From First Light to Second Son - InFamous is surprisingly awesome

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As some of you may know, this month PS Plus offered First Light up for grabs, the stand alone DLC to InFamous: Second Son. Being a PS4 owner that had never played the base game I decided to give it a go; why not right? I ended up really disliking First Light for a variety of reasons. I didn’t think it looked great, the city felt drab and lifeless, the missions were boring and I disliked the character, her story and powers. Yet, something at the end of that DLC grabbed my attention. Suddenly the game became a little more set-piece story driven and a little less open world meandering. I had watched the first 15-20 minutes of Second Son online at some point and it reminded me of that. So I took a chance and bought Second Son on the cheap, and it’s a good thing I did because I absolutely loved it.

Second Son is a game that I think just went on it’s way after release. People said it looked great but I didn’t hear a lot of talk about how well it played. Some folk mentioned how the developers probably never even looked at what the map of Seattle actually looks like but that was about it. Well I’m here to tell you fellow bombers, the game is great.

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Just to get it out of the way, yes, Second Son looks absolutely gorgeous and is probably one of the best looking next gen games I’ve played on the PS4. The very opening of the game has you jumping around a beachside with beautiful sun rays streaming in, great water effects and detailed textures that are all a joy to behold. The particle effects on the different powers you use look spectacular and everything just seems crisp and clean like how ‘next gen’ games should all feel. Second Son also utilizes all the strengths of the new console. It is colorful, vibrant and makes use of the PS4’s bag of tricks including the touchpad and motion controls. In my personal opinion it is the game for showcasing the strengths and unique capabilities of the console.

But looks aren’t everything of course. One of the very first things that Second Son does extremely well is the way it loads up. When you launch the game from the XMB it loads directly into gameplay - a small thing but it’s literally mind blowing. You don’t have to X way your past 3 different title screens, logos or menus - you launch it and the first thing that loads up is your character in the gameworld, ready to go. More games should do this. In fact all games should do this.

But why am I so in love with Second Son when I absolutely disliked everything about First Light? Well it’s probably because Second Son did everything for me that First Light simply didn’t. In a recent thread about the DLC my main complaint was the Fetch, the protagonist of First Light, had a traversal power that completely trivialized the environment as it let you run around, up and down walls, without any challenge. All you did was hold a button and went. The city felt extremely barren as well and you mainly faced off against lookalike Dan Ryckert gang members that weren’t very exciting to fight. I realize that in large part my problems stemmed from the fact that I was playing a story filler DLC that is probably meant to be experienced after you beat the main game - after all the fanfare of exploring your powers and the the city is well over with. I didn’t get to experience the well paced exploration and as such was about the write the entire game off.

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Second Son does a great boy of steadily introducing you to not only all the powers but also the city itself. Throughout my entire playthrough I probably enjoyed the original smoke abilities the most. Not only do they look amazing but they offer just enough mobility to make traversal fun, without it being a completely mindless act of holding down the ‘go’ button. You have to look for vents, judge your jumps and double dash effectively to get around. It makes you feel powerful, but not omnipotent. There is mission early on that has you climbing the space needle which scratched the exact sort of itch I had. There you are, climbing this incredibly tall structure, aided by your powers but still presented with a challenge. Hanging on with one hand I look down and get a little nervous, the controller gets a little sweatier in my grip because I know one wrong move and I’m falling to my doom. It doesn’t matter that the game will just start me back up at a checkpoint, it’s the thrill of conquering this object that I get the most fun from.

The city also seems a lot more vibrant in the main game as well. There is a decent amount of activities that Delsin can engage in that feel more fleshed out than what was offered in First Light - which seemed tacked on at best. These are all typical side missions that help you take down each district by painting graffiti or destroying security cameras, but they all make sense within Delsins story while they felt weirdly superficial in Fetches.

Listen, I could go on but obviously it doesn’t take a genius to realize that a full game is going to offer a lot more diversity than a short piece of story DLC. I guess what I’m getting at here is that it’s January and not a lot of game are coming out. Some of you might be looking for something fun to play and enjoy open world experiences. I cannot recommend Second Son enough. It is probably the most fun I’ve had out of all these “next gen” games that promised us the moon and barely got off the ground. I think Second Son delivers everything with reasonable expectations - it looks great, it runs well, there are very short loading times, the story is pretty decent and the gameplay is fun, engaging and for the most part varied as you continue unlocking new abilities up to the very end boss battle. You can probably get this game on the cheap right now, so if you want, go ahead and give it a shot. Personally I think it really deserves a lot of praise for being a launch title that delivered way more than games that have had more time with the hardware.

26 Comments

26 Comments

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csl316

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Edited By csl316

PS+ doing what it's meant to do: getting you interested in a series for future purchases.

I'm glad people enjoyed Second Son, despite my massive disappointment with it (as a huge fan of the first two). @darthorange pretty much expressed my feelings on it in this blog, I expanded in his comments.

I'm kind of curious about your history with the series. It seems that people who disliked the first two or never played it have better things to say.

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TrafalgarLaw

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Can't wait to play them myself, I've been an Infamous fan since the very first game. Would playing First Light before Second Son be better than the other way around?

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doctordonkey

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I found the parkour in the first 2 Infamous games to be fucking infuriating. The inane spamming of the A button to watch Cole jank his way up a building was some of the worst shit, and that is a huge chunk of what you did in those games, traverse the world. The closest that system got to decency, was the ice jump half way through the 2nd game. Now granted, Second Son has a very similar system, and it still sucks. However, once you get the neon powers, you don't have to engage with it anymore, you just hold down sprint and up ya go. Then you get the video powers, and you can just straight up fly. This alone is why Second Son will always be the superior Infamous, in my eyes.

Also, it was the only game in 2014 that made me just stop and look around the world, or play with photo-mode. Incredibly gorgeous game, seeing it glossed over in the GOTY stuff was a laugh.

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DarthOrange

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In and of itself it is a solid game. Compared to the previous games though it is a huge step down, as I outline in the blog csl306 was kind enough to link to. From what you wrote it seems like we like the same things about the game, but you don't have the old games to compare it to. Everything from the pacing to the traversal was done better in the older games. I highly recommend you check out the first two inFamous games, they will blow you away.

Then you get the video powers, and you can just straight up fly. This alone is why Second Son will always be the superior Infamous, in my eyes.

You don't fly, you glide. You could do that in the first two inFamous games too. Festival of Blood was the only game that actually gave you the ability to fly. They should have brought it back in Second Son.

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emfromthesea

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Cool write-up.

Personally, I really liked the changes to the traversal, and the graphics were very impressive, but it felt very shallow compared to the previous entries. I missed the sense of something greater on the horizon that was present in inFamous 2, thanks to the villain. And as cool as it was to travel through a vent as smoke in Second Son, I don't think they have managed to topple electricity as the best power. Still, Second Son left me wanting more from the series, so I guess it did its job.

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nightriff

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Maybe I should give Second Son a chance because I felt the exact same way after First Light. It wasn't bad, more mediocre. After I played First Light I pretty much gave up on ever trying SS, but I probably should after your blog. Maybe it will be a PS+ game before I get a chance to try it.

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ahgunsillyo

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The funny thing about the layout of Seattle in Second Son is that Sucker Punch is based out of Bellevue, which is right outside of Seattle. So the developers no doubt knew what they were doing in mapping out Seattle the way they did. As someone who is based out of the Seattle area, I think it's really amusing and silly that they made it into some kind of weird Bizarro-world Seattle made up of two separate islands, but I also think they really nailed the feel and atmosphere of the city. I have my quibbles, like their version of the Pike Place Market being absolutely tiny, but they included enough little details and shout-outs to Seattle and its culture that I ended up being really impressed.

I also don't know if it'd necessarily be as beneficial to be completely accurate to the actual layout of Seattle, as it is mostly just a confusing grid of streets on a slope downhill to the water. It's clear that the developers created two separate islands to gate progress and place landmarks in areas that made sense for the story progression; the previous inFamous games did so by having most of the city without power so that you couldn't really do much in those areas until the story allowed you to turn the power back on. Second Son didn't have that mechanic, so it probably made more sense to create two separate islands than to, say, have a giant DUP wall bisecting the map that you break through halfway through the game to get to the other half of the city. Actually, now that I say that, it doesn't sound that bad, nor does it sound that different to what they actually did. Hmm.

I really liked Second Son, at least a lot more than a lot of people seemed to by the time the end of the year rolled around and Game of the Year discussions started happening. I agree that it is a lot more simplified than the previous inFamous games, especially inFamous 2. I'm a big fan of both of those games, and I think that the lack of dedicated narrative-driven side missions and the inability to easily cycle through the powers at will were a bit disappointing, especially compared to how large in scope and complexity the side content and powers were in inFamous 2.

Actually, one of the most interesting things about the game ended up being the "Paper Trail" ARG missions. While a lot of the actual in-game content was pretty shallow from a gameplay perspective, the ways they tied it into the out-of-game content were actually pretty cool. I had a good time playing detective and going to the fake websites to solve the mysteries in the story, then taking that stuff back into the game. It was kind of finicky to get started when the game launched, but I think it should be good now that all of the content rolled out (I think they initially released the content week by week in an episodic fashion), so if you have the game and haven't tried playing through that content, I'd recommend doing so.

In the end, I really enjoyed my time with inFamous: Second Son. I thought it was a pretty simple, straightforward experience, especially when compared to the previous games in the series, and I might be biased since I'm based around the Seattle area, but I had a lot of fun running and climbing and gliding around a weird, fictionalized version of the city I know and love and using a bunch of visually stunning superpowers. And it is a gorgeous game. The lighting effects alone are some of the best I've seen in a video game (using the neon powers at night was one of the highlights of the game for me, if you'll excuse the pun), as was the mo-capped acting by the likes of Troy Baker and Co. It has its problems, but I had a great time.

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MormonWarrior

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I don't get all the lukewarm reception at the end of the year - inFamous Second Son is the best that the inFamous series has ever been. That first game was such a slog, and the second game was an improvement (with the Halloween game being a fun couple of hours too) but man oh man is this game so much more well-paced and fun to get around in. Also, Delsin is way more entertaining than freakin' grumpy Cole.

The side characters are pretty much just as annoying as Zeke though (with the only exception being Fetch). I don't understand why Sucker Punch makes such irritating real-world characters. I thought the Sly games had a fun cast.

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Lazyimperial

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I'm glad you liked Infamous: Second Son. It's a pretty awesome game. I just wish it had a longer main campaign or more story-based side missions. I loved it, but it flew by so fast! Maybe it's my nostalgia goggles, but I remember Infamous and Infamous 2 having more missions and room for the story to breathe. Oh well, I still had a blast. I wanted more Infamous, and they gave more Infamous. :-P

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bluefish

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See, I very much agree. The PS4 infamous stuff has been really good but people act like their a homeless guy asking for change/wont give them the time of day. Sure they're not perfect but they're friggin FUN to play, beautiful and smooth as butter.

Glad to hear you're digging it.

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Humanity

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Edited By Humanity

@darthorange: I actually played both of the first games and even messed around with the level editor a bunch in the second. I liked them both for different reasons and agree that the second game is probably the pinnacle of the series in terms of mechanics. I didn't really get too deep into how Second Son actually plays because this blog was more of a chance to express my surprise at just how much I enjoyed it after I found First Light really off-putting.

Second Son definitely feels smaller and shorter than Infamous 2 but I attribute that to Sucker Punch having to launch this thing early in the cycle on brand new hardware. I cannot stress enough how impressive this game is for something released so early in the console cycle. This is probably why it's main campaign is somewhat short and why there aren't that many different activities in the long run. Still what is offered is fun enough and easy to get into on the spot. I appreciate the clean design in letting you know exactly what you have left to collect or do in any one area.

A lot of Second Son's strengths are also it's weaknesses. The variety of different powers take away the focus from any individual one, and leaves them all feeling lacking in different ways. The smoke abilities are the most comprehensive of all and the ones the team probably spent the most time developing. What I noticed is that each power seems to correspond to a weapon loadout. Smoke being pistol and shotgun, while others being sniper, assault rifle and 3 round burst respectively as you unlock them. It's an interesting dynamic but would have worked better if you could switch between them on the spot.

I thought the traversal was done really well in that each ability, sans the last, offers unique ways for getting around. As I mentioned before I really enjoyed smoke a lot and used that power almost exclusively until I got to the second island, ignoring neon completely. Something about going into a vent and popping out at the top somehow never got old, and man, did I mention the game looks good?

It's not a perfect game when compared to the existing series but I think it's a good direction to go off into. Obviously having a few different flashy abilities was a better way to show off the PS4 rather than concentrating on just one, but it also offered some much needed variety to how you approached situations as compared to the previous two games where you'd sort of settle into a steady rhythm halfway through. Infamous was always good as making traversal equally fun as the combat and Second Son expands on that idea even further. I'm not sure where they go from here but I would definitely love to play another one of these games in the future.

@nightriff: Definitely! I was pretty bummed out by the DLC. Everything about it just didn't really do anything for me at all. But if you like climbing around, getting new powers and making some karma choices along the way then Second Son does all that stuff really well. It's all very polished.

@doctordonkey: If you hate traversal so much I honestly don't know why you keep coming back to Infamous as climbing around has been roughly 60% of the game since the very first one and it doesn't look like anything changing. Without the climbing around all this game would be is a third person shooter with some flashy powers, and I dunno how many people would really want that.

@trafalgarlaw: I would recommend you play Second Son first and then if you crave more dig into First Light, it's not very long. I played them backwards because it was free and I didn't own Second Son at the time and it's mostly confusing from both the story and gameplay angle. The game also feels very stripped down in the DLC which makes sense but doesn't make the best first impression.

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probablytuna

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I had a good time with Second Son, certainly more than inFamous 2 since I never even bothered to finish that one. It was released at the right place at the right time when I needed a new current gen game to play and it certainly showed how much better a game running on PS4 when compared to the PS3. It's a shame there weren't that many memorable moments in the game nor did it particularly improve upon the inFamous formula but it was fun while it lasted.

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bhizzy

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At first I thought Second Son was a "right place right time" kind of game, just a solid filler in the lull of PS4 AAA games of early 2014. But even almost a year later, it's still one of my favorite experiences on the console.

But seriously, nothing is better than running down a Russian gangster Dan Ryckert.

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SomberOwl

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I can't wait to see what Suck Punch does next. That studio has so much potential.

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Marcsman

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Edited By Marcsman

I enjoyed Second Son

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Quid_Pro_Bono

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I loved Second Son, and I'm really excited to start my evil expert play through after I finish 100% on my main good playthrough. I'm also excited to start First Light despite some of the stuff I've heard because Fetch was totally the best part of Second Son. She was cool.

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Humanity

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@quid_pro_bono: Sadly she's a lot less cool and a lot more whiney in the DLC. I also enjoyed her in the main game but she really seems like a different person in First Light, although I suppose the circumstances call for it.

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doctordonkey

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@humanity: I keep coming back because there is enough surrounding the broken-ass parkour to keep be interested. If I dropped games just because I had an issue with one of its mechanics like you said, than I never would have even played Second Son, a game that alleviated that specific issue. That's the thing, I don't hate the traversal in these games, I hate the climbing. I'm talking about running up to the side of a building, jamming on the X button, and waiting for Cole to jankily make his way up a wall, while watching him spaz out like his animations are bugged. The reason this isn't a problem in Second Son, is because you never have to engage with that system. It's still there, it's still bad, but there was always a vent to smoke into instead. When you move from smoke to Neon, it gets even better, you just hold the O button and you traverse the world seamlessly. That is why I love Second Son, besides some other improvements (reticule in the center of the screen, Sucker Punch, how did you not fix that the first time?)

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Humanity

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@doctordonkey: Well to each their own of course. I don't think their parkour is bad at all and it never felt bad even in inFamous 1 where it was a lot more janky than it is now. InFamous 2 eliminated the problem your having with either the ice-launcher ability or the electricity pole booster that shot you up and then you just rode the rails. The climbing itself is sometimes finnicky about finding handholds but the game is generally so floaty that it's never a problem. I mean I won't argue with you here because it's obviously a matter of taste, but personally I love it.

Took this video today, it's really everything I love about climbing in games. Fluidity, the sense of scale and the slight chills when you look down and it's a sheer drop.

// Spoilers for the third power in the game if anyone cares //

Loading Video...

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doctordonkey

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Edited By doctordonkey

@humanity: You are tempting me to play through SS again with that video, game is such a marvel to look at. I think what you mentioned is what I'd actually like to see with the next entry, some weight added to the character. It always felt a little too floaty for me, but at the same time I don't know how you balance that with being able to traverse between buildings and not drop like a rock.

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jerseyscum

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I really, really liked what they did with Fetch's character in Last Light. One of the best female protagonists we've had in a while.

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Teddie

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First Light seems like an ad for people to pick up the full game. At least, playing it the other day made me go back and do an evil playthrough of Second Son that I thought I'd never do. Which kind of highlighted that they retconned Fetch's backstory to make her more sympathetic (in Second Son they imply she killed her brother out of rage for taking her drug stash, not by accident during a trip an outside party put her on).

Also, did Second Son really come out in 2014? I don't remember hearing anything about it in the GOTY stuff, but then I think Jeff was the only one who really played it and it didn't even make his top 10.

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Humanity

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@teddie: Actually if you listen to all the hidden tapes from that rogue agent he actually goes in detail how it went down and it's consistent with the DLC storyline.

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MEATBALL

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I really enjoyed Second Son, particularly the combat. Once you got a feel for it it was pretty awesome, and it was nice not to be hiding behind cover and such. I played through the game twice straight for the Platinum. (y)

I probably liked InFamous 2 more, but Second Son is a fine game.

I've had a retail copy of First Light since its local release back in like August(?), but it kind of quickly got buried in my backlog.

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Humanity

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@meatball: I'm doing my second playthrough on expert right now, going full evil, and I like how much more aggressive I'm playing now despite the enemies being tougher early on. The evil karma melee charge that just shoulder flips dudes and slams them into the ground is awesome for clearing out those basic guys and earning me evil karma along the way. I started the second playthrough right after beating it and clearing all the districts etc, and I'm surprised how much fun I'm still having just playing the game and how addicting taking down those shard drones is.

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Teddie

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Edited By Teddie

@humanity: Ah, I skipped most of the side content in my recent playthrough. Glad to be wrong about that.

I hope they get a little less "grounded" with any sequels. I liked fighting trash men and giant monsters, not so much drug dealers and "the man". It also kind of fucked with the "evil" playthrough a bit, where you're still trying to save your tribe throughout the entire thing while being a selfish dirtbag every chance you get. Reggie still tells you he's proud of you when he dies, and continues to help you out with no real qualms about the fact you're a complete sociopath. For 90% of the game, your evil choices are just being an asshole on a power trip, but then you kill Hank basically in front of his daughter, go home to your tribe who disown you and refuse your help and then you kill them all in response? It's certainly an interesting direction to go with it, but they didn't really build up to or earn that in any way. Maybe if the brother was a character worthy of causing those acts of vengeance?

Still a great game though.