I’ve already finished inFAMOUS: Second Son once already, soon after it came out. Completed it on Normal difficulty and with Evil karma.
This is a review of the game as I’ve seen it just this week, having now completed it again on Expert difficulty with Good karma.
inFAMOUS: Second Son sees you play as Delsin Rowe, a graffiti tagger with a cop brother that’s part of a tribe a little while away from the city of Seattle. In this universe, there are conduits or bio-terrorists, depending on whether you like or hate them – people with special powers based on basic elements – smoke, paper, concrete etc. As your anti-conduit brother arrests you for your latest speight of vandalism, a sequence of events takes place that gives Delsin smoke powers.
As you meet Augustine, the benevolent leader of an authority that is looking to permanently imprison all such people, you find yourself chasing her into Seattle, acquiring new powers and slowly breaking down the presence of the authority she leads, the DUP (the “Department of Unified Protection), in the process.
First of all, the game is still absolutely gorgeous. The way the game looks fairly realistic as a base and then splices in all these complex, bright superpower effects is absolutely gorgeous – find yourself performing a superpowered, neon-fuelled run during a rainy night and the reflections on everything are heaven. Second Son also runs at 60FPS, only really dropping when the particle count hits the tens of thousands – you can, strangely for a console game, circumvent this a little by toggling an in-game option to cap proceedings at 30FPS, but it’s nicer to keep it unlimited.
The powers feel fantastic. The smoke dash, which lunges you forward, is a great start, the comet drop feels powerful, and shooting through vents is great. When you gain Neon and can start running at high speed and up walls, that’s something else. Video gives you the ability to use satellite dishes as glorified cannons. And the post-game Concrete is like a greatest hits compilation. It was only the minor attacks I wasn’t all that fond of – all of the small projectile attacks felt a little bit flat. They had no real audible punch, it sounded like you were blowing air at people.
While the game contains story missions, at its core it’s one of those open world games filled with little side activities to do – these are what bring down the DUP presence in areas. And pleasantly, every single activity is good fun – no ultra-hard, ultra-tedious minigames stand in the way of you achieving 100%. There’s one where you get to see through the eye of a hidden camera and must locate it by finding what it can see. Another is about tracking down a hidden conduit by a single picture you’ve been given. The most interesting is a graffiti minigame that has you hold your controller at a 90 degree angle with one hand, shaking it to rattle the spray can, aiming with motion controls and spraying by pressing down R2 with your index finger. The rattling and spraying sounds come out of the controller’s speaker too. It’s almost like that one minigame validates all of the quirky stuff that the PlayStation 4 controller can exclusively do.
It’s a good-length game too. There’s enough substance to it to maintain interest, but not too much to outstay its welcome. The story missions are varied and interesting, there are around 10 of each side mission, and while there are a lot of shards to collect around the map, any potential boredom of doing that is helped by the continuous stream of power improvements you can spend them on.
And the world fits all of this very well. While you start off in a wooded section with the tribe’s house, and the game almost threatens to be a shaky Uncharted ripoff, the city of Seattle is fun to look at, full of minute details and throwbacks to Sucker Punch games of the past. It’s full of life, with pedestrians, DUP, vehicles, street musicians, sign twiddlers (it gives you Evil Karma if you kill them – odd), gang members… it’s a great game world.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment I found when playing inFAMOUS: Second Son for the second time was the continuous sense of déja vu. It constantly promoted to me the power of my choices, and how I was fundamentally altering how everything took place. Well, no. It’s less like there are two distinguishable paths, one for good and one for evil, and more like a path that is 95% both and with the odd fork that splits into good and evil, quickly converging again. One such choice lets you either kill a recurring character or allow them to escape Seattle – your choice affects approximately 30 seconds of cutscene and then they’re never seen or mentioned again.
It’s not just the story either, the way you play the game is virtually identical. Some powers are visually red or blue depending on if you’re evil or good, and the odd power is locked to one side – good gets a couple of exclusive healing powers while evil gets improved offence. But really, it’s all much of a muchness.
My biggest frown for the game? The bosses. They are terrible. In one, you have to leech powers from a collection of sources in a room, which then leaves it almost pitch black. You then have to shoot, for what feels like about an hour, at the boss, who emits light. In another boss, you are sucked into TVs and fight a giant digital angel – incredible concept, but it again outstays its welcome, with the boss taking an absolute ton of hits and continuously moving around the space, forcing you to take a break, recharge your powers, and haul ass across the course.
Perhaps the worst boss happens directly after a major plot point. The game dulls all the sound effects, makes things blurry and has Delsin continuously angrily screaming at the boss as revenge for what they did, but the boss yet again is an attack sponge – it completely kills all story tension as sympathy for Delsin quickly turns into boredom for how many hundreds of attacks you’re having to launch.
A minor thing to add to all of this is, particularly in Expert, it can get a little frustrating if you choose to escape from enemy gunfire to regenerate health. Delsin is really good at “helpfully” sticking to ledges because the game thinks you’ve fallen off it repeatedly. I took quite a few deaths to being low on health and accidentally magnetising to grabbable objects.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with inFAMOUS: Second Son for my inFAMOUS: Second Run! It has a lot of problems, but none of them are game breakers. Bosses, while long, do end eventually, and there’s only ~4 of them in the whole game. Between these, the story is interesting, missions are fun, the world is great, and you get to enjoy all of this as a superpowered human being that admittedly is a bit of a dick at times.
It’s also massively cheap to pick up a copy nowadays. I suspect that there are millions of PS4 owners out there that bought their console after Second Son came out and missed it completely – if you like your sandbox games, here’s one you can grab for a fraction of full price.