InFAMOUS: Second Son Game Review – It’s Not Bad, But It’s Not Great

Let’s start with some context.

The year is 2011. ‘inFAMOUS 2’ has been released and the fans rejoice for it is the best thing ever in the history of anything. It’s utterly fantastic but with one story aspect that a person could take as either a good thing or a bad thing. Whichever karma path you chose, Cole’s story was over. Maybe. There was some deliberation among the fans as to whether the lightning strike in the shape of a question mark was just a sequel hook in case the makers wanted to continue Cole’s story and from a fan point of view, I loved Cole MacGrath. I thought he was one of the best video game protagonists for a long time. However, from a story point of view, I thought it would be for the best that Cole stay dead because bringing him back would scream of ‘Cop out’ and the danger that another instalment involving Cole returning would be a dangerous sign that the production company wanted some money.

Also, another sequel, even without Cole, would pose an even bigger problem. As it was explained, when Cole activated the RFI and killed all the conduits, people with the conduit gene also died.

That’s obviously not true because three years later, Sony announced the Playstation 4 and more importantly, it’s exclusive line-up which included an indirect sequel to ‘inFAMOUS 2’ which was called, ‘inFAMOUS: Second Son’.

I was happy that there was another sequel as the gameplay was one of the best things about the ‘inFAMOUS’ games. Sadly, the other brilliant thing about the ‘inFAMOUS’ games was its great characters and that’s one trait that ‘Second Son’ didn’t bring along for the ride.

As soon as the game starts, there is a notice that this game takes place seven years after the events of ‘inFAMOUS 2’ and conduits are still around but have been labelled ‘Bio-terrorists’ and imprisoned in Curdan Cay by the DUP (Department of Unified Protection).

So ‘inFAMOUS: Second Son’ starts and you play as Delsin Rowe, a young(ish) man living in a Native American community and the first thing we do is showcase the new PS4 hardware as we use the controller’s ‘six-axis’ motion technology to deface the billboard of the local copper with spray paint.

We learn quite soon after that the copper is Delsin’s brother, Reggie but just as they are getting into a fight, a truck crashes and two prisoners are seen escaping. Reggie goes off in pursuit and Delsin helps another prisoner out of the wreckage. This man, Hank, is a conduit and takes Delsin hostage as Reggie shows up but Delsin grabs Hank’s hand to stop him from shooting his brother with smoke and somehow, absorbs Hank’s conduit powers.

Delsin is scared for about 30 seconds then instantly gets into the swing of things. Anyway, Hank is captured by Brooke Augustine who is the leader of the DUP and also a conduit with the power to manipulate concrete. She tries to torture Delsin when she suspects that he’s hiding something from her.

Virtually the only other major connection to the other games besides the superpowers is the Karma system which makes a not entirely welcome return and as soon as Augustine threatens the nice, old lady of the community, Delsin is given his first karma choice. Should he confess to being a conduit and risk his freedom or should he defy Augustine and let her torture his community. It doesn’t matter because the result is the same. All the community end up with concrete in their legs.

And here is the first problem with the story and it’s a little bit the same problem as with Bertrand in the last game. In fact, both characters are eerily similar. Both are opposed to conduits and have their own army to combat conduits, but they are both conduits themselves.

Now I think of it, I have a problem with most of these characters. I’m going to start with Delsin and this is in no way a reflection on Troy Baker, the very talented actor who portrays a lot of male characters in video games and anime. His most popular role will probably have to be Joel from ‘The Last of Us’.

Just while I’m on the subject of ‘The Last of Us’, when is ‘Part II’ coming out? I’ve noticed that Troy Baker has been doing a lot of other projects in 2019 and I’m concerned that maybe Joel isn’t in the second game as much. I’m warning Naughty Dog right now; I will do thorough research before buying ‘Part II’ and if Joel dies then I’m not fucking buying it. What made the first game work story-wise was the relationship between Joel and Ellie. If it’s Ellie and someone else who I don’t care about then I don’t care, I’m not buying it.

That’s my point over with.

My problem with Delsin is that he’s a massive wanker. It’s established that he doesn’t have a job but he’s cocky and arrogant and is determined to become an artist of some kind and his particular kind of art is heavily ‘influenced’ by ‘Banksy’ anyway. Dude, you’re nearly 30, grow up.

What makes matters worse is his brother, Reggie. He goes through weird tangents of trying to control his brother’s actions like he’s a child and then as soon as Delsin inevitably defies him, he ends up helping him out anyway.

By the way, was it really necessary to keep mentioning the fact that they’re brothers? They mention it almost every time they talk to each other as if the player has forgotten in the last 2.5 seconds since they last mentioned it. If they don’t mention being brothers, then they’ll mention Reggie being a cop.

I mentioned above that Delsin has an alarmingly short adjustment period when it comes to gaining his new abilities. Conduits aren’t so popular these days as they’re seen as bringers of destruction which wasn’t too dissimilar to how they were seen in previous games.

After being tortured by Augustine, Delsin remains unconscious for one week before waking up and seeing the atrocities that Augustine committed on his community. He vows to follow Augustine to Seattle and leech her concrete power so he can save the Akomish (his community).

Bear in mind that Cole had already has two weeks from gaining his powers to the start of the first main mission to get accustomed to his powers. Delsin had one week and most of it was spent laid flat on his back. He gets used to it rather quickly and also very quickly becomes the biggest defender of conduits despite being scared shitless when he first received them. Scared of having the abilities but also of being vilified by his own community.

You see, Delsin’s conduit ability is not limited to one element. He can absorb presumably an infinite number of powers from other conduits. Hank has been captured but the other two have escaped to Seattle which is where Delsin is heading.

By the way, that was one of the big selling points of the game, that it takes place in Seattle and I fear the game has made another mistake. Empire City and New Marais were both fictional representations of real cities and therefore stayed within its own established universe. By setting ‘Second Son’ in a real world city is missing the point. Granted, it’s not a huge misstep and I don’t remember anyone else having a problem with it BUT, I’m guessing Sucker Punch had to pay money to license the Space Needle and other businesses that relate to Seattle which might go away into explaining why the game is so short.

I’m not exaggerating. I finished the game in two sessions. 100%. All side missions completed, and I collected all the blast shards. 8-9 hours, max.

All in all, Delsin collects three powers through the course of the game and one at the end but for the majority of gameplay, Delsin acquires Smoke, Neon and Video. That’s what you’ve got to work with but because the game is so short, the expansion of these abilities is spread too thin.

For example, Delsin gains all the attacks necessary for his Smoke power only a few missions into the game. These attacks are the standard smoke shot, the cinder blast, smoke thrusters, the smoke dash, car boost. That’s all before arriving in Seattle. We’re about an hour in at this point.

Once Delsin arrives, he gains the sulphur bomb, the cinder missile and the ‘orbital drop’ which is the ultimate ‘fuck you’ attack and featured in the trailer.

The way that Delsin gains these abilities are the ‘Core Relays’ which are a poor representation of the blast cores from the last game. The Core Relays are just big, metallic units that are guarded by the DUP and I couldn’t find any other context for them other than giving Delsin new powers. No one else was trying to gain powers from them so we don’t know what they were here for.

The absorption of Core Relays is necessary for Delsin to use his abilities as demonstrated when he gained his video power from Eugene. He couldn’t access his video powers because he hadn’t unlocked the standard attacks and all this gets messy when more than one element is involved. Does one Core Relay unlock a specific power or are there a set amount of powers per element? With Cole, it was nice and easy. He only had the power of electricity and therefore, a blast core would give him one new power for electricity but how does Delsin know that any given Core Relay will give him a new power for his chosen element?

I’ll tell you what else sucks and that’s the upgrade system. XP is now a thing of the past so you no longer gain XP from taking down enemies or performing stunts which means you don’t spend your XP on upgrades. Instead, you pay for upgrades using blast shards that are collected by shooting down tracker drones or blowing mobile command stations which you also do to sweep the DUP out of Seattle.

That’s something good that was taken from the other games, side missions that actually have a purpose, but they still managed to fuck it up by repeating the same side quests over and over again. Granted, the side missions in the first game were a bit samey but at least they had you start the side mission by talking to an NPC or taking it from another character because at least they felt a bit more personal. The side missions got a touch more varied in ‘inFAMOUS 2’, even if they had a similar format.

Instead of building up XP, the player builds up a ‘karmic streak’ that unlocks the orbital drop or equivalent by doing good or bad things such as subdue an enemy or execute an enemy.

In ‘Second Son’, the side missions are limited to, blow up a command unit, spray a tag, find the hidden camera, find the audio log, and blow up the secret agent. Those missions are repeated over and over again until you get the district down to 30% DUP control because then you unlock the ‘Showdown’ where Delsin rings up the DUP helpline and phones in a fake bio-terrorist threat and once he takes down all the DUP that show up, then it’s mission over and district cleared. I usually find it way more expedient to build up an orbital drop or equivalent and round up all the agents into flattening range. That usually does it.

Back to the karma system. Remember in the last games when there was a load of karma missions that were locked out once you completed a mission for either karmic path? Now there are three. Once you meet ‘Fetch’ Walker or Eugene Simms, you can choose to either ‘Redeem’ them or ‘Corrupt’ them but if you’ve been Good Delsin up to that point then the ‘Corrupt’ side mission will be locked. Then why give me the option?

What is weird is that characters hardly seem to react differently to you whether you’re good or bad. When Reggie is about to sacrifice himself to save Evil Delsin, he says the same thing that he would say if Delsin were Good. He talks about how he loves him and he’s proud of him… really? Even after your own brother has been causing destruction and killing innocent people? Guess you’re not a very good cop.

All this might sound like I really don’t like ‘Second Son’ but the one thing that I will give it praise for is the gameplay. And there is a lot of gameplay. All though all the standard elemental attacks don’t seem to have any impact and feel like Delsin is spitting on the enemy, fighting does require a certain amount of strategizing and it is easier to move around in ‘Second Son’.

When caught in a panicked moment, Delsin can smoke dash up a vent and onto a roof, he can dash at light speed in Neon or he can dash with wings in Video mode. For combat, I would recommend Smoke or Video but Neon and Video do have good movement skills.

Just dropping into a whole pack of DUP troops is a fight that won’t last long and will end up in Delsin being posted back to Salmon Bay in a freezer bag so it’s best to divide and conquer. I really do miss the shockwave. That was a great attack for dealing with hordes of enemies.

I’ve rambled enough, lets talk about the ending.

The last karmic decision is whether or not to expose Augustine for her corruption or kill her for killing Reggie.

Here’s my tip for dealing with Augustine, the boss fight is in two stages so for beating the second stage, collect all the blast shards before you start the mission with Hank to rescue Fetch and Eugene. You don’t have to 100% the game, just collect all the blast shards, they will come in real handy.

For the first stage of the boss, you’re just using your own powers but then after she’s defeated for the first time, she’ll offer you her power voluntarily. It’s then that we learn her backstory.

She was in the military seven years previous and was part of the infantry that was fighting the Beast. As we know, the Beast was on a rampage to create conduits but that meant a lot of people had to die. Augustine carried the conduit gene and gained the ability to manipulate concrete. Whilst walking back to her comrades, she found a little girl who also a conduit and she followed Augustine back to the battalion. Augustine realised that people were going to be gunning for conduits and the only way to save them would be for her to trap the little girl in concrete and set up her own division to hunt down conduits or Bio-terrorists to lock them up in Curdan Cay and protect them from the public. Augustine, conduits have superpowers. I’m pretty sure they don’t need protecting.

In the second stage of the boss fight, Augustine transforms into a giant concrete scorpion but Delsin can’t so anything until he gets a Core Relay which Delsin calls a ‘blast core’ for the first and only time in the whole game. All you can go is dodge until Eugene chucks you a few Core Relays. Once you’ve got a power, use your blast shards to upgrade the power as much as possible, especially the boulder dash. It honestly makes the boss fight way easier.

After either exposing or killing Augustine, Delsin returns to the Akomish community in Salmon Bay to remove the concrete shards.

If you’re Good Delsin then you see Betty and heal her and then Delsin spray paints a memorial for Reggie on the same billboard that he vandalised at the start. He then says, “I love you, brother and I’m sure going to miss you”, which is what Zeke says to Cole by means of a goodbye at the end of ‘inFAMOUS 2’. Delsin then sets down his spray can, implying that he’s going to finally grow up.

However, if you’re Evil Delsin then he will return to the community and be faced with an angry Betty who condemns if for all the evil that she saw him do on the news and banishes him from the community, knowing all too well that she and indeed everyone will die if Delsin doesn’t remove the shards. Having lost everything, Delsin throws a tantrum and performs an orbital drop which presumably kills everyone.

But that’s not the end.

Once you’re back in the sandbox and you bought the DLC, you can play ‘Cole’s Legacy’ where you help Raymond Wolfe who was Dr Sebastian Wolfe’s brother and a reporter. Wolfe needs you to collect his dead drops and find his editor or something. The whole thing is supposed to explain what happened in the seven years between ‘inFAMOUS 2’ and ‘Second Son’ but here’s the thing, it doesn’t explain anything. What with it being called ‘Cole’s Legacy’, I was expecting a hell of a lot more talk about Cole and what an amazing dude he was but instead, there wasn’t a whole lot of much.

You show up, collect a dead drop and kill some DUP guys, what am I missing from the main story missions. I’ve mentioned before that no one knows why the conduits have returned when they all should be dead and I have a theory that makes sense.

During the last cutscene, Zeke mentions that people all across the world died from the RFI blast and they, “must have been conduits and didn’t even know it”. Well, the RFI was designed to counteract Ray Sphere Radiation and conduits have their superpowers because of Ray Sphere Radiation. That’s not so with the conduit gene or even with the conduits in ‘Second Son’. Instead of a Ray sphere giving them powers, their abilities were more ‘emotional based’ what with Eugene using his powers because he was bullied. So instead of the RFI killing everyone with the conduit gene, what if it caused the gene to mutate and no longer require Ray Sphere Radiation? It’s a bit far-fetched, I know and it’s not a brilliant theory but if the writers won’t even come up with an excuse just pump out an inferior game to welcome in a new console generation then I suppose it’s up to the fans.

I suppose I should mention that Zeke shows up and of course Delsin doesn’t know who he is and doesn’t appreciate the relevance so, all in all, not impressed. And a bit insulted.

I would recommend ‘inFAMOUS: Second Son’ for the gameplay but apart from that, it’s really short and the characters are annoying and with what little relevance it has to the first two, it’s just not as good.

BUT this doesn’t dampen Sucker Punch as a developer. I’m quite interested in their upcoming title, ‘Ghost of Tsushima’. That looks really good. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play ‘Cooking Simulator’.

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