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inFamous: Second Son Review

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Second Son is a focused open-world game that offers terrific graphics and enjoyable abilities, but it would definitely benefit from a little more variety.

Infamous: Second Son is one of those tightly packed open-world games that brings focus to the sprawl. Your objectives are clearly marked, easily attainable, and satisfying to complete. Right around the time that you start to think that you might not want to search crowds in another secret agent mission, it ends. The story is entertaining, even if it does delve into some well-worn mutant-versus-society tropes. The powers are fun to use, even if the different power sources more or less translate into the same basic attacks and traversal abilities with different colors and properties. And it all looks positively fantastic, with loads of little details and effects that help the city of Seattle and its inhabitants spring to life. The side stuff could use more variety, and the karma system that governs if you're "good" or "evil" lacks nuance, but none of that prevents Sucker Punch's PS4 debut from being a really good time.

Seattle looks great.

Though it's set some time after the events of the previous game, Second Son isn't a traditional sequel. There are vague references to the past, but this game is about a new set of characters dealing with a new set of problems. As such, this third Infamous game is a solid entry point for new players, while existing fans will probably enjoy seeing the impact made by events of Infamous 2's "good" ending. Either way, players take on the role of Delsin Rowe, a small-town miscreant with a sheriff brother and a penchant for stenciled graffiti. Delsin's life is changed when a military transport hauling three conduits--the game's term for humans with various super powers--crashes right in front of him, allowing the mutants to escape. This is also when Delsin learns that he, too, is a conduit when he touches one of the escapees and gains his smoke-based powers. As this is a world where those conduits are more commonly referred to as "bio-terrorists" and are locked up in a special camp simply for having these abilities, this quickly turns Delsin's world upside-down. After a government agent on the hunt for the missing conduits tears through the small town, crippling many of its citizens with her own special powers, Delsin vows to make it right by going into nearby Seattle, where the agent--and the missing conduits--have set up shop. What he finds is a city under the watchful, prying eye of government surveillance, from checkpoints to mounted cameras to an army of troops with special powers, all trained to catch the remaining conduits. As Delsin, you'll smash it all to bits and take it back for the people... or yourself.

Karma once again plays a role in this third Infamous game, but it again lacks nuance. The choices you make are very binary and helpfully color-coded. Making blue choices slides your karma in the good direction, and red choices are evil. In-game, this means that you can do things like subdue enemies in a non-lethal way or obliterate them with animated takedowns, head shots, and so on. A small batch of choices also manifest during the story, letting you decide if specific characters live or die, giving other characters different motivations to either help society or help you wipe it out, and so on. The people in your life treat you differently as you proceed, and the citizens of Seattle will either laud you as a new super hero or cower in fear. Actually, even if you're a good guy, most of the citizens will cower or scurry away if you use a power in front of them, which seems sort of strange since they all seem to know who you are and what you're capable of after you've established yourself. As you push further and further in one direction, different abilities become available to you. Going evil opens up with lethal options while staying blue gives you options to better subdue your opponents. While it might sound a little boring, the blue track still gets plenty of entertaining abilities to use in combat, so opting to not murder everyone in sight doesn't make the combat feel weak. It mostly just means that you shouldn't shoot at civilians, if you can help it, and you'll be aiming for footshots instead of headshots. The game has enough little, repeatable karmic events to make up for any mishaps you might make along the way, and I didn't have any trouble getting to the top of the good side's power tree by the end of the 15-or-so hours it took to complete the story and 100 percent of the side content.

The powers at your disposal are pretty recognizable if you've played previous games in the series, even if the power sources are different. You'll still shoot bolts from your fists, you can briefly hover and glide, toss grenade-like attacks, and so on. The properties of your powers make those attacks a little different, though. You'll start out with smoke-based power and get the ability to toss grenades that cause nearby enemies to start coughing, leaving them open and letting you quickly deal with them. You'll also get a heavy projectile attack with each of the powers, and this is useful for taking out helicopters, APCs, and heavy troopers. While you'll start with smoke, you'll eventually encounter bosses and earn the ability to use additional power sources. You can suck energy out of the various power sources around the city, so hopping up to the rooftops and finding chimneys is a great way to replenish your smoke abilities, and so on. You can only have one power source active at a time, and you switch between them by siphoning off of the different power sources. It's an effective way to switch things around, but it makes the progression a little bland since you'll rarely want to switch back to an older power source once you get something new, especially once you've invested some blast shards--which are strewn about the world and easily marked on the map--to make your abilities a little easier to use. If you collect all the shards, you'll have exactly enough to purchase every upgrade, save for the ones that get locked out due to your alignment.

Most of the enemies use concrete powers to keep you at bay.

The game has main, story-progressing missions that you'll need to complete, but the whole city is open to you right away. Seattle is broken up into districts, and the map tells you precisely how many collectable shards, breakable cameras, graffiti spots, and other side content is available in each district. Clearing out a district triggers a "takeover" mission where you have to fight off a handful of troops. Doing this clears out random patrols of enemy soldiers and enables fast travel to that zone... but since you have to travel to a fast travel point to actually fast travel, I think I used that twice throughout the entire game. Overall, the game has a lot of great main missions, and though the side missions and collectables are very easy to handle, the side content isn't unique at all, and simply gets duplicated across every district in the game. It's a portion of the game that doesn't overstay its welcome, and I ended up completing 100% of the game right around the time I got tired of tracking down secret agents and engaging with the very simple graffiti stenciling mechanic.

One of the biggest draws of Second Son has to be its graphics. This is a fantastic-looking game, from the character models to the animation to the world itself. Delsin and the other main characters are extremely well-animated, allowing the models to convey proper, subtle emotion. The world and its lighting really goes a long way, too, especially in the opening sequences and the game's larger setpieces. Even outside of cutscenes, the characters have a level of detail to them that you don't see in a lot of other games, and the whole thing runs at a good, stable frame rate. The performances from the voice cast really come through in the visuals and the main characters are very well-performed, even if it occasionally feels like Sucker Punch went out and hired the most common and frequently used voice actors they could find.

Infamous: Second Son is brief, but engaging. The combat itself is interesting enough to cover for some of the repetition in the side objectives and it looks really great. If you're looking for a sprawling open-world with a billion little things to do, this isn't going to float your boat, but Second Son's tight, focused approach definitely still holds plenty of appeal.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
153 Comments
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Edited by Vitor

Boom. Wasn't expecting Jeff to like it so much as he wasn't that into the previous games. Glad to see he enjoyed it though - certainly bodes well for people who are interested in the game but didn't check out prior entries.

Posted by stenchlord

Wow was expecting Brad to write this review.

Posted by jclane

Whaaa? Jeff reviewing this even though he's gone on record for not being a fan of the first 2? I thought Brad would for sure be handling this one.

Posted by GS_Dan

I loved the two previous games, glad this one is decent too.

Posted by bigJaffa

Great review Jeff. Content as expected for a 1st crack at PS4. Looking forward to it.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Really glad this game is good! Also glad to have something else for my PS4.

Moderator
Edited by Yodzilla

Love this series, can't wait to play this one.

Posted by CorruptedEvil

Sounds like I might need to go get a PS4

Posted by TheBioLover

Nice.

Edited by altairre

Sounds good to me. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Posted by XplusY

Really looking forward to this. Loved the first two Infamous games, and this looks like both more of the same while different enough to keep me interested.

Edited by Aegon

Didn't Jeff say he gave this to Brad for review?

Anyways, it's nice to hear that this isn't disappointing.

Really enjoyed Infamous, but haven't really touched my copy of Infamous 2. Should probably get on that some time.

Posted by Rolento

Can't wait. Loved the first two.

Posted by wchue
Edited by ikabubu

Can't wait to smash my hometown!

Posted by DoomHK

Great review. I really hate that denim jacket, though. It makes me want to buy the Special Edition just so I can get him to wear Cole's...

Posted by Shevar

Well the fact that Jeff likes it, and he wasn't really digging the previous inFamous games, shows that Sucker Punch must have done a few things right.

Really looking forward to this when I'm going to pick up a PS4 later this year.

Posted by AlexGBRO
Edited by DrBo42

Why can't I add a review for Second Son? :(

Posted by therealminime

I am really excited to play this. Infamous 2 as the only Infamous game I played and damn was it fun, despite the crummy story and mission design. Seeing that Jeff really enjoyed it is even more encouraging.

Posted by csl316

Looking forward to it. Huge fan of the series, so if Jeff likes it I may just love it.

Posted by Parsnip

The Super Troy Baker Simulator

Edited by NoRemnants

@jclane: I like it. I fully expected Brad to give it a 5 if he had reviewed it. I like getting a non-fan's opinion on it.

Posted by HistoryInRust

Seattle looks great.

Posted by ImmortalSaiyan

Weird timing that Jeff would review this after the discussion they had on this weeks podcast. I liked the first Infamous and skipped the second. If I ever get a PS4 I get this for sure.

Edited by Glottery

Excited!

Posted by kennybaese

Rad. I'm glad to hear that inFAMOUS is still inFAMOUS, hokey karma system and all.

Edited by Zerothe

That's cool. Jeff is a good reviewer anyway but to hear that he didn't like the first 2 Infamous games is the same for me, I never got whatever everyone else got from the previous games. I did play them btw I just didn't buy them. Second Son seems like my first Infamous buy >_< Also like to add that this the only site I could find not rampant with fanboy comments. Thank you very much for that guys.

Edited by Counterclockwork87

@aegon said:

Didn't Jeff say he gave this to Brad for review?

Anyways, it's nice to hear that this isn't disappointing.

Really enjoyed Infamous, but haven't really touched my copy of Infamous 2. Should probably get on that some time.

Because of what Jeff said on the podcast I have a feeling he wanted to try not giving it to the obvious choice to review it. But, he did say he gave it to Brad so I don't know maybe Brad got sick or Jeff wrote a review at the same time and decided to publish his.

Posted by probablytuna

So more inFamous, just prettier. Sounds about right. I'm still sitting on the fence on this one though. On the one hand I want to play a new PS4 game, but on the other hand, I've played two inFamous games already and I didn't even finish the second one before losing interest.....

Edited by AMyggen

Gonna get this game when I buy a PS4 at the end of this year. Still dissapointed that they didn't do anything with the binary kill a baby/save a baby morality system though, was always one of the most shallow and "video game-y" examples of that kind of system in the two previous games.

I also hope they've made the combat a bit more fun.

Posted by MrGtD

This really reads like something from ObjectiveGameReviews.com. This can only be the highest compliment.

Posted by Yurtigo

Nice

Posted by ManlyScream

Very nice.

Edited by Nitrocore

Glad Jeff decided to break the cycle, it definitely makes things more refreshing. Maybe they could introduce a system where the other crew members can add scores as well, but make the review score the official GB score. Just a thought.

Edited by Boiglenoight

Hmm. It doesn't sound particularly new or innovative, but still fun. While not a day 1 purchase, glad to see PS4 get another good game.

Posted by AbstractMatador

Great review, looking forward to this game more now, even if I'm not a big fan of the first two games. I've become more of a Trophy whore lately, just platinum Resogun, Killzone is next (I might just get most single player trophies), and now InFamous. I've been taking my time with each game, and not impulsively buying games is really allowing me to get the most out of them. Not to mention by the time I buy Second Son it will most likely be on sale for $40 now to just avoid people spoiling the game for me...

Posted by MonkeyKing1969

I was thinking in the back of my head to buy this, but now I know I will. Thank god it isn't an overly long game, that was one thing I wanted to avoid - I don't have time for a huge time sink now. Praise-be for tight games!!!

Edited by ghostyTrickster

Really cool to see Jeff review this, since it is pretty much assumed Brad would enjoy it.

Posted by machinegunless

I can't find a definition of the word "trope" that matches the way the GB crew uses it so consistently.

Posted by altairre

@zerothe said:

That's cool. Jeff is a good reviewer anyway but to hear that he didn't like the first 2 Infamous games is the same for me, I never got whatever everyone else got from the previous games. I did play them btw I just didn't buy them. Second Son seems like my first Infamous buy >_< Also like to add that this the only site I could find not rampant with fanboy comments. Thank you very much for that guys.

That's pretty much how I felt until I continued where I left off in Infamous 2 this week.

I didn't finish the first one because I found it to be boring about halfway through. The experience with the second one was fairly similar even if they improved on some of the core gameplay systems and brought more variety to the environments. I stopped right before you get the ice/fire powers and after playing some more yesterday I really enjoy it now.

It's crazy how much the mobility of the icelaunch and the bolt stream ability changes the feel of the game. Just traversing the environment and shooting enemies while jumping and gliding is great.

The mission design is still the biggest issue for both side and especially main missions, so it's good to see that Jeff liked the main missions in Second Son.

Posted by bybeach

Hey....is this coming out for the PC?

No?

Back to occasionally skirting back to amazon to look at video cards and again the PS4.

Good review. It reminded me of the components of the earlier Infamous games which I liked so much. As for the good guy/bad guy approach, it works because they keep it forgiving though rigid. But you'd think there could be say 2 other paths someday in this approach. Yes it would take a lot of balancing. with perhaps 4 different endings done well enough. But it would enhance storyline and decision making.

Posted by Deusx

Awesome, the game looks great. Glad Jeff enjoyed it.

Posted by Roboculus92

@aegon said:

Didn't Jeff say he gave this to Brad for review?

Anyways, it's nice to hear that this isn't disappointing.

Really enjoyed Infamous, but haven't really touched my copy of Infamous 2. Should probably get on that some time.

Because of what Jeff said on the podcast I have a feeling he wanted to try not giving it to the obvious choice to review it. But, he did say he gave it to Brad so I don't know maybe Brad got sick or Jeff wrote a review at the same time and decided to publish his.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure what Jeff said on the podcast was that his first instinct was to just hand it off to Brad because Brad reviewed the other Infamous games but based on what he said afterwards it made it seem like he didn't want the same person to always the review the same games in a series or the same genre, which made it seem like he was gonna review it to me.

Edited by Yummylee

Funnily enough I'd say this review perfectly lays out the design and features (both good & bad) of both of the prior inFamous games, so as expected it sounds like it's basically a more prettier inFamous. Though hey, I bloody loved the first two and I'm OK with more of the same, so I look forward to eventually checking it out when I get me a PS4!

Edited by scaramoosh

Was hoping for it to be THE game you have to play, not worth buying a console for though.

Edited by Gill
Posted by geirr

Awesome! Now make Brad review Call of Street Fighter HD 2 Remix.

Posted by slyspider

Please make Brad review an anime game, Please make Brad review an anime game, Please make Brad review an anime game

Posted by Yummylee

@aegon said:

Didn't Jeff say he gave this to Brad for review?

Anyways, it's nice to hear that this isn't disappointing.

Really enjoyed Infamous, but haven't really touched my copy of Infamous 2. Should probably get on that some time.

Because of what Jeff said on the podcast I have a feeling he wanted to try not giving it to the obvious choice to review it. But, he did say he gave it to Brad so I don't know maybe Brad got sick or Jeff wrote a review at the same time and decided to publish his.

Brad is probably still busy writing the Ground Zeroes review I would guess.

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