InFamous: Second Son is like a ten-tiered wedding cake. It looks like one taste could induce euphoria, yet in reality, underneath that mouth-watering exterior, there’s just a lot of polystyrene.
With this not being a numbered entry into the InFamous series, the game casts aside gruff protagonist, Cole MacGrath. Instead, we get the impossibly named, cocky little upstart, Delsin Rowe – both voiced and face-captured by the new Nolan North, Troy Baker.
Delsin is immediately more likable than Cole, but Cole was more of a blank canvas. In Second Son, when you choose to go down the ‘evil’ path, it often feels jarring – like the character doesn’t feel suited to that style of play. It never felt that way with Cole. It doesn’t help that the game’s moral compass is skewed. I mean, this is a game that gives you good karma for murdering drug dealers. Batman definitely wouldn’t approve of Delsin’s methods.
Whichever way you decide to play it, the alternate powers the game rewards you with for binary choice aren’t that different from each other anyway, but you will get a different jacket – because nothing says good or evil like a colour-coded jacket.
Even the later powers don’t mix things up nearly enough. Each power has a way of gliding, each has a solution for getting up buildings, each has a similar melee and each has palette-swapped projectiles. You switch between powers on the fly, not by choosing them from a menu, but by draining the power source that corresponds to the power. So, if you suck up smoke you get smoke powers, if you drain a neon sign you get neon powers, if you drain a TV signal… yes. Anyway, what this leads to is, instead of power switching being a tactical choice, it’s usually one from convenience – you just replenish from whatever source is closest to you. I suppose this is why the powers all had to be so similar.
This lack of choice is magnified all the more when you take into account the constant spamming from the enemies. Most enemies use guns, grenades and rockets to deal with you, and the barrage is incessant. Your health is refilled by refilling your powers, so you’ll often drain the closest source to you not only out of convenience, but out of blind panic.
You’ll often find yourself running away from groups of enemies to refill your health and then going back and taking a few out, rinsing and repeating. In fact, towards the end of the game, I just ran away from most encounters completely, as they were devoid of any fun whatsoever.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the navigation was fun. Remember zipping along electric cables in the first two games? Gone.
The traversal starts of terribly and gets a little better as the game goes on. At first, you often try climbing a building by jumping up, from windowsill to windowsill, but sometimes they aren’t even spaced evenly and you can’t reach them, so you’ll have to go around. It’s a city built to look nice, instead of for play.
And look nice it does. Whether baked in the orange glow of dusk, or on a lit up rainy night, the game looks fantastic, although missing a proper day and night cycle. The particle effects, especially from the neon powers, never get boring to look at. Even the way water pools into puddles will have you stopping and staring, or the way the lighting causes you to silhouette against the urban backdrop.
Looks can only get you so far, though. You’ll probably finish it fueled on by the eye candy, but the short run time – around five hours – and the terrible final boss will leave a sour taste in your mouth. In the end, InFamous: Second Son feels more like a showcase for the capabilites of the PS4 than a game.