Infamous: Second Son Review – Unfortunate Son
I love a good power trip, which is why I love open world super powered sandbox games. I love leaping off of skyscrapers, crashing down into a crowd of enemies, and then booting the survivors like they were a football on fourth down.
Back in 2009, few games scratched that particular itch as well as Infamous did. Playing as Cole McGrath made you feel like an absolute badass regardless of whether you decided to use his powers for good or for evil — unless, of course, you decided to use the melee combat, and thus felt like a six-year-old trying to beat up an MMA fighter.
That being said, as cool as it was in 2009 and in 2011’s Infamous 2, I went into Infamous: Second Son hoping that with the added power of the Playstation 4, we’d see a new Infamous. I was looking for a game that would set the bar for future open world super powered sandbox games the way that the original Infamous did back in 2009.
Infamous: Second Son doesn’t set a new high bench mark, though. Despite still being a great game in its own right, a few poor design decisions and a lack of evolution in the formula prevent Second Son from surpassing its stellar immediate predecessor.
Infamous: Second Son
Platform: Playstation 4 (Reviewed)
Developer: Sucker Punch
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: March 21, 2013
Second Son takes place seven years after the events of Infamous 2, and treats the good ending of that game as its canonical conclusion. To bring you up to speed, at the end of Infamous 2, a device was used to kill all who carried the superpower-conveying conduit gene in order to save the millions of people who didn’t. Or at least, that’s what we thought. Turns out, the device wasn’t quite as effective as advertised, as those with the conduit gene who were far enough away from the blast still survived.
Thus, the government created the Department of Unified Protection (DUP), an agency formed to hunt down and imprison people with the conduit gene so the world never has to see a repeat of the disasters at Empire City and New Marais in the previous games.
As far as connection to earlier Infamous titles, that’s pretty much as deep as it goes. The new protagonist of Second Son is Delsin Rowe, a brash and rebellious young man whose very first scene involves him vandalizing a billboard commemorating his big brothers’ promotion to sheriff. As you can probably tell, regardless of whether you choose to be good or evil, Delsin’s kind of a punk either way.
After a run-in with an escaped conduit — or “bio-terrorist,” as they’re popularly called now — Delsin learns that he’s essentially a conduit version of Mega Man. He has the ability to copy the power of any other super powered being that he comes into contact with. Naturally, this sets him on a collision course with the DUP, and after an encounter that I won’t spoil here, Delsin must set off for Seattle to confront the head of the DUP, Brooke Augustine, and steal her power in order to save someone close to him.
One of my favorite aspects of Infamous 2 was the bromance that emerged between Cole and Zeke, and I was happy to see a similar, albeit actual, brotherly relationship between Delsin and his big brother Reggie take the forefront in Second Son. The chemistry between the two is excellent, and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud funny exchanges between the two, especially in a particular scene in which Reggie decides to pretend to be a conduit in order to act as human bait.
Like prior Infamous games, the choice of good versus evil is at the core of the experience here. At key points in the story, the cutscene will pause and allow you to choose between an obviously heroic and obviously villainous choice. There’s no moral gray area here. You’ll either turn Delsin into a paragon of virtue, an irredeemable bastard, or a flip-flopping mess of a character who can’t quite decide whether he’s vengeful or righteous.
One has to wonder why Sucker Punch continues to offer players the choice of going back and forth between good and evil in story junctions, but then only rewards players who are consistent in their karmic alignment. Not only does it not make sense from a gameplay standpoint because the most powerful upgrades are locked until you max out your karmic alignment, but it also makes Delsin’s character suffer, since he becomes wishy-washy in non-choice related cutscenes.