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Saturday, May 17, 2014

"inFAMOUS: Second Son" Review

Warning: This Review will contain spoilers for inFAMOUS 1 and 2

Back in 2009, Sucker Punch introduced us to a new franchise on the PlayStation 3. The game was called inFAMOUS and it was innovative for it's time. An open world game where you get electricity powers and can choose to use them for good or evil. It was awesome and it quickly gained popularity. It's now been five years since the release of the first game and the third installment in the franchise is here, with new powers, a new city and a new cast of characters, how well does this newcomer hold up to it's predecessors? Let's find out. 

inFAMOUS: Second Son follows the story of Delsin Rowe, a fun-loving delinquent who's older brother is a cop. The two of them, being of Native American heritage, live on a settlement outside of Seattle. For the most part, their life is peaceful aside from brotherly feuds. Until one day, a chance encounter with a runaway conduit changes everything. Delsin comes face to face with Augustine, a conduit hating tyrant who will use any means necessary to get what she wants, including leaving Delsin's entire village in painful disarray. Now, armed with smoke powers and a thirst for vengeance, Delsin travels with Reggie to Seattle to seek out Augustine and get her to right her wrongs.

Second Son borrows heavily from inFAMOUS 2 in terms of controls, gameplay, feel, AI interaction, and karma side quests, while also adding it's own unique twist and variety of extra gameplay elements. It also takes the elements introduced in the second game and improves upon them. For example, in Second Son you can completely eliminate enemy control of the district by completing all side quests, finding all blast shards, and then making a prank call to summon them to your location and take them all down with ease. It adds variety and replayability to the game, making for satisfying post-game content as well.

Another element introduced in inFAMOUS 2 and expanded upon in Second Son is having more than one power. While inFAMOUS 2 only gave you one extra power (fire or ice) depending on which karmic path you took, Second Son gives you a grand total of 4 powers and I won't spoil what the last two are, but smoke and neon were advertised and I must say, the neon power is amazing. Especially after it can be upgraded to have endless run, you can hold the circle button and run non-stop through the city like The Flash making travel between side quests much less of a chore. transitioning between powers is as simple as finding a source in the city and holding down the touch pad to drain from it. This way you can easily switch powers even during mid battle to heal yourself and unleash a flurry of differing attacks to keep your enemies on their toes.

While we're on the subject, let's talk upgrades. Second Son has by far the most painless upgrade system of all three games. While the previous games required you to earn experience points by defeating enemies and doing stunts, in Second Son you use blast shards to upgrade powers and the blast shards themselves are extremely easy to find. All of them show up on your map and are attached to these flying drones that you have to shoot down, or, once you destroy a DUP HQ at lest five blast shards will come flying out of it for your draining pleasure. There's also just enough blast shards in the game to fully upgrade every power, so it's very possible to fully upgrade your current power, then stock up on blast shards and when you get the next power you can immediately upgrade it.

Another thing Second Son does right is implementing the Dualshock 4's nifty features. For example, one of the many side quests in the game is spraying the sides of buildings with stencil art, or graffiti if you will. During this process you hold the controller sideways and shake it up like a spray can, then hold R2 and use the sixaxis motion controls to spray the wall. Other implementations include phone calls being heard through the dualshock 4's built-in speaker, swiping on the touch pad to open doors and the controller's light bar changing color and density to match your karma level. While some cynical people may consider these features to be gimmicks and poor justifications for features Sony implemented that they might consider unnecessary, I personally found them to be fun and impressive and felt like they added to the experience.

I held off on this review until after the game's major patch mainly because I wanted to talk a bit about photo mode. Photo Mode, which was added to the game via patch a few weeks after release, is essentially a freeze frame tool that lets you pause the action and then take a lovely screenshot using a multitude of tweaks such as changing the distance, adjusting the angle and even adding filters Instagram style. It's certainly one of the better additions to a game I've seen via patch.

One of the other cool features of Second Son involving content push via internet is a weekly series of side quests called Paper Trail. It revolves around you chasing down a mysterious Origami conduit between murder sites while finding clues. The most interesting part of this however, is the online connectivity it involves. If you link your PSN account with you can take a closer look at some of the clues you find as well as take quizzes and learn more about conduits and you can earn karma points that transfer into the game.

Now, I can't talk much about Second Son's story without spoiling anything, but I will say it was very enjoyable and I liked both the good and evil ending. The characters that you run into however seem kind of stereotypical for the specific roles they play in the game. All the good guys (that's assuming you're playing with good karma) are delinquents, misfits and outcasts who were bullied or wronged in life in some way and now they have powers with which to exact their revenge. It's almost as if Sucker Punch wants you to be evil, of course the name of the game "inFAMOUS" kind of gives that away. But player-driven choices are an element in games I'm particularly found of, especially when they give you reason to go back and play it again. However, unlike it's predecessors, Second Son's karmic system seems less on a scale of good vs evil and more like nice guy vs a-hole.

There are few things about Second Son that bother me, but they're there nonetheless. While the story is amazing and I found myself caring about the characters and what happens, especially during the second half of the game, I couldn't help but feel it was surprisingly short. I mean, the game is jam packed full of content but if one was to play from start to finish doing only story missions, it would take a few hours at most. Of course, the game makes up for this by making it difficult to succeed without upgrading powers first and by locking you out of specific story missions until you destroy the nearest DUP HQ. So, in a way, they force longer gameplay time. The other thing that bothered me is that if the good ending of inFAMOUS 2 is considered canonical, how are there still conduits? If I recall correctly, Cole's sacrifice was supposed to eliminate all conduits and effectively put a stop to this ridiculous war. Maybe there's something I'm missing.

Anyways, overall an amazing game, arguably the best PS4 exclusive right now with a few minor hiccups.

My rating: 8/10      

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