Sunday, 30 March 2014

Review: Infamous: Second Son (PS4)

I will be adding screenshots taken in game to this review soon, when I learn how to do it without recording video at the same time :)

Yes this is my inaugural PS4 review, the first of many to come I hope.  There is still plenty of PS3 games to come for my reviewing days and with the PS4 being new still, my PS4 output will likely be smaller than the PS3 for some time yet.  And with that we move onto the review proper.

Infamous is one of my favourite series on the PlayStation, combining open world gameplay with superheroes.  Infamous is great because it isn't tied to a license like Marvel or DC so developer Suckerpunch have been able to create their world and characters as they see fit.  Their first two outings on the PS3 where great.  They put us in the comfortable trainers (sneakers) of Cole McGrath, a bicycle courier who inherited the power of electricity and fought to protect those he cared about in a world threatened by a villain known only as "the beast".  By Infamous 2 Cole had defeated the Beast at the cost of his life and supposedly killed all of the super powered people in the world doing so.

Infamous Second Son however proves that Cole's sacrifice was only partially successful because seven years on people with super powers still exist and more are becoming active every year.  Enter Delsin Rowe, a native American teenager who has a talent for Banksy style graffiti art and a rebel attitude to life.  One faithful day he witnesses a crash of a security truck which brings him into contact with a conduit (the term used for super powered humans) whose powers Delsin copies.  From there he encounters the villain of the piece in the form of Augustine and her Department of Unified Protection, who work to capture all conduits and imprison them for their own safety.  For reasons I won't go into due to spoilers, Delsin heads to Seattle to confront Augustine.

Second Son is interesting in that the setting is a real location rather than a facsimile of a city.  Where Infamous and Infamous 2 where set in Empire City (New York) and New Marais (New Orleans) respectively, Second Son gives us landmarks like the Space Needle to climb around and eventually jump off.  I personally feel they may have better been served with a fictional version of Seattle simply so they can create a more comic styled version of the city to better suit their needs.  It's not a big issue obviously when compared with the whole.

Delsin is a marmite character, either you love him or hate him.  Some people find him to be irritating while others, myself included, liked him.  Sure he is a arrogant little tosser at times, but it's better than a brooding superhero like Batman and last time I checked people like Spider-man and his snarky comments.  Delsin's brother Reggie however is a much more likeable character across the board.  A man who as a cop constantly finds himself struggling to keep his rebellious younger brother under control while also struggling with the advent of Delsin's powers and the hidden prejudice it brings out of him.  Reggie is like Zeke was for Cole in the previous games, acting as our link to these people with incredible powers.

The flow of Infamous is very similar to other open world games out there.  The city is broken into numerous districts which have side missions, opportunities for mayhem and story missions.  Side missions take the form of NPC chases, camera hunting, audio diary collecting and spray painting.  The first three are pretty standard fare, while the spray painting makes use of the PS4 controllers gyro sensor to use as a spray can.  Other areas of the map allow Delsin to acquire good or bad karma much like Infamous 1 and 2 did.  The touch sensor is used in game infrequently to open some doors and interact with certain environmental objects.  I found the sensor on the controller to be very sensitive and far superior to that of the Vita comparatively.

The main missions are the most entertaining part of the game with some genuinely funny dialogue and touching scenes involving the cast.  Delsin acquires new powers as the story progresses but again I won't spoil them here.  What I will say is that each power set has a varied set of uses for combat.  Smoke which is Delsin's original powers is very close quarters based, focusing on short to mid range attacks with some melee combat mixed in.  His other powers cover the other areas of combat from ranged attacks to more sneaky abilities and out and out brute strength.  The cool thing is the way each power still works along the same control scheme used for Smoke, just producing different effects.  It means you won't be bogged down with remembering how each power works and it allows to you switch to them on the fly without breaking flow.

My only criticism of the game is that it is short.  The story reaches a certain point and then suddenly jumps to a conclusion and it felt rushed.  Just when you are getting into the characters stories and how they tie into the narrative you are faced with the final confrontation and then dumped into the post game world to chase down any missions you had yet to complete.  The world certainly doesn't feel particularly big either, although it's detailed it can be traversed very quickly.

Enemy variety is down a little here too purely because of the story more than a lack of ideas from the developers.  The D.U.P are a tough foe if you aren't careful and they have an interesting mix of abilities, but compared to the foes faced in the first two games, they become a little tiring to face. I honestly think the game may have benefited from having a real bio terrorist group who attacked using their own set of powers and kept the post game combat interesting.

I would however recommend everyone try the infamouspapertrail side quest which utilises in game missions with web based sleuthing to continue it.  It's one of if not the best uses of game and web content I have seen.  Paper trail gives you a mystery to unravel and an enigmatic conduit to chase and as of writing it's conclusion is still weeks away. 

Technically the PS4 is used to create a very graphically pretty rendition of Seattle.  The characters are all beautifully animated with some incredible detail to them.  The game never slows down or loses frames when the action gets particularly hectic either.  The powers all have some wonderful effects to them, Delsin's smoke and Neon look stunning when used in the night.  The world looks detailed and I imagine is a faithful recreation of the best parts of Seattle.

The voice acting is also another highlight.  Troy Baker does a great job as Delsin and continues to prove his talent with yet another memorable performance.  The supporting cast though are all well acted with Reggie and Augustine standing out as personal favourites.  The sound design is very good here with each power having a clear and memorable set of sounds that help distinguish each one.  Neon sticks out for me with it's rhythmic hum and sci-fi bleeps and squeaks with each use.  The other other powers though are done well and convey the power audibly well.  The music is ok, but nothing memorable for me.  The credits which use a cover of Nirvana's Heart Shaped Box is the highlight, but I would have preferred the original track over the cover.

Overall Second son is a great game for the PS4.  I think it works as a nice base for a sequel that builds off of Delsin's story or even another conduits struggle against the oppression of the D.U.P in the United States.  The combat is the same fun bag of tricks from previous games, the acting is high quality and the story although short is a good one with likeable characters and memorable moments.

SCORE: 8.0/10


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