“Infamous: Second Son” presents solid gameplay, beautiful graphics

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Courtesy of Sucker Punch Studios

“Infamous: Second Son,” from developer Sucker Punch, has finally made its way to PlayStation 4. Set in Seattle, this third-person action sandbox game is the first big title to hit Sony’s next-gen console. I’m glad to report that it is a good game which highlights something we will probably see out of both next-gen consoles: gorgeous graphics. Unfortunately, while gameplay is awesome, it’s not an innovative step forward. This is not a negative, for sure — just something to keep in mind.

“Second Son” is not the first in the series, but can fortunately hold its own as knowledge of the previous games is not needed to understand what’s going on. We start as young punk-rocker Delsin Rowe. In his rebellious youth, he is trying to find his way in life. Luckily, he is part of a Native American tribe that attempts to guide him in his path. His brother, Reggie Rowe — a cop — acts as his conscience, which comes into play when Delsin finds out he has super powers, officially dubbing him a Conduit (a person with powers). Long story short, his tribe is in danger and Delsin must use his powers to go to Seattle to take down the evil Augustine, who injured his tribe. As the main antagonist, Augustine is part of the government task force called the Department of Unified Protection (DUP) which looks for Conduits and puts them in a special jail. Interestingly enough, she is a Conduit herself, and using some very twisted logic, feels like she is saving the lives of Conduits.

The real gold is the gameplay. As Delsin, you get the whole city of Seattle as your playground as you attempt to rid the city of the DUP. You complete different missions that range from tailing certain people to fighting huge bosses, and go through the whole game filling out a karma bar, which determines whether you become a real superhero or an infamous villain. These choices ultimately define which side missions you get.

The idea of karma isn’t new to the series — the problem is that there really is no difference in the game whether you are good or bad. Only a few dialogue lines change, which simply make Delsin sound either nice or like a jerk.

Now for the fun part: the superpowers. To avoid spoilers, only two will be covered here — smoke and neon. First off, these powers are extremely unique. What is so impressive is that these powers are fun to use and each new power makes you feel stronger. Each one also allows you to maneuver through the city more efficiently; using smoke powers, you can turn into ash and jump into vents, which will throw you out at the top of the roof. Later on, neon powers give you the ability to run on walls, which then makes smoke seem like a slow way of traversing. The powers that follow feel like a natural step up as well.

So, how do you challenge a guy with superpowers? Well, you give him some baddies with almost equal abilities. The DUP is filled with artificial Conduits, which — luckily — doesn’t make them as strong as a real Conduit. However, they offer a real challenge that will test your abilities, forcing you to get creative.

An issue that I did run into was that the city did not feel alive. Sure, it is a pretty accurate replica of Seattle, but there is nothing going on in it. It is populated with people, but they don’t do anything. The DUP also doesn’t seem to care about anyone other than Delsin. These are not huge problems per se, because they do not hinder gameplay. But with the power of next-gen, our expectations are higher since some games on the PS3, like “Grand Theft Auto V,” had cities that felt real and thriving.

On the subject of next-gen, the game does utilize some features exclusive to the DualShock 4 (PS4 controller). In the game, Delsin must put his finger into a scanner, and instead of it just being a little cutscene, you put your finger on the trackpad to emulate the sequence. The speaker on the controller is also used to listen to phone calls and audio logs. The coolest part is using the controller as a spray can. Delsin loves to put graffiti throughout the city, so you get to turn the controller sideways and mimic a real spray can, using the R2 button as the nozzle.

Next-gen is going to be very slow to adapt new gameplay; it is unfair to expect that from “Infamous: Second Son.” It is a beautiful game with a huge city at your disposal. Most importantly, it makes you feel powerful. It is a blast from beginning to end with a decent story, and you can’t really ask for a much more. So, as the game promos state, “Enjoy Your Powers.”

Rating: 3.5 stars

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