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inFAMOUS: Second Son Review - The Good Son

Jim Sterling | 20 Mar 2014 14:00
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Smoke is Delsin's starting gift, and it allows him to pass through certain objects, travel along air vents, and burn the brains out of his enemies. It performs the duties of a solid all-round "class," providing a nice balance of powerful offensive tricks and movement-based enhancements. Another power is more movement based, while another brings in support. I would love to discuss my favorite power, but gameplay is apparently spoiler territory now, so I can't.

Every power has its own devastating rampage attack, should Del kill enough foes within a given period of time. These all-out maneuvers fill the screen with murder, and are well worth checking out.

Powers can all be upgraded by collecting shards spread across the city, and they take one of two forms each depending on whether Delsin is evil or good. Extra powers are gated off by karma level, which is not only gained through narrative decisions, but by choosing whether or not to fatally wound enemies or heal the helpless. There are also respawning events throughout the city that can be mined for extra karma too - from helping cops take out criminals, to murdering street musicians because they're "annoying."

Each superhuman ability is most definitely fun to play around with, and controls are relatively simple, even with three (or four) different flavors to choose from. My one issue with the controls is the overuse of the touchpad, required as it is for draining power sources, breaking machines, interacting with devices, and opening doors. It's not the most abusive use of a gimmicky interface I've seen, but it nonetheless comes off as using things for their own sake, especially as swiping stuff adds nothing of note to the experience. I'd really rather just press a button.

Seattle is, naturally, full of stuff to do, though that stuff can become exhausting through repetition. In order to wrest control of the city away from the DUP, players must perform the same tasks over and over in each region. From destroying DUP strongholds to breaking security cameras, tagging walls, and much more besides, there are plenty of distractions, but they get old fairly quickly, and there's nothing here that similar open world games haven't been doing for years. The most original idea is the street graffiti, which you'll be using motion controls to perform. It's a cute idea, but again, it's done so often and in such a formulaic fashion that it grows tiresome after a couple of instances.

Main missions are a pretty even mix of the exciting and the lethargic. There are some really clever boss battles, some thrilling set pieces, and satisfyingly chaotic combat, but there are also way too many instances of that "follow a radio signal to find a guy" contrivance - a glorified game of "hot and cold" that really hasn't ever been fun in any open world game to date. Second Son relies on this bit of filler several times, and even has a whole menu of optional missions comprised entirely of them, and it's just not enjoyable.

Still, for the most part, Second Son is wholly gratifying stuff. Each of the powers feel fully formed and separate, though unified via a shared control scheme - pressing Circle, for example, is going to make Delsin move quickly, but whether he surges forward in a cloud, sprints as a [REDACTED], or grows [REDACTED] is dependent on the equipped power. Combat can be tricky, especially once more powerful DUP agents show up, and a number of opponents are more frustrating than enjoyable to deal with, but overall it's a huge laugh to roll up to a group of soldiers and choke, stab, or stealth-kill them, especially once you've whittled the opposition down to one lone DUP agent, who'll often throw his hands up in surrender - allowing you to deal with him as you wish.

It should be said that Second Son is a thoroughly gorgeous game to look at. Lighting is incredible, each of the powers are brimming with spectacular special effects, and reflections on passing vehicles are particularly stunning. Despite talk of visual downgrading since its first public reveal, Second Son delivers in the visual department. The same holds true for audio, with an impressive soundtrack that kicks in at just the right moments, and that aforementioned brilliant voice cast.

Bottom Line: The best in the series to date, inFAMOUS: Second Son tells an amazing story and gives players a ton of relishable power to play with. It's held back by some outdated and formulaic ideas, but overall it'll keep players happy.

Recommendation: While still not quite as good as many other open world games, Second Son is a PS4 exclusive well worth checking out, even if it does grate a little toward the end.

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