- Developer – Sucker Punch Productions
- Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
- Platforms – PlayStation 4
- Release date – 21 March
- Price - £49.99
Infamous: Second Son
Infamous: Second Son is the game the PS4 needs right now - that much is certain. It looks pretty, will sell a few consoles and just about breaks free of the launch title stigma. It is a serviceable and fun game, but really that's all it is.
Sucker Punch's return to their open-world series wasn't supposed to look like this. When those in charge wrote Infamous 2's dual-endings the intention was that Cole MacGrath's survival would be where the third game carries on.
Gamers had other ideas, with most electing to kill off the leading man.
Therefore Second Son represents a clean slate for the series as it launches on new hardware and attempts to break into that upper-echelon of first-party exclusives. A new era then, and a new mantra: "Enjoy your powers."
A repugnant hero
Second Son's main protagonist is Delsin Rowe.
His dormant ability to absorb the powers of other super-powered folk (Conduits, or Bio-Terrorists to the fearful masses) is awakened during a chance meeting with an escaped convict that leaves him with the ability to wield smoke.
At first frightened by his abilities, soon he revels in them and grows hungry to acquire more on a mission to help his friends and family. I would further explain Second Son's story but there's really no point. It is a total non-starter. A pastiche of anti-authoritarian daydream with a pants villain and a repugnant hero.
Deslin may be performed by the wonderful Troy Baker, but even he can't lend an ounce of charm to this utter brat - who comes across as a 20-something Bart Simpson with none of the humour, double the sarcasm and somehow more immature.
His relationship with brother Reggie reminded me of Peter and Nathan Petrelli, the stars of tonally-similar TV series Heroes. In each instance the writers want us to like younger sibling, but all I ever did was cheer for the level-headed elder, who deserves a medal for putting up with the petulant oik's constant s**t.
Terrible leading man aside the game is, as mentioned, perfectly fun – but only after a troublesome opening few hours.
I briefly played a demo of the game a week or two back that dumped me in the city and gave me two powers to toy with. It took me all of five minutes to figure out what I was doing – how to switch abilities, how to climb and my means of attack - but the full game succumbs to that AAA need to hold the player's hand for longer than is necessary.
An off-putting and linear start eventually gives way to the freedom of a bustling, well-designed playground of a city. There's plenty to do from the off, but it's far longer than you might expect before you gain a second power.
To Sucker Punch's credit each of the four powers you eventually receive come as a welcome break from the standard fire/ice/electricity though The uses of each are largely the same.
New abilities and upgrades can be unlocked by pursuing either extreme of the morality system that makes no attempt to address the inherent problems it provided in the first two games.
Good vs Evil
You are forced to pick good or evil, with nothing to be gained from the natural middle ground. To unlock more you need to stick absolutely to your chosen path, which renders the whole idea a bit pointless.
Aided no doubt by the freshness of next gen tech, Sucker Punch have made a beautiful game, but as cars fly, enemies ragdoll and Deslin fires off multi-coloured shots the fluidity is occasionally sullied by an unfortunate drop in frame rate.
An entirely-manual camera also regularly fails to keep up with the pace and will tarnish the fun as you run into a corner or wall-run into a canopy you could not see.
The game's ultimate problem is best summed up in the nature of one of its better features.
Sucker Punch have used the Dualshock 4 controller fantastically well here. When defacing walls with graffiti players hold the controller sideways, shake it and motion toward the screen as they paint – with the appropriate sounds coming through the pad's speaker. There is also regular use the controller's touchscreen to open doors, deactivate turrets and hold up objects in need of a pummelling.
Sucker Punch have used the controller's features as all developers should: in a way that's not at all intrusive and feels natural rather than gimmicky. However it does represent the skin-deep extent of Sucker Punch's best ideas in the game.
None of them really help improve what is a solid core that makes for a comfortably familiar open world game, but not one that will set the world alight.
- Gameplay: 7/10 – Good fun once you're given enough toys to play with
- Graphics: 9/10 – This being one of the PS4's first major titles, everything has been done to make it look as good as possible
- Writing: 3/10 – You'd find similar guff scribbled in the back of a 90s teenager's Nirvana notebook.
- Sound: 8/10 – Great sound design gives the city life and the voice acting is okay, if not spectacular. Canny use of the Dualshock 4 speaker too
- Replay value: 7/10 – You're encouraged to choose whether to play good or bad, with powers for each side. That's at least two play-throughs
- Overall: 7/10 – Any future open world games with super-powers should use this as a starting point, not a benchmark
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