Monday, April 21, 2014

InFAMOUS: Second Son - Review

In 2009, Sucker Punch stepped outside of their comfort zone. By this point the company had become well known among PlayStation fans as the team behind the Sly Cooper games, and many fans expected more. Sly had become a staple series for the PlayStation brand, and Sly 3 left fans wanting more. With the then upcoming PlayStation 3, many believed that the games would continue on into the next generation, but they soon learned that wouldn't be the case.

Almost four years after the release of Sly 3, Sucker Punch made their return; however, instead of releasing the expected Sly 4, they came out with a completely new series called "InFAMOUS." Unlike the platformer before it, InFAMOUS was an open world super hero based sandbox game. It let players take control of a man named Cole MacGrath who received electric based powers from a package he was paid to deliver. The package exploded, Cole gained his powers, the city was put into lock down, and players were given the ability to choose Cole's path in life. The game was based on making moral decisions, and had different endings based on Cole's Karma.

Despite having some issues (such as slippery controls, and lack of verity in the mission structure and city sections), InFAMOUS gained popularity, and received a sequel a couple of years later. This time Sucker Punch made sure there was a wider verity of content, with new powers for Cole, unique city districts, a wider range of missions, and even a custom level editor. The game was a turning point of sorts for the series, but it was also a game which left players wondering if there even would be more. With no news of a possible sequel, and a closed ending, InFAMOUS 2 left people wondering for years about the fate of the series. That is, until the PlayStation 4 was announced.

When Sony finally showed off the PlayStation 4, InFAMOUS: Second Son was one of the first games announced. According to Sucker Punch, the game was going to be a sort of "reboot" for the series. The story was set seven years after the ending of InFAMOUS 2, it featured a brand new main character, in a new city, with a new central plot, and it was also a game which would show off the power of the PlayStation 4. For many fans, this game alone became a selling point of the console, but is it really worth it? Just how good would the game really be, and how would it compare to previous entries in the seris? Well, as always, how about we find out?

The Story:

InFAMOUS: Second Son takes place seven years after the ending of InFAMOUS 2. Most of the people who had the "conduit" gene which gave them special powers had been killed by the actions of Cole, but some still remained in the world. Now branded as "Bio Terrorists" a military force called the "DUP" has formed to bring all conduits under their control. By taking control of cities, and imprisoning innocent people, this force rules with an iron fist, and almost all freedom is lost. People live in fear, and the DUP director is the source of it all.

The game's story begins with young graffiti artist Delsin vandilizing a billboard. After finishing his work, his brother, who just so happens to also be the Akomish reservation sheriff, shows up, and Delsin tries to make his escape, but to no avail. Shortly after being stopped by his brother Reggie, the two get into an argument about Delsin's way of life. At this point it becomes very clear that Delsin has always been a sort of trouble maker, and Reggie would like nothing more than seeing his brother get his life turned around. In the vain of past InFAMOUS titles, this is something players actually have control of, and the story slightly changes from this moment on based on the player's action.

During the argument an armored car crashes right in front of Delsin and Reggie, and both head over to see if everyone is alright. Although most of the area is on fire, Delsin still manages to find someone in the wreckage, and attempts to help them; however, by doing so his fate is changed. The man was a conduite with smoke based powers, and for some reason, Delsin received them too. Upon touching the man, Delsin saw his memories, and awoke as a conduit himself. Unsure of what had just happened, and scared, Delsin chases after the conduit, and winds up back at the building with the billboard. The building soon catches on fire, and once again Delsin decides to attempt a rescue; one to save the owner, an old woman named Betty.

Upon entering the building, Delsin has a fight with the man who had given him smoke powers, and both escape the burning building. Although Delsin manages to save Betty, all three come face to face with the leader of the DUP, Brook Augistine just outside. Like Delsin, she too is a conduit, and she uses her concrete based powers to kill the escapee. After taking care of the original problem, she turns her attention to Delsin and asks about his involvement. Suspecting that he too may be a "bio terrorist," she uses her concrete powers to immobilize him, and then goes on to question the other tribe members. Refusing to give up their own, each tribe member receives a body full of concrete tumors, and are left to die.

Weeks later, Delsin awakes only to find that his wounds had completely healed due to his powers; however, the others were not as lucky. The tribe members are dying, and the only way to cure them is to remove the concrete. Sadly the only way to do so is by taking them out the way they were inserted into their bodies in the first place. Considering the DUP would not be back to heal them, everyone was as good as gone. That is, until Delsin decides to head to Seattle to make things right. It was his fault the others were hurt, and if he did in fact have the ability to copy powers, he was the only one who could save them. So, with that, he and Reggie set out into the unknown. Both knew a long road was ahead, but the fate of their friends hung in the balance.

From that point on, the story can play out in different ways. Delsin is faced with choices which are considered to be either "good" or "evil," and by choosing different sides the story slightly changes. Although the main events will still play out the very same way, some missions are slightly different, and the way people view Delsin will reflect his choices as well. The game also features two different endings, so it requires two full playthroughs to truly get the whole picture.

The Gameplay:

The gameplay in InFAMOUS: Second Son is very much like its predecessors. It is an open world sandbox game which takes place in a large city, and players are free to do just about anything they want. You can walk through the streets, jump on cars, climb up buildings, complete random events, or take on story missions; however, things aren't quite the same as they used to be.

While past games had side missions you could take to take control of different sections of the town, Second Son does not; at least not in the traditional sense. Instead of helping people or completing some extra goal, the side missions in Second Son all revolve around getting rid of the DUP. Simply by attaacking one of their strong holds, or going to a marker which triggers basic "find the hidden camera" or "find the undercover agent" missions, you can slowly eradicate the DUP. Sadly these missions are very basic, and they do get very repetitive very fast. Once you have taken over most of the area, you can access the district's showdown, but these too are nothing more than large scale battles where you must defeat a wave of enemies. The other two types of missions aren't directly related to getting rid of the DUP, but they do add to the story and make the city a better (or worse) place. As for the story related side missions, these are missions which simply have you follow a radio signal to a recorded message. The messages provide background information, and give you a bit more of an inside look at the game's events, but they are not truly key to the story. As for the latter, these are missions which allow you to use the controller's motion controls to spray paint designs on a wall like in the opening scene. These missions are both very repetitive, even more so than some of the missions from previous games.

On top of the DUP missions, there are some random events as well, but they too are not that big of a deal. At times you'll be able to stop a drug deal, other times you'll be able to free someone locked up in a cage, or if you're feeling evil you can attack a street performer or break up a protest. These events are here just to help get your karma level up, and are completely optional. They give you a reason to walk around the city, but other than that, they are really only there for trophies.

Although the game can be repetitive in its side content, don't let that fool you! The real fun in this game actually comes from the main story, and Delsin's powers. While the side content is repetitive, the main game always mixes it up to avoid it. Delsin's powers are very fun to use, and there are multiple ones at that! At the very start of the game you only have smoke based powers, new ones become unlocked very quickly, and upgrades for your current powers help keep them from getting stale. Just when you start to get tired of your current abilities, something new comes along, and unique story missions surface to keep progression interesting. You never really get tired of the main story itself, but sadly it is also very short. With only a handful on each side of the story, the game flies by fast, and can easily be beaten within a few sittings. That is, unless you decide to use your powers to the fullest!

Outside of the main story, and side missions, you do have an open world to explore, and you do have a wide verity of powers to play with. While each power has a basic hover/glide move, a standard shoot move, and a melee move, each power has a unique variation of them, along with a wide verity of exclusive moves as well. For example, while the Smoke power can shoot smoke to suffocate enemies, the Neon power can target specific regions of an enemy's body to either kill them instantly or trap them. The melee weapon of the Smoke power is also that of a whip, while the Neon power has a fast moving sword. When it comes to specific power abilities, the Smoke power allows you to dash through the air in a cloud of smoke, and pass through gates or exhaust fans, while the Neon power allows you to run at high speeds which in return allows you to fly through the air and run up buildings. These are just a few examples of what two of Delsin's powers can do, and there are many more to unlock and play with. It is very easy to spend hours just messing around in this open world, and there are plenty of hidden "blast shards" to find as well. Considering blast shards are used to buy new abilities, they are worth finding too.

The Good and the Bad:

InFAMOUS: Second Son is a great game. Although it isn't perfect, it did do a lot of things right, and it is also very impressive for a console game. The graphics are great with high quality textures, detailed, facial animations, crazy partical effects, and 60 fps. It looks amazing, and is filled with plenty of eye candy. As for the gameplay, it has been greatly improved from InFAMOUS 2. The controls aren't quite as slipry, Delsin's jump is much better than Cole's which would often lock onto a platform and cause you to land in the wrong spot, Delsin's wide verity of powers really helps change things up, and the game's story is interesting enough to keep you hooked; having comedy every now and then really helped as well. The game's city is also fun to explore, and it allows you to visit some of Seattle's landmarks, and you can also find eastereggs and cameos throughout it. From references to Sly, to a large banner which says "FRASIER," the city is full of things for you to find so exploration is rewarded.

Sadly, on the negative side, the game also has some issues. It is short, even with two playthroughs, the side missions are repetitive, there is a lack of verity in side missions, and the trees and plants are still made up of 2D objects which are an eye sore compared to the rest of the game. Now Sucker Punch did promise that more content will be released for Second Son in the future, but as for the base game, it is a bit lacking.

Overall InFAMOUS: Second Son is a great game, which is held back by some of its issues. It is very well worth playing, but it may also be one of them games you'll complete and earn a platinum trophy in less than twenty hours; possibly around ten to fifteenth if you are fast enough. Evens so, the game is well worth it. If you are a fan of the series, this is one you will not want to miss out on, and that is why I'm giving it a great score of 8/10. So close to being "perfect," but it just feel a bit short... For now.