I have a confession to make: I don’t (usually) enjoy open-world adventure games.
As a prime example, I’ve never been a fan of Grand Theft Auto. It bores me. (Oh boy here we go….) Sure, the GTA games are wonderful technical achievements, with great writing, voice-acting and music, as well as top-notch production values; all the necessary components of an excellent game are present. So why then, do I not like them?
I do not think of the GTA games as bad games. On the contrary, I think Rockstar has clearly perfected the magical open-world formula that has allowed GTA to win millions of fans the world over, and smash sales records for so many times. Critics love GTA, and the sheer number of GOTY awards speak for themselves.
However, it is also precisely this meticulous attention to detail that has turned me off of the series; whenever I’ve tried to get into GTA, I have always been overwhelmed by a sense of… insignificance. I just feel so incredibly mundane in the living, breathing world that Rockstar has so masterfully built.
Does inFAMOUS: Second Son give me that same feeling? I’m happy to say that it doesn’t! Read on to find out why…
Passing the Torch
Second Son takes place several years after the events of inFAMOUS 2. You no longer play as series protagonist Cole McGrath; rather, the player in now in control of a new character named Delsin Rowe, a young, rebellious, teenaged “graffiti artist”. I say “graffiti artist”, quotes and all, because his work tends to land him in trouble more often than not.
Delsin starts off rather… unlikeable. He’s self-absorbed, irresponsible, and tries to weasel his way out of every difficult situation – basically your typical underachieving brat. He does, however, grow on you over time; this of course, depends on the multitude of moral choices that the player will have to make during the course of the game.
Much like Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies, I believe Sucker Punch were going for the charming bastard archetype when designing Delsin, and I think they succeeded admirably. Troy Baker does a pretty good job of voicing Delsin, though given the subject matter and his range, this was probably quite the easy job for him!
The Blue Pill… Or the Red Pill?
InFamous fans will no doubt be familiar with the moral choices that the game imposes upon you. At various points during the story, Delsin (and the player) will have to make some difficult decisions that might potentially take the game in a different direction. This actually increases the replay value of the game, as you will not be able to experience all it has to offer in a single playthrough.
Aside from this, how you behave in-game will also affect how the average Joes on the street react to you; tread carefully around members of the public while taking down the oppressive presence of the D.U.P, and citizens will hail you as a hero and cheer you on.
Go on a murderous rampage, and the city folk will scream in terror and flee at the sight of you. Regardless of your moral inclinations, it is a certainty that your choices are going to have a major effect on your powers.
Speaking of which…
IT’S OVER 9000!!!
Now we’re getting to the good part! At no point in this game did I ever feel insignificant or mundane, and it is thanks to the sheer variety of powers at your fingertips. You really feel like a superhero (or supervillain)!
Shortly after the game begins, Delsin gains the power of… smoke. Yes, I know that sounds a little underwhelming, but trust me, it’s better than you think it is. Smoke powers grant Delsin the ability to pass through various obstacles, such as fences, and you can even dash through the air and get massive height boosts from exhaust vents! Bounding from rooftop to rooftop never felt so easy and natural.
Delsin’s smoke powers also allows him to fire off various projectiles with differing effects. Lean towards being a nice guy, and you’ll be able to unlock powers that focus on quick, non-lethal takedowns. Or you could choose to go full pyro and rain death and destruction upon the entire city as you see fit – the choice is yours!
See a squad of pesky D.U.P soldiers? Knock ’em out without killing them by tossing a Sulphur Bomb (works like a stun grenade) at their feet, or wipe them all from existence with a well-placed Cinder Missile, which is essentially a rocket launcher. Simply put, Sucker Punch has done an amazing job of designing a range of powers and abilities to suit almost any situation.
Obviously, if smoke isn’t your thing, later on in the game Delsin gains the ability to switch it up with some other powers. Aside from neon-based abilities which have featured heavily in previews for the game, there are 2 other sets of powers available in the game that I will not spoil for our readers; the third power especially, is absolutely hilariously awesome in terms of how Delsin acquires it, and what it references.
Power At Your Fingertips
Switching (and recharging) abilities is carried out simply by standing near a power source (eg, a chimney, burning wreckage, neon signage) and tapping the Dualshock 4 Touchpad. There are hundreds of power sources sprinkled throughout the city of Seattle, and they are all clearly marked on your map, so you’ll never find yourself stuck in a situation where you are unable to recharge.
The controls are definitely a highlight of the game. Wielding superpowers has never been easier; you never ever have to open and fiddle with any menus to access your powers, as they are all cleverly mapped to the buttons and triggers on the Dualshock 4. This applies even to powers with secondary effects, as it is simply a matter of holding down the relevant button or trigger for an additional second.
Within 20-30 minutes of starting the game, I was zipping around the city of Seattle (where the game is set) like I’ve been doing it since birth. Each set of powers comes with it’s own methods of traversal, and they all work splendidly. My personal favourite was the “Lightspeed” dash granted by the neon-based power; zooming down city streets and running straight up the walls of skyscrapers like the Flash never gets old!
Hero… or Villain?
My first playthrough of the game was completed in about 10 hours(!). I had quite the rude shock when the credits started rolling; I thought the game was just getting really good, and this was with a good number of side missions done – my in-game stats showed 83% completion at the end.
Perhaps I was expecting too much, but I was under the impression that open world games would usually take an average of 15-20 hours to finish, or even more. The disappointingly short length came across as an unpleasant surprise, but on the flip side, I certainly enjoyed the game enough to want more of it, which says something about the overall quality of the game.
To be fair, Second Son was clearly designed to be played at least twice, thanks to the morality system in the game. I suppose if you put it across that way, then the game does fall into the 15-20 hour average for an open world game.
However, the game’s short length also causes another problem: With most of the narrative’s sub-10 hours dedicated almost entirely to Delsin, the genuinely interesting supporting cast members hardly ever get a chance to be in the limelight. It feels like the player is railroaded into caring about these characters just because the story deems it a necessity. A few extra hours would have helped greatly in fleshing out these characters to build a greater connection between them and the player.
UPDATE: My playthrough for review purposes was completed before the release of the day 1 patch, which apparently lengthens the game by up to 5 hours (!). I have yet to experience this additional content for myself, but if the claims are true, the length of the game is much less of a concern.
The Final Word
inFAMOUS: Second Son is a brief, but ultimately satisfying experience. For any Playstation 4 owners with dreams of becoming a superhero (or supervillain!), Second Son is a must-buy. While the relatively short length might be a turn-off to some, the game does have some good replay value and is definitely a worthy successor to Cole McGrath’s legacy.