Review: inFAMOUS: Second Son – The Next Gen Has Finally Arrived

A reader recently asked me what game I considered to be truly “next gen.” I told them that no game that’s been released thus far held that title to me. Sure, there were launch titles for both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 that looked amazing but none of them jumped out and screamed NEXT GEN.

inFAMOUS: Second Son has been touted as THE definitive next gen game for some time now. I’m a big fan of the inFAMOUS series but I still wasn’t convinced that this latest entry could be as revolutionary as many claimed. The screenshots and videos were impressive but that still wasn’t enough for me.

Now that I’ve had my go with the game, I feel differently. While it isn’t the gaming messiah that some say it is, inFAMOUS: Second Son delivers a fantastic gaming experience that gives us our first glimpse of where things are headed in this new console generation.

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Since its inception, this series has dealt with the moral choices that one who has super powers must face. Do they use their abilities to aid others or for their own purposes? This central theme is also present in Second Son. Delsin Row, who replaces Cole McGrath as the lead protagonist, is also imbued with unique abilities that make him stand out from those around him. His journey has him making difficult decisions which impact not only his personal life but those around him.

Although I liked the inFAMOUS games, I never liked its star. Cole was too dry for my tastes. His good or evil personalities felt very forced and unnatural. Delsin is a different case. He always has a witty remark ready no matter what the situation and is definitely cut from the “loveable smart-ass” mold. The great thing is that if you go into either karmic extreme, Delsin still feels like the same person. The character is realized nicely and helped further my enjoyment of the game.

Delsin loves using the abilities he gains and this in turn made playing as him even more fun. The sense of joy I had while using my powers to destroy everything around me was exhilarating. The powers are almost all extremely flashy which made things appear even more chaotic. I’ve blown stuff up in games before but having the character yelling with glee as I did just added to the excitement.

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The karma system of the previous games makes a return and it’s almost exactly the same. Your abilities change depending on which side you take. Good karma powers tend to be more precise while Bad karma abilities maximize destruction. Delsin uses the same core powers no matter which way you align but their effects are different and therefore lead to different playstyles. There’s no grey area here but I didn’t find that to be a problem. Playing strictly as either good or evil put things into the proper context for me and I played the game accordingly.

Previous games in the series favored a more cover-based approach to combat but this one has a decidedly more frantic and dynamic way of engaging in battles. Delsin can go behind things to protect himself but he doesn’t “go into cover” in the usual sense. Because of this, you’re forced to never stay in one place for more than a few seconds. Enemies are pretty relentless so you need to hit and run as much as possible. I was a bit disoriented by this, given how accustomed  I was to the last two games’ combat systems, but I quickly adapted to the faster pace of battles.

While on the subject of combat, I need to bring up the only real issue I had with the game: The enemies. In any other game I wouldn’t have been as bothered by how braindead they were. However, in a game that has so many areas that are a step forward, the dumb foes stood out like a sore thumb. Either they would all rush at me with no sense of coordination or wouldn’t even attack me even if I was close to them. I liked how some would get scared and surrender but that’s about as smart as they got. The boss battles were good though even if the patterns got a bit repetitive.

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Traversal got a very big overhaul due to the new powers. While you can still parkour your way around the city, the additional abilities make getting around much easier and make normal means of traveling inefficient. While the game gives players the ability to fast travel (after you liberate regions) I still found myself taking the scenic route because of how much fun it was to get around using my abilities.

This game is easily the most graphically impressive title I’ve ever seen. No hyperbole here my friends, this game is a feast for the eyes. What really does it for me is the lighting. The way that Seattle is lit during different times of the day and during different weather conditions was, quite frankly, mesmerizing. You know a game is doing something right in the visual department if it can make a drab and rainy day look awe inspiring. The lighting in this game is perfect.

I’ve seen games which featured impressively detailed characters before but SS makes them look like plastic dolls in comparison. Although characters were rendered with an exacting amount of detail, what really stood out to me where the subtle things. The way that a jacket would sway or the squinting of eyes; little touches that made the people feel alive. I liked how you could tell what a character was thinking just by looking at how their eyes moved. There were times when I forgot I was seeing video game characters, that’s how good they were rendered.

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Although it isn’t an exact replica, the game does a great job of creating a video game version of Seattle. I’ve never been to the city myself but after playing through the game, I feel as if I’ve actually been there. All of the city’s most popular landmarks are present but most importantly, the feel of the city is genuine. That last part is due in no small part to the Sucker Punch team being from Seattle.

Although this game has no multiplayer component, that doesn’t mean that you can quickly blast through it (pun intended). The city is huge and filled with many things to collect and side missions to complete. The fact that you have to play it twice to see both spectrum of powers and how different decisions change the story also adds to the playtime. Of course, what will really keep you playing for a good while is just traversing the city and seeing what sort of trouble you can get into.

To me, “next-gen” means seeing and experiencing things that weren’t possible in the last gen. This is the first game I’ve played that has convinced me that it could ONLY be fully realized with a current gen console. Tech babble aside, this a great and extremely fun game to play and replay. It isn’t 100% perfect but any gripes I had were overshadowed by how brilliantly designed the game as a whole was. inFAMOUS: Second Son is easily the best game I’ve played on the PlayStation 4 and the best example out there of how amazing the current gen can and will be.

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