The Average Gamer

InFAMOUS: Second Son Review (PS4)

inFAMOUS Second Son-Delsin Reggie
Carrying on 7 years after the events of the first two games, inFAMOUS: Second Son follows the story of Delsin Rowe, a member of the “Akomish” fictional Native American tribe.

Delsin’s relationship with his policeman brother Reggie is one of the best-written relationships I’ve ever seen in a game, and really carries the story with some wonderful moments. Second Son expands the series by giving Delsin the ability to take powers from other “conduits”, humans with the gene that gives them superpowers. Because videogames.

As a result, the plot is spent hunting down these other conduits to gather their powers, while avoiding the Department of Unified Protection (DUP) who want to capture all conduits. The game deliberately reveals the available powers slowly and each one has a group of abilities. Smoke gives you a basic ranged shot and shotgun-like blast as well as a long-range missile while upgraded levels of the Neon power will allow you run up vertical surfaces and precisely target distant enemies for a stun or kill. While these initial two powers are fairly similar, the later ones will change the game and your playstyle quite significantly.

The karma system plays into combat this time. Level up your good karma by busting drug deals and knocking people out instead of killing them to unlock a few better non-lethal options. Conversely, you can earn bad karma by wantonly killing buskers and protesters for a couple more efficient ways to kill.

Evil players will find it much easier to earn karma. Every kill will gain you a point, whereas good players have to be much more precise to stun their victims. Racking up a streak of either karma will enable the karma bomb, an impressive area-of-effect attack that kills or stuns all enemies caught in the blast area. Rather disappointingly, the animations for both good and bad versions are exactly the same, which makes a second playthrough for the other morality a little less interesting.

inFAMOUS_Second_Son-GraffitiUpgrades themselves are purchased in a way similar to Saints Row IV. In fact, the structure of these games is very alike – you’re in a city controlled by an oppressing power and it’s up to you to free the districts one-by-one. You have to work for your upgrade points here, which appear in the form of “blast shards”, blue items used to power much of the DUP’s systems. Locate a quadrocopter drone, shoot it out of the sky and drain its blast shard for an upgrade point to spend on your skills tree.

Your skill upgrades are “gated” by karma levels. For example, you need to reach karma level 2 to upgrade your smoke draining speed beyond a certain point. Everything is very carefully paced and you can complete the game without too much grinding for shards or karma. It’s just as well because things do get repetitive. As said, two of your powers are very samey when it comes to tactics and, unlike Saints Row IV, you don’t have a huge arsenal of silly weapons to break things up.

The good karma route was brilliant for my first playthrough. Really enjoyable, loved the characters and Seattle is simply breathtaking. I didn’t bother liberating half the city and only cleared 100% of two areas, so I still have plenty to do after finishing the main plot. However, my second playthrough was far too similar, at least in the first few hours.

Infamous Second Son MonorailYou can’t skip any of the cutscenes, which meant a full 45 minutes of character introduction and tedious tutorial for a power that I’d already played for a dozen hours. I made totally different choices and yes, a small number of scenes play out slightly differently but the main thrust of the game is exactly the same. There’s some clever scriptwriting that puts a different inflection on some of the in-game conversations but I was still listening to the same phone call in the same place.

The boss confrontations are off-putting as well. Without spoiling anything, one of them felt like it came straight out of the Big Book of Bad Boss Battles (with a narratively-justified reason) while another just had me repeating the same action over and over again. I have no desire to repeat either of those, especially since the good and bad power options are mostly extensions of powers I already had.

InFamous: Second Son is an enjoyably well-paced game with a very human story, though morality does boil down to killing = bad (unless they’re trying to kill you) and not killing = good, with some lip service to grey areas. The lack of sidequests means that it can get a little repetitive, even within a single playthrough. Still, the characters and satisfyingly destructive powers will carry you through.

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