The world of inFAMOUS: Second Son brings many things to PlayStation 4 gamers. It gives them a new playground to explore the depth and beauty of their system (though not really the population possibilities), it gives an interesting, if not that deep, two-sided morality story, and it offers up the most important part of a video game: it’s just damn fun to play.
The inFAMOUS series does something else important for games, though: it brings fun superhero action to games without a major license. This is an entirely original world with entirely original characters that gives fans the thrill of having superpowers – whether they use that to become a hero or become an infamous villain is up to them. That’s something that would be difficult to do with any licensed character. If you’re playing as Spider-Man, guess what, he’s the good guy. He’s the hero. Unless they want to introduce the recent Superior Spider-Man into the equation, he’s always going to do what’s right, and there aren’t really moral choices you can have there.
It comes back to the same argument for creator-owned characters and concepts in comic books themselves. Ultimately, if you’re playing in Marvel or DC’s playground as a writer or artist, you are bound by their conceptions of those characters and their desire and right to protect their intellectual property. If you’re playing in your own playground, you can do whatever the hell you want.
And that’s really what inFAMOUS: Second Son is: a playground of your own making, not even just of developer Sucker Punch. There are lots of collectibles, side missions, and random events/battles to get into, but the superpowered movement is so exciting that it’s fun to just generally explore the large multi-district incarnation of Seattle they’ve created here. You make choices that bend you towards being a hero or a vicious vigilante. And all the while, either way, you’re kicking all sorts of butt.
The story of inFAMOUS takes a man named Delsin Rowe, an Akomish tribe member who doesn’t quite know what he wants to do with life. Because of this, Delsin gets into a lot of minor trouble, usually with his older brother, the Sheriff of their tribe. Delsin’s life changes when he’s exposed to a bio-terrorist or conduit (depending on who you ask), and when they touch, gains the conduit’s abilities (with a side of memories for good measure). Conduits, since Cole McGrath sacrificed his life to end the threat of a handful of evil ones in the last game, have been vilified and outlawed – unless you happen to work for the Department of Unified Protection. The DUP shows up and seems ready to take Delsin in, but after your first big moral choice of the tame, you begin anew, head to Seattle, and start your mission to take down the DUP and save your tribe.
From here, the world is yours. It’s important in a superhero game and in an open world one at that, to really make the player feel like they are powerful from the start, and inFAMOUS has no problem there. Upgrades are easy to come by; after a few quick guided missions to introduce you to your powers, you have free reign over the Northern half of Seattle, and if grinding is your thing, can absolutely go around doing nothing but side missions. In fact, the entire half of the city can be freed from DUP control before you even do about the third story mission in the game. Luckily, the difficulty of enemies ramps up pretty quickly, so it actually makes some sense for you to upgrade your powers as fast as possible and take on what comes with a little more ease. Normal difficulty is easy enough that you won’t get frustrated and forget you’re supposed to be a superhero, but challenging enough that you’re not just bored.
The variety of sidemissions keeps things interesting for the 15-20 hours it’ll take an average gamer looking for all the unlocks to go through the game. There are little things like healing injured people along the road or if you’re going the dark path taking out protestors or street musicians. There are slightly more involved randomized groups of drug dealers you can take on, and of course DUP folks roaming the streets. The more involved DUP command center fights are fun and challenging, requiring you to do more than just random violent button-mashing, and unlock all the other DUP-force-reducing missions like “find the secret agent” (much easier with your second power set) and audio log & hidden camera searches.
If none of this sounds very revolutionary, it isn’t. This is all following the formula the previous games in the series (and several other open-world super-power games) have followed, it’s just doing it better and more polished. You gain new powers at just the right time – right when your old ones might be getting ever-so-slightly stale, and the ability to switch back and forth between them lets you go back and play with the others without having to restart the game. An entire second half of Seattle came as a bit of a surprise midway through the story missions, and lets you really play the way you want to even more.
The presentation is fantastic as well. Whether it’s Troy Baker and his great supporting voice cast, the gorgeous graphics in everything from the cityscapes to the way powers are shown, there’s not much to be upset about in the way the game’s story and world was laid out or shown off to gamers. If there’s one complaint, it comes in how you traverse the city old-school, in jumping/parkour style before gaining your second power. The parkour is not very intuitive, and it’s easy to get annoyed when you try for a twelfth time in a row to jump onto a simply ladder and Delsin just will not grab on! Luckily, the second power includes a unique movement function that lets you bypass all that.
Ultimately, inFAMOUS: Second Son doesn’t do that much new, but it does almost everything very well. In a game all about evolution, that makes a certain poetic sense. This is the PlayStation 4 exclusive fans have been waiting for. Incidentally, it’s also an absolutely wonderful excuse to buy the new system ahead of major Fall 2014 releases like Arkham Knight, Destiny, and Assassin’s Creed Unity.
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
inFAMOUS: Second Son is available now, exclusively for the PlayStation 4