When Microsoft and Sony launched the next-generation of consoles last year, gamers were promised premiere exclusives that would deliver on their promise of the future of gaming. While there were several exclusives at launch for each console, the most anticipated titles wouldn’t be released until March 2014. And now here we are. Titanfall hit Xbox One barely two weeks ago to positive reviews (read ours here) and seemed to set the new standard for the first-person shooter in the next-generation. But while shooters and multiplayer have always been associated with Xbox, Sony has built a reputation for games with immersive single-player components and strong narratives.
Has inFamous: Second Son upheld PlayStation’s reputation for exclusives? Has Sucker Punch delivered the game PS4 owners have been waiting for?
I’m proud to say: yes. inFamous: Second Son is the reason to own a PS4.
Seven years after the events of inFamous and inFamous 2, Second Son takes us on the journey of Delsin Rowe. From a local punk in upstate Washington to the hero (or villain) of Seattle, players work to liberate the city from the control of the Department of Unified Protection (D.U.P.). Taking down command centers and tagging buildings with spray-painted anti-propaganda all lead to the solution to saving the people in Delsin’s hometown that he endangered. A carefree kid, Delsin learns that age-old lesson about power. You know, the one Uncle Ben said to Peter? “With great power, comes awesome abilities.” Or something to that effect….
But a story is only as good as it’s characters. One of the best aspects about the powerful new hardware the PS4 provides is the ability to better transfer the actor’s performances into the game. With more processing power, motion capture can take the little nuances of an actor’s performance and truly bring characters to life. The characters in Second Son, specifically Delsin and Reggie, are fully realized and wonderfully entertaining. Delsin is immediately more charming and lively than Cole and most other video game protagonists. A rebel against the establishment, Delsin actually enjoys his powers regularly noting how “awesome” or “epic” they are which makes for a better gameplay experience. The best part about the inFamous series is having fun enjoying your powers, so it is refreshing to have a protagonist who shares the same sentiment, unlike the constantly mopey Cole.
Speaking of fun, there some friggin’ cool powers in Second Son. Sucker Punch could have gotten away with just using the smoke powers you receive at the beginning of the game and simply ended it there. Instead, they have Delsin absorb new powers that helps keep the player entertained learning all the new tricks they can do. A skill tree allows you to determine how you want to progress and what you want to focus on. Don’t care for a certain power? You’re not stuck to it. Use the powers that you want to and how you want to. I won’t describe all of the powers because part of the fun is wondering what’s next, but rest assured that they’re probably nothing you ever would have thought of.
There aren’t just different types of powers, each power has unique moves and each move has unique variations based your “karma.” Being an inFamous game, Second Son had to implement a karma system like its predecessors. While the choices aren’t drastic in a narrative sense, they do provide incentive in the gameplay to go back and try the game a different way. “Good” karmic choices will unlock different variations of a certain move and “evil” choices will unlock another. Being good will require precision and control of your powers while being evil while result in explosions. Really big explosions.
But why couldn’t this game have been on the PS3? What makes it a next-gen experience? Besides the amazing graphics (more on that in a bit), the game flaunts it’s unique abilities on the PS4 almost immediately after starting. I initially thought the touchpad on the Dualshock 4 was a bit gimmicky, but Sucker Punch puts it to great use in Second Son. Using the motion tracking to spray paint graffiti or the touchpad to open doors feel natural and intuitive. These simple tricks add to the experience and gives Second Son a truly unique identity.
So a PS4 exclusive has to have great graphics right? We expect nothing less and Sucker Punch delivers. Prepare to have your eyeballs blown out. Literally. Get some protective eyewear cause this is one of the prettiest games you’ll ever see. You’ll regularly find yourself stopping in the middle of a street to admire the intricate details in the landscape around you. From the Space Needle in the horizon to the reflections of a neon sign in a puddle at your feet, the visuals in Second Son will leave you with your jaw on the floor. No matter how long you play, you’re still inclined to pause and appreciate the sight of the individual wisps of smoke or the bright pop of neon colors explode from my hands. Realistic graphics have become somewhat of a standard in the industry but games like Second Son make you appreciate the uniqueness of video games as a medium. It’s just so dang pretty.
By utilizing the power of the PS4, these amped up visuals allow Second Son to truly bring the city of Seattle to life. If you’ve never been to the city, this is the best way to experience it without jumping on a plane and flying there. You can see the love Sucker Punch has for their hometown in all of the detail they put into creating a true representation of the city. And the greatest part about playing in a real-life city is that it subtly gives more weight to your actions. When blasting enemies and destroying property in Empire City (inFamous) and New Marais (inFamous 2), you tend not to really think about the consequences of your actions. But when you realize that the damage you’re causing is destroying the virtual rendering of an actual establishment, it gives it just a bit more weight to the decision each time. It’s a wonderful dilemma to experience.
I’ve played both of the first two games in the inFamous series and I enjoyed them for what they were, a great open-world superhero action game. inFamous: Second Son shows what Sucker Punch seems to have always intended to create, a beautiful world to experience the giddy fun of being a superhero. Second Son is only the beginning of what will be possible on Sony’s new console: beautiful visuals, immersive worlds, and truly fun experiences. If you purchased a PS4 at launch or have been on the fence, this is the game to win you over.
Here’s to PlayStation, Sucker Punch, Delsin, and the future of gaming.
[+Eyeball-exploding visuals][+Down-to-earth narrative][+Superb acting brings characters to life][+Highly entertaining gameplay][+Worth multiple playthroughs][–Karma Choices feel a bit insignificant narratively]