Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: Infamous Second Son

Infamous: Second Son was the first true AAA title for the PS4. To be honest, I didn't expect to get as hooked on it as I did. That's because I tried the original Infamous on the PS3, and got only about midway before I gave up on the game as being too long and too repetitive. Furthermore, I also had Shadows of Mordor sitting right in front of me, which was a much better reviewed game.

Well, I think what made the difference is that Second Son is a pretty gorgeous game. Whereas Shadows of Mordor started you in the shadows, Second Son started you at dawn, during the golden hour. The entire game tries hard to put you in gorgeous environments, either during sunrise, sunset, or at night. While I lived in Seattle for almost a year, I'd rarely seen it in good lighting because of the constant clouds and drizzle. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that the game was written as an extended advertisement for the Seattle tourism bureau.

The other reason is that Shadows of Mordor is multi-platform, while Second Son is written by one of Sony's in house developers. Without needing to port to other platforms, the team gets to optimize the heck out of the game, and it shows. Other than the startup loading screen, the rest of the game has zero loading time, with no hiccups whatsoever and a very fast frame rate. The game felt very tight. Unfortunately, that's not true of the the Vita remote play experience. I tried that a few times and it just didn't work.

The game revolves around Delsin Rowe, who discovers that he has powers. A government agency tries to capture him but members of his tribe try to protect him and fall prey to Augstine, the leader of the agency, who also has powers. Delsin, with his brother, heads of to Seattle to try to capture her powers so as to relieve the members of his tribe who helped him.

The least likable part of the story is Delsin Rowe, who's quite a punk. Even when playing him as a good guy, he never seems to want to live up to the hero he would be, with his brother frequently trying to restrain him. Nevertheless, the powers he gains are a lot of fun: smoke, neon, video, and finally concrete. Sucker Punch (the developer) did a good job giving each set of powers distinctive feel in play while sharing similar controls so that you don't get too overwhelmed each time. Each set of powers has a distinct skill tree, so you can upgrade and customize Delsin.

The game doesn't completely balance all powers: neon is the most fun to play, so the game forces you to upgrade video and smoke by making them required as the only skills necessary for certain critical missions. Fortunately, Sucker Punch also made upgrading Delsin by collecting power-shards fairly enjoyable, so I didn't even notice I was grinding the game until near the end, when I was collecting shards so I could upgrade the last power, concrete the minute I picked it up.

Collectibles are usually a pain in game, but this is one of the rare cases where the game's made them not objectionable. There's relatively little variance in the side missions, but there's enough different types that I didn't feel like it was very monotonous. I didn't like the secret agent missions, so I just didn't bother doing them, while some of the other missions were locked out because I decided to play as a good character instead of an evil one.

As a near-launch title, Second Son made full use of the new controller. You use every button, and the touch pad as well. The touch pad felt somewhat gimmicky, but I got used to it.

In any case, I had a lot of fun playing the game, and it definitely looks and feels miles beyond the original Infamous game. If you have a PS4, I'd recommend picking it up.

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