Sucker Punch Productions, the Seattle-based gaming developer, has a couple of successes in their win-loss column. But how does their smokey, next-gen offering shape up?
Gamers, players, users — whatever you want to call them — they've all been clamoring for a next-gen game to embolden the PlayStation 4. Designed to show off the power of the new console, inFamous: Second Son carries the same burden of expectation as Mark Cerny's beloved baby. With the first two games (inFamous and inFamous 2) serving as moderate successes for the PlayStation 3, inFamous: Second Son features a new character, a new setting and an original standalone story. You're thrusted into the life of a rabble-rousing young rebel named Delsin Rowe who discovers (after a series of events) that his hands can conjure smoke and set the (open) world on fire. As a lover of graffiti, the Banksy-inspired Conduit manages to use his stenciled art to poke fun at the police state which takes place in a real-world Seattle setting.
Several years since the Cole MacGrath saga, Conduits have survived the events of New Marais and Empire City, which has forced the Department of Unified Protection into existence and into hunting those with special powers. Delsin (mo-capped and voiced by Troy Baker) and his police officer brother, Reggie, attempt to free Seattle from the vicious clutches of the DUP, led by Brooke Augustine. And while the game's plot doesn't offer anything new, it is mildly interesting and visually stunning. Something to point out is that it would have been great if some of the back stories of Second Son's supporting characters like Fetch and Eugene were a little more fleshed out. The game's unique art direction, which was led by Horia Dociu and his team, adds an element of realism to the open world adventure game. At night, Delsin's smoke and neon Conduit abilities look amazing thanks to the PlayStation 4's powerfully high polygon counts and flashy lighting effects.
Sucker Punch, which knows Seattle like the back of its collective hand, features nationally known and locally appreciated landmarks such as the Space Needle and the city's monorail. The cut scenes — which honestly grain a bit long in the tooth — don't jar the player from the gameplay. Also, traveling around the open world area of Seattle is fun as you can really get an Earthy feel for the area and the popular locations wherein. The DualShock 4 also helps the game to win by utilizing the small touchpad that allows Delsin to open heavy gates with a swipe of the finger. Karmic choices also return just like in previous entries in the series, which allows you to force Delsin in playing as a hero or as a villain. During our play through, we opted for the good guy route, which found Delsin's abilities more honed towards precision than utter destruction. Even when he deviates from main missions in favor of using art as a weapon, the player's graffiti choices will resonate throughout Seattle for good or bad, depending on you. With all the things that is going on in this government-controlled Seattle (fingerprint checkpoints, unmanned drones, wire taps), the third entry in the series largely comes across as a pretty picture with no concrete-honed point of view.
A major failing point in Second Son comes with the in-game camera. The enemies are many and can come from all angles, but the camera sometimes falters to pass through environmental objects that should have been transparent. Parkour, which is a staple in the inFamous franchise, sometimes makes Delsin's vertical movements impossible to follow. Wherein before Cole MacGrath was able to scale walls and leap from buildings with grace, there's so much focus on realism in Second Son that is skews the physics and finds Delsin looking like he's struggling to climb a tree. In addition to that, there are plenty of side missions, and while all are not mandatory, some of them are just boring and uninspired. Finding the hidden camera or follow the undercover DUP officer do little to flesh out the overall story of the government's control of Seattle, and don't add an extra level of fun to the overall experience. The last major bluster comes in the game's lack of variety in fighting. Second Son, instead of allowing players to show off their repertoire of upgraded moves, just forces you to fight an increasingly greater number of foes. While the boss fight manages to shake things up a bit, the allure of taking on Seattle's authority figures comes off a bit more lackluster and difficult than it needed to be.
The bottom line is that inFamous: Second Son is exhilarating and plays as a next-gen offering, but there's no extra oomph. Visually, the game works thanks to Horia Dociu and his team, which will certainly attract new and familiar gamers alike. But, the gameplay comes off as a standard-rate open-word action-adventure title; one where gamers must follow, find, and track in a checklist of missions. Some powers are unavailable to you no matter what karmic choice you play as, which means that Sucker Punch still paints the franchise too black and white, with little to no room for grey. Neither path you take differs the missions or mechanics when you go into a second play through. For all of the side missions to add weight to inFamous: Second Son, there's just not enough interesting things to do in Seattle to lure anyone but the most staunch completionists into its post-game exploration. The game feels really close to having another franchise hero like Nathan Drake, but the lack of a fully fleshed-out story, complicated camera work, and a mundane mission structure leave inFamous: Second Son as not the system-selling game the PlayStation 4 needs.
Don't believe us?! Well, just watch the trailer for yourself below:
inFamous: Second Son is a PlayStation 4 exclusive and is currently in stores now.