Let’s get this out of the way first: Infamous: Second Son looks incredible. The character models and facial animations are some of the best in videogames yet, and the city –Seattle– is rendered with an impressive amount of technical detail. Particle effects are the obvious star of the show here, and they are stunning. As a showcase for the graphical power of the PlayStation 4, Second Son succeeds in every way. It just happens to falter pretty much everywhere else.
You take on role of Delsin, who happens to be one of the most insufferable characters ever made, and has ability to acquire superpowers through some kind of weird superhero osmosis. He is terribly juvenile, and while the game attempts to make him look like a revolutionary anarchist, he feels more like an angry teenager. Depending on your choices Delsin can end up being a good guy, or a complete monster. Chances are that you won’t care either way.
Most of the game’s supporting cast fare no better than Delsin. Brooke Augustine, the main villain, is great at channeling the ‘severe-school-teacher’ imagery, and being evil enough that you want to punch her in the face — though I was kind of rooting for her by the end, because (as unlikeable as she is) she still is far more interesting than Delsin. The game’s most likeable character, Fetch, feels grossly underutilized. She’s another ‘superhero’ who helps Delsin on his quest, but her character arc never quite reaches a satisfying conclusion. The story is content to be an X-Men copycat. Basically, superpowers are illegal. That’s bad. Delsin wants to change things. That’s good
At least getting to play with superpowers is fun, right? Not that much. It is incredibly disappointing that while Infamous: Second Son gives you four different sets of powers to play with, all of them feel like the equivalent of typical videogame weaponry. You have your pistol, your rocket launcher, your grenades, and that is mostly it. In their defense, Second Son’s weapons offer a sense of immediacy that a typical shooter couldn’t provide. Since everything comes from Delsin’s superpowers, there’s no need to change weapons or to reload a gun. Every one of your attacks is available at the push of a button. However, each set is a slight variation of the one before it; they feel more like nuances of a single power than game-changing mechanics. It ends up feeling extremely conservative and is a failed opportunity. Without the constraints of reality, your powers could have been literally anything, instead Delsin is given four different kinds of pea-shooters.
All that would have been great if the game was not plagued by some of the worst encounters and mission design that I’ve seen. The enemies are a bunch of bullet-sponges with only basic AI behavior. They don’t use tactics, they don’t act as a group, they either shoot at you, run at you, or run away from you. The only way encounters are made harder is by throwing more enemies at you. Most combat involves the player getting shot from all angles and relying on cheap hit-and-run tactics to win. When you die, it is usually because you were overwhelmed, and there was probably nothing you could do about it.
Even worse are the boss fights –all of them, bad– and the side-quests (which are brainless time-wasters). On top of being no fun, the game’s side material makes up a full third of an already short game’s length. Having an open world with such rote side material makes the game’s big open space feel meaningless. One mini-game has Delsin tagging Seattle with Bansky-style graffiti, and requires next to no input from the player other than to move the controller back and forth waiting for the paint to fill it. For a game with so little content, there sure is a lot of filler.
Infamous: Second Son might be successful at demonstrating what the PS4 is capable of, but ultimately it goes to show that a new generation of videogames has yet to come to this new generation of consoles. It reuses gameplay concepts that have been done hundreds of times before and, most of time, done better.
- It is still a great buy if you want to show off your new console.
- There is a barely OK Nirvana cover somewhere in there. Grunge is coming back!
- The game mocks one of the characters for playing MMOs, ignoring that comic-book video games are pretty geeky themselves.
- The morality system is dumb. Just take one side and go with it.
- While the graphics are great, the audio design seems somewhat underdeveloped,
- Seattle feels pretty empty.
- At the very least the powers you get are not conceptually derivative — Neon power!