blast of neon light into a car for no reason… unless you're playing as an evil character, in which case you're rewarded for wanton murder. The differences in gameplay are actually fairly significant, and you might be compelled to complete the game a second time in order to see what the other side of the morality coin looks like. That might not serve as a great stand-in for additional content, but it's better than nothing.

If you're looking for a next-gen showpiece to demonstrate the power of PlayStation 4, inFamous: Second Son will definitely do the trick--it looks great, plays well, and gives you a dozen or so hours of city to explore. The gameplay itself isn't all that revolutionary, but the stellar presentation and enjoyable characters assure you'll enjoy your trip to Seattle--even if you'll wish there was more to do there.

More Info

Release date: Mar 21 2014 - PS4 (US)
Available Platforms: PS4
Genre: Action
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: Sucker Punch
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence

A beautiful game with a handful of interesting ideas that simply doesn't give you enough to do with its tools. Second Son is a great example of the PS4's power, and works as a decent stop-gap until bigger and better exclusives appear.

76 comments

  • StrayGator - March 21, 2014 8:18 a.m.

    Can't wait to play the inevitable mashup inFaMarius: Second Son of Rome
  • cricket0 - March 20, 2014 11:09 p.m.

    Hey Cooper, there's word that there will be a free day one patch for this game that will supposedly add 5 hours of content to the game. Will you update this review afterwords to reflect upon that additional stuff, since one of your criticisms was about the length?
  • Sinsational - March 21, 2014 5:29 a.m.

    The additional 5 hours of gameplay comes from the Paper Trail DLC cited above. It seems the DLC itself will be free additional content included in the patch. You can read more and have a more concrete list of what the 1.01 patch entails here: http://www.playstationtrophies.org/news/news-12637-inFamous--Second-Son-Available-at-Midnight-on-PSN--Day-One-Patch-Adds-Extra-Content.html
  • sonofskywalker3 - March 21, 2014 9:05 a.m.

    He also doesn't mention the "Coles Legacy" DLC that any pre-order customer gets, that's another bit of extra gameplay. Picking up my copy after work today!!
  • GamesRadarCollanderCooper - March 20, 2014 7:26 p.m.

    I guess Sony's check didn't clear
  • kaijuichi - March 21, 2014 11:22 a.m.

    Sony doesn't send checks. Their games are legit.
  • Nikku7 - March 20, 2014 4:51 p.m.

    Infamous 2 has done the best job of keeping the world interesting with plenty to do so far from the looks of it. Kinda bummed to see that this one doesn't do better. The story, characters, and powers has always been what got me through an infamous game for the most part anyway though. I've never been a fan of the series's tendencies to throw in a bunch of "protect this," "fight hordes off," "chase this dude down," side missions anyway. It's a shame that they aren't any more interesting here.
  • CitizenWolfie - March 20, 2014 2:13 p.m.

    I'm definitely picking this up, been a big fan of the series since the first and I love the arcadey ridiculousness of it all. I even like the blatant good/bad divide. Let's face it, some days you want to experience grave decisions and make stark, morally grey choices and some days you just want to be a pantomime villain and blow shit up. With a series like Infamous, more of the same is a win for me
  • winner2 - March 20, 2014 1:58 p.m.

    Well, I'm just glad it isn't BAD. When I finally pick up a ps4 i'll pick this up. It should be some decent fun if there's nothing else to overshadow it at that time. Although, they seriously need to get rid of that binary karma system. Homestar99 put it best earlier on here, basically make it more like Walking Dead or Witcher 2 where you don't get to be told what's good and what's bad, you've just got to make the decision YOU think is gonna work best (or least-worst might be a better way to put it) for your goals/purposes. Also someone please pm me or something and tell me if my any of my predictions were true.
  • Divine Paladin - March 20, 2014 12:53 p.m.

    So essentially it's the usual "we had to go next gen fast so we had to cut stuff from the previous games to save time" type of exclusive a la Tools of Destruction, most early 7th gen games, and Forza 5/Shadowfall. Sort of expected, honestly; it's inevitable with a jump forward in tech. Glad to see it mostly held up outside of being a bit shallow, since it's a damn fun series.
  • thatwonkid - March 20, 2014 12:37 p.m.

    Completes the game and still forgets the main characters name. It's deLsin not deSlin. It's like when people call me me Gordan. My name is Jordan. Big dif
  • Divine Paladin - March 20, 2014 1 p.m.

    I don't see the typo. I'm assuming he fixed it by now then. Was it just one typo or every one of them? I'd find it tough to believe Coop ould get it wrong every time.
  • GR HollanderCooper - March 20, 2014 5:08 p.m.

    I didn't? Maybe I said it wrong on the video?
  • Divine Paladin - March 20, 2014 6:07 p.m.

    Maybe; I don't tend to watch the videos. Either way, it's apparently noticeable to only one person, so no big deal.
  • GOD - March 21, 2014 12:41 a.m.

    Just to clarify, at 2:24 in the video, Henry mistakenly says "Deslin" and then I think hearing that subconsciously made you say it at 3:14. Sorry but........... Cooooooorrections. Yah screwed up. Even if Henry's the one who sabotaged you.
  • Redeater - March 20, 2014 11:05 a.m.

    Clearly, you forgot to add the + for Troy Baker's handsome mug. Well, guess I'll be a little less excited when I pick this up tomorrow. Oh well, it will provide a nice break from Dark Souls 2.
  • ombranox - March 20, 2014 9:21 a.m.

    It's only as good as TitanFall? Blah.
  • LeTHaL.MiGRaiNe - March 20, 2014 10:47 a.m.

    1. the first 2 infamous games were boring... this one doesn't look any different than the last one. 2. Infamous will never be as good as Titanfall.... unless you're crazy.
  • LeTHaL.MiGRaiNe - March 20, 2014 10:50 a.m.

    looking at Metacritic, the game sites agree, Infamous isn't getting the same review scores as Titanfall, it's a bit lower.
  • Redeater - March 20, 2014 11:02 a.m.

    They're two completely different games. Who the christ cares what got higher? The only people that are going to give a shit are pea-brained console fan boys who are desperate to compare apples and oranges. (I'm pretty sure ombranox was just joking)

Showing 1-20 of 76 comments

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