InFamous: Second Son Review: The Good, The Bad, and The Pretty

Sucker Punch Productions. These guys have made two of my favorite series exclusive to Sony, those being Sly Cooper and InFamous. It seemed originally as though Sucker Punch was going to be doing one series per console generation, but as evidenced by this review, that didn’t happen. InFamous: Second Son is the not-too-direct sequel to InFamous 2, and while it takes advantage of being on the next generation Sony console, it lacks improvements in areas the previous installments had trouble with.

The titular “second son” here is Delsin Rowe, a Native American from a tribe in northern Washington state that has recently discovered he has super powers. Early on Delsin meets a menace that threatens his entire tribe’s well being. This forces Delsin and Reggie, his cop brother, to take a trip to Seattle to find the way to save his tribe. Upon arrival they find that due to recent events and other super powered people, called “Bio-terrorists” or “Conduits”, the city of Seattle has been overrun by the D.U.P., an anti-conduit organization with a reputation for establishing martial law wherever they go.

The quality of InFamous: Second Son‘s story takes a back seat to the quality of the characters the story presents. Now whether the quality of these characters is good or bad depends on, well, if they are good or bad. As with the past InFamous games there is a morality system in place, and as with the past InFamous games all the choices fall under two very distinct categories of the humane thing to do or the absolute evil thing to do.

The hero side of the story is definitely the better story. The characters and what they do make much more sense; the motivations and progression feel natural, and the way the story wraps up isn’t completely insane and unbelievable in the worst way like the evil side of things.

The morality choices you make throughout the game will also effect the power upgrades. As Delsin explores Seattle and nears his goal of saving his tribe he realizes he isn’t going to be able to topple government organizations with his smoke based powers alone. Luckily for him, his actual conduit ability is power absorption so he sets out to find other conduits in the city to up his arsenal. By the end of the game Delsin will have four powers to swap through, which he does so by draining from different power sources linked to each power. These powers can be upgraded by blast shards and by hitting new levels of the morality system, so min-maxing is almost required, and mixing up morality choices both cripples power growth and makes no sense to the story.

Each power controls largely the same but also has enough tweaks that they all feel different. This is especially evident in the way traversal is handled for each power. While smoke let’s Delsin dissipate into small particles and pass through fences and vents, neon powers let him travel at a high speed, even allowing Delsin to sprint up the sides of buildings. The ability to sprint up buildings comes in handy since trying to scale buildings normally is such a hassle.

The open world of Seattle is gorgeous, as are the character models, but it suffers from one big issue: without certain powers it feels like a chore to traverse as opposed to the fun feeling you want and expect from an open world game like this. Seattle is also spotted with some side content, missions varying from picking an undercover agent out of a crowd to finding a hidden camera based on its point of view. The pro and con to these missions both fall under the same umbrella in that they are too short, but the missions don’t vary enough so that the short nature of them means they are over before they wear out their welcome. Also dotting the city are small hovercrafts carrying blast shards, just enough to upgrade every power. All of these provide for a nice small distraction from the 10 or so hour main story.

The best part of the main story is getting to watch the actors give great performances with some fantastic mo-cap getting every emotion across. Laura Bailey as a misunderstood conduit provided my favorite performance, and Travis Willingham also shines as Reggie, especially in the hero side of the story where his actions and reactions actually make sense for the character. The story does start to fall apart when you look at it for longer than a glance. Some characters jump to conclusions that conveniently work out in their favor when they have no indication to believe what they are saying, while other characters forget how completely evil other characters have been in exchange for some development on the part of the big baddie. This is all on the hero side of the story, while the evil side has these problems and so much more due to characters acting in ways that don’t relate to their personality at all.

InFamous: Second Son really shines when you look at it as a next gen showcase, not a continuation of an established series. It looks gorgeous and the particles are aplenty, but it’s story and morality system lack any evolution that would be expected from a third entry in a series. Thankfully the game is so fun to play that a lot of the issues can be forgotten after the fact. I don’t remember the time that Delsin just randomly guessed what his conduit ability is, but I do remember the time I shot through an air vent as a smoke cloud, landed on a roof lot with neons, absorbed the light from those neons, sniped D.U.P. agents in the legs to subdue them, and  jumped off the building and unleashed a devastating screen clearing attack before running off to bust a drug deal.

4 Star Rating