Less than a week since release of InFAMOUS: Second Son, I got the platinum trophy. That alone should say how much I enjoyed my experience in Sucker Punch’s rendition of Seattle. As a long time fan of the InFAMOUS series, I was looking forward to the inaugural entry of the series onto the Playstation 4. While the game played very similar to its Playstation 3 predecessors, it features marked improvements that show off the technical powerhouse of Sony’s new platform. Game’s with this level of polish are hard to come by this early in a new console’s life. Sony clearly worked closely with Sucker Punch to make sure that Second Son was tailored specifically for this platform.
Second Son‘s beauty is immediately apparent. The vistas shown from the wooded areas towards the beginning to the glorious Seattle skyline that graces the rest of the game never ceased to be anything short of breathtaking. This polish shines even brighter during the fully motion captured cutscenes with flawless character animation and facial realism that is, to this point, unsurpassed by any previous games on the console market. The attention to detail permeated not only the visuals, but the sound direction. Small touches like hearing Nirvana playing on Reggie’s radio or the inclusion of the Dualshock 4 speaker when draining powers show the care that was put into polishing the gameplay experience and making Second Son feel like a complete package. In addition, Seattle landmarks, both widely known and niche, help bring the city to life. From the Space Needle towering over the starting portion of the city to the inclusion of the “Toe Truck”, it is apparent that Sucker Punch was modeling their home. They love their city, and it shows in InFAMOUS: Second Son’s reconstruction of Seattle.
The second major accomplishment is Second Son’s familiar feel. It runs just like any other InFAMOUS game, and that is a good thing. The addition of the new powers like smoke, neon, and two others unannounced before release takes the formula that made its predecessors so successful and adds a new sense of fluidity and flair to the final product. Each power feels distinctly different from the others, introducing new elements into both combat and traversal while still allowing the player to pick up the controller and instantly recognize the controls. Sucker Punch took care in making their rendition of Seattle large enough in scale to inspire awe while never making it feel frustrating to get from one end of the city to the next. While making the city a proper size plays a part in making the game feel grand yet consumable, the ease of movement using the four different powers takes away from the tedium of driving across large expanses of city in tight traffic to reach a destination. Second Son truly captures the essence of Seattle while still making it feel manageable. Only a few times did Delsin get caught on an object or inside a building. He seems to have trouble on the wood barriers jutting out of the water and he fell endlessly into a building in the midst of an intense battle, but overall, the experience was hampered by very few hiccups.
Small touches that make use of the Dualshock 4 add to the experience, allowing the player to use the motion tracking to spraypaint the city streets or introducing the touchpad to interact with certain objects. These additions surprisingly do not make the effort feel gimmicky. The spray can in particular was an interesting application of the motion sensing capabilities of the Dualshock 4. Because the touchpad is out of the player’s normal reach of their thumb, it prevents Delsin from accidentally draining a different power unintentionally in the midst of a fight. Many games apply the additional functionality of the Playstation 4 accessories arbitrarily, but Sucker Punch pulled it off admirably.
The package starts to fall apart during the second playthrough. While both the good and evil campaigns follow a great narrative with genuinely emotional moments and believable motivation, it seems that few choices throughout the game had any real impact on the city. Citizens of Seattle will react differently to Delsin depending on his actions, but aside from the end, there is very little differentiation between the two stories. The main difference lies in the canned responses to a few choices throughout the main story as well as the branching power trees with certain powers locked to either a good or an evil character. It is apparent that the style of game play changes from the focused precision of trying to subdue enemies as a good character to the rampaging destructive carnage of an evil playthrough. While it is possible to choose to corrupt certain characters, it seems to be in stark contrast of Delsin’s overall personality. The entire evil experience feels particularly disjointed. It seems obvious that the good ending is the canon that Sucker Punch intended.
These disparate circumstances are made all the more apparent by the emotionally evocative and fantastic acting by Troy Baker and his supporting roles. With the Playstation 4′s ability to capture and render full motion facial tracking, the full extent of everyone’s performance was brought across the screen in beautiful detail. Each character is likeable in their own quirky ways. Whether it’s the cute flippant attitude of Fetch, the disinterested youthful facade of Delsin, or the protective older brother found in Reggie, these characters were both well written and well acted. While I loved the gameplay, I couldn’t wait to advance to the next cutscene to sit back and enjoy the extraordinary amount of detail poured into the writing and the acting. The game is littered with humor both scripted and off the cuff. The dynamic nature of Troy Baker working with his real-life best friend Travis Willingham (Reggie) offers plenty of joking and banter between the characters that feels more real than in strictly scripted games like Mass Effect.
Sucker Punch obviously loves the InFAMOUS series and so do I. The transition to a new city with new characters, new powers, and new hardware has come across beautifully. Exploring Seattle was a joy that compelled me to continue until I had seen 100% of what the city had to offer. The performances, story, and characters were well-developed and emotional even if there was a disconnect between Delsin’s motivations and his personality when playing the as an evil character. Aside from minor technical bugs, InFAMOUS: Second Son is a well crafted action platformer and is a must buy for anyone looking for that game that sets Playstation 4 apart from its competition.