With the promise of the next generation of console gaming comes the anticipation of a game utterly unlike anything you’ve played before. We expect deeper, more engrossing narratives coupled with intuitive gameplay overhauls that just make you sit back, sigh and wonder how you ever got by with two buttons on an NES controller.
“Infamous: Second Son” doesn’t do that. It merely takes a franchise that was a standout experience on the last generation and gives it a spit-shine and an interesting new set of characters and abilities. But while it doesn’t push gaming forward in any way, it’s still one hell of a good time.
The story sucks you in immediately. You’re Delsin Rowe, a member of the Akomish tribe whose past is clearly checkered. The player is immediately introduced to the spray-tagging mechanic, a nice use of the DualShock 4’s motion sensing and built-in sound system. While motion detection and the controller’s touchpad are nothing more than gimmicks at this point in the PS4’s life cycle, they’re used to good effect in “Second Son,” immersing you further into the game world without becoming too much of a hindrance.
From there, you’re off on the grandest of the game’s many fetch quests. You must attain cement-altering powers from the game’s main antagonist: Brooke Augustine. As the leader of the Department of Unified Protection who has captured all of the element-controlling superheroes known as “Conduits” (or Bio-Terrorists) in the game world, Augustine has made Seattle her base of operations. You’ll have a blast shredding it to pieces with smoke, neon and video powers, each with its own set of visual and combat goodies.
Seattle looks gorgeous, Delsin’s character is incredibly detailed (down to the buttons on his denim jacket), and you’ll want to stop on a rooftop all Batman-like and watch residents go about their day in a society on the brink of dystopia. In particular, Delsin’s relationship with his deputy sheriff brother, Reggie, is a high point in the game. These guys feel like brothers, and when the weight of the narrative gets too heavy, their bantering always brings it back to a lighthearted spot.
Combat, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. Delsin becomes much too powerful as the game progresses. Unlocking a “karmic streak,” or Delsin’s version of a power attack, for the neon power is dangerously close to game-breaking.
The game rushes to an inevitable showdown with Augustine. It packs a wallop and ingeniously includes the “learning a new power” schtick in the final boss battle that makes Delsin feel like a badass. Getting there, however, is another story. Expect some frustrating falls during the parkour that lead to “Game Over” screens.
“Infamous: Second Son” is the first truly exclusive, next-gen game on the PS4. For that reason alone, I recommend playing the title. But it isn’t the huge leap forward in terms of gameplay you’d expect from a next-gen game. It’s a better-than-average open world game designed with the last generation in mind that looks simply stunning and is written by people who understand the power of video-game storytelling. I recommend a bargain-bin purchase.