Reviews// inFAMOUS: Second Son

Posted 20 Mar 2014 14:00 by
inFAMOUS: Second Son begins seven years after the end of the second game in the series. It takes place in the Pacific Northwest USA, and particularly Seattle.

Our hero, the somewhat strangely named Delsin Rowe, is a Native American graffiti artist who accidentally touches a 'bio-terrorist' or Conduit, as those with super powers are called in the inFAMOUS universe, and absorbs his skills. This gives Delsin the ability to move like smoke through air vents and some barriers (the gas-permeable ones).

It quickly transpires that this was not a one-off event. Like Heroesí Sylar, Delsin has the meta-Łber-power of being able to assimilate and aggregate other conduitsí powers. If you had to have a super power, that would be the one go for.

What this means in real terms is that unlike previous inFAMOUS games, where our (old) hero Cole McGrath started with a fairly basic set of powers and built them up during the game, Delsin starts the game with a fairly impressive set of powers and builds them up during the game. And there we have the theme of inFAMOUS: Second Son. Everything about the game feels new and different, but familiar.

Indeed, Second Son is exactly what you want from a (second) sequel (see inFAMOUS reviewed here and inFAMOUS 2 reviewed here). It introduces some new ingredients to the mix, but nothing too radical. Itís still a chocolate cake, but maybe with slightly less sugar, slightly more cocoa. No one has done anything exciting and scary like thrown chilli into the mix. What kind of idiot would do that with a winning recipe?

Sure, everything about the game feels higher-res and newer-gen, but really itís just a veneer of new-ness. Under the hood, this is just another inFAMOUS game, and given that inFAMOUS 1 and 2 were stand out titles of the PS3 generation, thatís no bad thing!

In Delsinís world, everything is not good down on the reservation. After a truck carrying three Conduits crashes on their land, the tribe are taken ill, or encased in concrete by the DUP - the Department of Unified Protection.

The DUP is run by a female Conduit who has concreting powers. This woman, the somewhat improbably named Augustine, rules the division with an iron hand (usually balled into a fist!), and they have taken control of Seattle, where they oppress the citizens. Delsin and his older brother (Second Son - get it) head for Seattle to find a cure to their tribeís malaise and to free the people. Vive le revolućion!

In Seattle itís pretty much like it was in Empire City and New Marais. A downtrodden populace under the iron boot of a totalitarian police force. And it's your job to give the people hope and liberty.

You do this by waging a war of attrition. Attacking and destroying the DUPís Mobile Command Centres will not only grant you more power, but it will degrade their level of influence in a city sector.

Although the game is supposedly free roaming, when you wander into new city sectors that are under high or complete DUP control, they will be difficult or even impossible to win. So you are in fact guided, with some latitude, through a linear game progression. Though you can then backtrack freely through areas that are cleared and mop up the side missions.

In fact, because the side missions also have deleterious effect on the DUPís influence, it can make sense to do those before attempting the assaults on their installations. But since there will be a heavier group presence before the assaults, the side missions can be tricker, because you can run into armed resistance as you try and perform them - and that is the crux of the gameís strategy: the order in which you play things makes a marked difference to the outcomes. And therein lies its brilliance.

Things as simple as destroying surveillance cameras before you launch your attack can reduce your exposure to resistance during an operation. Many of the DUP installations are powered by Blast Shards, and once liberated these can be used to power up Delsinís skills.

His skill categories are expanded by assimilating the powers of other Conduits that he meets and defeats during the game. And once a skill category is acquired, the individual skills in it can be powered up using a mixture of Blast Shards and Karma level - which is acquired by performing good acts (healing civilians, subduing rather than killing enemies), or their opposite. Different Karma levels and parities will determine what powers Delsin can wield and what actions are open to him during the game.
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