Review – Infamous: Second Son

Sucker Punch Productions returns close to home with it’s latest game, featuring Conduits in an open world Seattle setting. Is the newest installment in the Infamous series ready to proceed its predecessors?
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Infamous: Second Son opens up with a very short synopsis of what transpired after the end of Infamous 2. If it is your first Infamous game or you haven’t played Infamous 2, the introduction won’t mean a whole lot to you and, ultimately, is fairly useless in that regard. It is brief, however, and you are quickly introduced to the street smart, if not a little typical, main character named Delsin Rowe. A member of the Native American Akomish tribe, he is introduced to the player as a vandal and a bit of a punk, and throughout the series he lives up to this first impression.

After Delsin’s pass time of creating graffiti stencil art, which the player creates using the Sixaxis functionality of the PlayStation 4’s controller (hint: check out the Lightbar on your controller as you change spray paint colors), lands him in hot water with his police officer brother Reggie, you embark on a brief but breathtaking scenic trek across a strange platformer’s paradise beach. It is a beautiful example of this game’s immersive environments- you can practically taste the salt water and as a local Washingtonian, I have seen places like this all my life.

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The story progresses quickly from that, and while attempting to help after what appears to be a violent car accident, Delsin and his brother discover that Delsin is a conduit- If you are unfamiliar with the term, the inFamous wiki had a detailed article here, but it is basically a person that can control particular matter or materials or otherwise possesses super-human abilities granted to them by the Conduit gene. Delsin’s powers are fundamentally unique to other Conduits, however, as he ‘absorbs’ them and can have many at once, making him a literal power sponge.

You start the game with one power (smoke), and end the game with three, with an additional power that is more limited than the others and does not have the same karma branching that the others have. The characters you acquire these powers from are not necessarily surprises, but the lead-up and the witty dialogue make them all special still. All the powers have their own representations of melee and distance/shooting attacks. The main three powers all have unlockable abilities, branching out based on your karma, which are unlocked by collecting Blast Shards, scattered throughout the game world. Your karma will also impact the visual look of the powers. If you focus on collecting Blast Shards from the start, you will easily feel very powerful by the middle point of the game.

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Gameplay wise, my only real complaint is that jumping feels a little floaty (as is a trend with Infamous games) but in the long run Infamous: Second Son is enjoyable and beautiful in motion, making the somewhat, disappointingly short 8 to 10 hours of initial gameplay worth every moment. There’s also at least a little incentive to play the game again to play the opposite karma standing.

The writing of Second Son is very strong. The witty and well-delivered banter from Delsin (voiced by Troy Baker) to the other characters is entertaining, but it feels the most genuine and especially enchanting when Delsin and brother Reggie are having moments of turbulent brotherly love. The characters are easy to feel for, and you can feel the bonds and connections as they seem to genuinely experience and question each moment and situation they’re faced with. This connect is supported by strong facial visuals that don’t creep into uncanny valley territory, but are still realistic and engaging… you can understand the character’s emotions simply by looking at their expression.

The visual style of the game is simultaneously beautiful and grungy and is paired with an appropriate grunge-themed soundtrack that takes inspiration from some of Seattle’s famous musical artists. It is clear that Sucker Punch puts so much detail, passion and efforts into their games- they even have a 12th Man vest in reference to the Seattle Seahawks fans.

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