Tech News on G4
New inFAMOUS not quite incredible
Apr 7, 2014
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
Every time I see the title to developer Sucker Punch's newest game series, I can't help but think of a scene from comedy classic The Three Amigos. Martin Short's character explains exactly what it means to be "infamous" - and gets the definition completely wrong.
That movie came out nearly 30 years ago and I still remember exact quotes; I finished inFAMOUS: Second Son a few days ago, meanwhile, and although it shows flashes of absolute brilliance throughout its campaign, the entire package proves to be a tad too forgettable.
Second Son is the third game in the inFAMOUS series, and it introduces Delsin Rowe, the protagonist (or antagonist, depending on how you play) who replaces the main character from the first two games, Cole McGrath.
The game has an interesting premise that doesn't quite reach greatness, due to some annoying plot holes and a morality system that only causes the game to suffer.
Second Son takes place in Seattle, and sees Delsin go from ordinary to extraordinary in a matter of seconds when he inadvertently absorbs the powers of an escaped "Conduit," which is someone who has special elemental powers. In Second Son, Conduits are branded Bio-Terrorists by the government, and are feared and hated by most citizens. If you've seen any of the first three X-Men films, you're sure to be familiar with this plot.
Delsin takes to the streets of Seattle to gain more powers as he prepares to take on Brooke Augustine, a Conduit that works for the government to keep other Conduits in check. She uses her concrete-controlling abilities to maim several members of Delsin's tribe, and Delsin takes it upon himself to steal her powers so he can heal his friends.
Once you sift through some story exposition, Delsin quickly earns several powers that set the tone for the game. Your first ability is smoke, and it allows you to launch yourself high into the air, to hover for short distances, to shoot explosive smoke grenades, and more.
You can upgrade many of these powers, though even prior to upgrading, you'll feel like some kind of Avenger, except for the fact that you begin the game on your own, and you'll be traversing a much rainier, much bleaker environment than New York City.
While I've never been to Seattle, I'm impressed with the city that Sucker Punch - which is based nearby in Washington - created. It may not be massive, and it's not exactly teeming with endless AI personalities like in recent Grand Theft Auto games, but random people will react to you depending on your "karmic alignment."
Sure enough, like in past inFAMOUS games, there's a strong focus on being good or evil. You'll be given important choices to make which will alter your path throughout the story, and even less meaningful actions - such as hurting pedestrians who may be standing too close to an enemy tank you blow up - will further fill your karma meter one way or another.
The choices are far too in-your-face like in the previous two inFAMOUS games, and really don't serve the purpose they're meant to. I wish that, like in Naughty Dog's The Last of Us, Sucker Punch showed more faith in its writers and simply gave players a strong story to follow, instead of shoe-horning in a gameplay gimmick that's been done before, and often not particularly well.
Second Son goes to some genuinely dark and compelling places, and I was impressed in particular with the memories we get to delve into in regards to the other Conduits Delsin meets and gets help from.
Speaking of which, while Delsin isn't inundated with dozens of superpowers, the few he does get are increasingly interesting and just plain fun to use. This both helps and hinders the game.
The reason for this is that the second and third powers Delsin acquires make traversing the city - both horizontally and vertically - endlessly simple. They make going back to using your first smoke ability seem downright cumbersome in comparison, because instead of simply rushing up a building in a few seconds in a flash of neon, you're stuck finding a vent to get sucked up into or worse, mashing the X-button as you climb your way up storey by storey like a sucker.
Changing between the different powers is a matter of finding specific objects in the city (you can reacquire smoke, for instance, by finding a burnt-out vehicle or smoke stack), but I think it would have been smarter to simply allow players to change at will with the push of a button.
That's not my laziness as a gamer talking. The truth is, Second Son is at its best when it simply lets loose and allows the player feel like a superhero. The game is truly a blast when you're dropping from a skyscraper and obliterating a group of enemies - and a large section of pavement - on the ground, or pulling off the absolutely brilliant special moves.
There are plenty of those moments, but there is a large dose of truly frustrating ones as well. For instance, while Delsin can easily power up his offensive abilities, he goes through the entire game as fragile as he begins. God forbid you turn a corner and end up in front of an automated turret or a group of concrete-wielding Conduits. You'll barely last a few moments before your screen turns black and white and you're forced to respawn.
The game is typically generous with where you restart after a death, but it can still be quite annoying hunting down a particularly difficult-to-reach item, only to be killed in an instant and forced to restart at a far section of the map.
The side missions, meanwhile, are somewhat interesting the first few times you complete them, but become repetitive at best once you've done them a dozen times. I did tend to chuckle at most of the graffiti art side quests (which make use of the DualShock4's motion sensing abilities), but could take or leave others, such as finding and destroying hidden cameras, or tracking down and eliminating secret agents.
Sucker Punch took advantage of the PS4's power when it comes to character models. I can't remember if I've ever seen faces as expressive as those in Second Son, and this legitimately adds to the experience. Delsin is particularly impressive, and matched with the excellent voice acting, he becomes a truly memorable character, and one I would love to see more of (especially after the final shot during the "evil" epilogue - you don't want to miss it).
It's a shame, though, that more of the city isn't destructible. You're able to destroy a lot of the enemies' towers and walls, and it feels wonderful, but little else can be torn apart.
inFAMOUS: Second Son straddles the line of greatness, but even with a new main character, set of abilities, and setting, it follows too closely in the footsteps of its predecessors. I want to see more of this series in the future, but I want a little more ambition.
inFAMOUS: Second Son
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