When GTA V was first announced, Rockstar shied away from mentioning a potential release on the new consoles, instead saying the game would ‘feel’ next-gen. Back then, it felt like marketing spiel. It turns out it wasn’t – almost a year on, GTA V is still the most technically impressive open-world game . Even without the upcoming remaster, GTA V puts InFamous: Second Son - the most advanced open-world game on the new generation consoles – to shame. How many PlayStation 4 games have you seen where the character’s flip-flops actually flop, its characters visibly sweat when they’re running, and hair grows over time?
InFamous: Second Son, beyond the glitz of the rain-soaked streets and the dazzling particle effects, doesn’t do anything new. There’s more to a new generation than extra stuff happening on the screen and better reflections. A new generation should bring new experiences, new features. Yet InFamous is missing features we’ve come to expect from open-world games over the last decade.
First off, the game doesn’t even have a day and night cycle in the traditional sense – these transitions happen at key parts of the story, taking away from some of the magic other open-worlds have. GTA V has ferocious lightning storms and rain that collects into pools that build up as the weather worsens – even the moon’s phases change as the days roll by, lighting the night sky slightly differently depending on phase. InFamous has pools of water, and they do change depending on the time of the day, but this all happens behind the scenes, not in real-time like GTA V. Los Santos is crammed with small details that many players won’t even notice, but they all come together to create a believable world. Even the colour of the sky is perfect.
It’s not just the weather in InFamous that feels lacking – the NPCs wander around, drone-like, running away whenever Beanie Man starts destroying things. Hell, sometimes they’ll even run from him just because he came within a certain distance of them, even if he’s standing still. I remember watching a video of Second Son’s NPCs walking up to a stationary player, umbrellas in hand in the rain. Once they entered a certain radius they would panic and run away, leaving their umbrellas in a massive pile by the player.
GTA V makes other game’s NPCs look like idiots. Their only purpose is to be abused by the player and that’s the only meaningful interaction you can really have with them, beyond them occasionally photographing you on their phones. When compared to GTA V’s convenience store-robbing citizens, its tourists who snap photos of the scenery at Mt. Chiliad and its pedestrians who jog across road crossings if the light turns yellow, there’s no comparison. You can even catch GTA V’s NPCs playing full games of tennis together, hitting and missing shots whilst making quips about the game.
Even when driving, Second Son’s NPCs will happily sit in their cars, patiently waiting for you to blow it to smithereens as the whole of Seattle explodes around them. You never see anyone getting into a car, either. This is a far cry from GTA V’s citizens flipping you off from their cars if you cut them up, or performing parallel parking, making tiny adjustments until they’re parked. If you pull a sports car up to a red light next to an NPC-controlled sports car in GTA V and rev your engine, sometimes they’ll even engage in an impromptu street race with you when the lights turn green.
When driving at night with your headlights off, citizens of Los Santos will flash you to let you know your lights are off. I say citizens, because the people of Los Santos actually feel like people – they react to you beyond just running in fear. It’s not just that they react to the player, either. Even if you don’t get involved with them, the city of Los Santos works behind the scenes, its people going about their business. Unlike most games, the player – although they surely are – doesn’t feel like the center of the universe.
Even the super-powered enemies of InFamous leave a lot to be desired when compared to the police of GTA V. Sure, the heavily armoured soldiers of InFamous might be inhumanely accurate and occasionally be able to leap across rooftops, but their constant barrage of pinpoint bullet death and grenade spam doesn’t lead to believable intelligence. GTA V’s police don’t just have a more feasible supply of grenades, they react to the player beyond just attacking. If you destroy an officer’s vehicle they will commandeer a citizen’s car to continue the chase. If you shoot an officer in the leg they will fall to the floor and sometimes another cop will drag them behind the nearest vehicle or bit of low cover. At high wanted levels, SWAT communicate with hand gestures and use flanking maneuvers to take the player down.
This sense of personality even extends to the city. I can picture Los Santos in my mind, even down to the road textures and the sounds. I can feel the vibration on the respective side of my controller as my wheels touch the hard shoulder. I can hear the “vwoom” as I enter and exit a tunnel. I can see where the landmarks are in relation to each other – I can picture the wind farms, Mt. Chiliad, downtown L.A., the tunnels leading out of the city and the caravan parks of the city’s outskirts. When I picture InFamous, all I can see is the Space Needle. The streets all look the same.
The same could be said of Watch Dogs‘ grey Chicago. Los Santos is the bustle of the real world condensed into a perfect virtual playground. With the power of PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 behind it, the increased density is going to make newer open-world games look lazy in comparison. We all have that one friend who drives around GTA adhering to the highway code – it’s because people want to be tourists in that world. Rockstar is set to pour that eye for detail into the remaster, not only upping the textures, resolution and frame rate, but actually adding details to the game – more grass, wildlife and details. Once the GTA V remaster is out, I guarantee Second Son’s particle effects won’t seem so impressive.