Second Son's Five Heroic Feats
5. The Alternate Reality Game Is a Nice Touch
The first thing you might notice upon opening the box for Second Son (unless you purchased a digital copy of it) is an ad for a series of free missions known as "The Paper Trail," a story revolving around a manga-loving Conduit with paper-themed powers who just happens to be serial killer. How it works is that you head to the Paper Trail website, register, then head to the in-game Paper Trail mission. Solve it, investigate a crime scene, drop the evidence off in a mailbox, and then you continue the story from your computer/laptop/tablet/etc., finding new leads by researching the clues given and solving puzzles in a more traditional adventure game-style format. Then when you're done, the in-game mission/web-based mission cycle continues.
It might seem a tad odd, but it is pretty fun indeed, an innovative and welcome little change of pace that allows you to give your crime-solving skills a mental test as well. Plus, with six planned updates/sixteen or so missions planned to be added over two months, it definitely comes off as a nice free chunk of DLC that builds on the game's universe and story a bit more (you know, like proper DLC should do). It's a great idea for an extra that'll keep you playing even after the game is beaten, and hopefully future games will take a lesson from this (preferably in the "free" part as well).
4. The Game Brings Seattle to Life
...So yeah, it kind of goes without saying that a next-gen game has some rather fancy graphics. But rather then go into the technical details that make it all great, I'll point out that the world those graphics are used to create is quite a stunning one. Unlike the previous games and their New York/New Orleans substitutes, Sucker Punch decided to put their Washington-based skills to good use and craft a superb replica of the Emerald City, right down to actually rendering real-life Seattle residents to use as the NPCs. And while zooming around the city, you might notice such monuments as the Pacific Science Center, nods to famous Seattle record labels such as Sub Pop and Sonic Boom, and countless coffee shops and chains (including new TR favorite Latte Owl) peppered around the city in astonishing detail. It really does a lot to capture the essence of the city and its culture, especially one known for its art and entertainment that perfectly matches the game's tone. And yes, you get to visit the Space Needle at one point. Well, you do more than visit it, but that would be spoiling things...
And speaking of the arts in Seattle, I couldn't help but notice that they tend to pop up as a recurring theme throughout the game. Delsin is presented as a Banksy-style street artist, one Conduit uses neon and lasers to craft elaborate drawings and memorials, another has Green Lantern-ish powers that allow him to bring video games tools to life via imagination. You have a serial killer who leaves little manga books at the scene of a crime, and even Delsin's brother suggests that the sinister stone structures the D.U.P. rigs up to house their troops could be a form of tagging. It all creates room for a a lot of creative visuals and setpieces, and the fact that it syncs up so perfectly with the city everything takes place in is the cherry on top. Or a Cherry Blossom Latte, if you prefer.
3. Delsin Is a Great Character
Second Son can boast that Delsin Rowe is the first Native American protagonist in a major game since 2006's Prey (Connor from Assassin's Creed III doesn't count due to him being only half Native American and half block of wood), but more importantly, the game can boast that it has a really damn good protagonist, period. One of the game's big taglines is "Enjoy Your Powers" and Delsin proceeds to happily make that his motto throughout the course of the game, approaching every new core relay containing a new power for him to absorb with the same kind of glee as a kid about to open a huge Christmas present containing that Nerf gun of mass destruction he's been eagerly anticipating.
Delsin, you see, is a more optimistic hero, viewing his powers more as a blessing compared to others. He approaches nearly every bout you encounter with a grin and a wise-crack, Spider-Man-style, ready to test out his new skills. Fittingly for a type of young street artist such as him, he has a cocky, rebellious attitude, seemingly in that phase we've all been through in high school or college where you just want to damn the man even though you have no real idea why the man needs to be damned or why you sudden feel you need to be damning people. But you never really feel annoyed by Delsin's attitude, probably because he's finally in a position where he can put his anti-authority streak to good use.
He goes from a sort of rebel without a cause (like in that famous movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) to one with with a newfound purpose over the course of the game. See, in another Spider-Man allusion, Delsin basically goes through a "with great power comes great responsibility" arc, gaining his powers by sheer chance and then having to figure out how to properly use them, even leading to more than a few serious bits he pulls off quite nicely. He's just quite the lovable little scamp, be it rescuing a troubled citizen in need or screwing with the woman on the D.U.P. hotline just to let her know he's defaced one of their billboards, ready to face the D.U.P. in a showdown. Truly a great character.
...He really could've worn a better hat, though. Just sayin'.
2. The Powers You Gain Are Damn Fun
So remember that "Enjoy Your Powers" line that was just mentioned earlier? Shockingly enough, it turns out the developers want you to enjoy them as much as Delsin. And by jove, are they some enjoyable powers indeed! Compared to the more elemental-themed electricity/fire/ice set of previous games, Second Son makes more use of its urban environments and offers up the powers of smoke, neon, and video (games). Each one has its own set of moves suited for a different play style; Smoke consists of more straightforward attacks and allows you to dash around in little teleports, neon is based more on speed and precision long-range attacks and has you run around at super-speed, and video puts more focus on melee with a touch of stealth via invisibility. So what's your preference? Shooting an enemy's shins with lasers in order to peacefully subdue them? Mowing troops down with a chaingun-like barrage of pixels? Or maybe you just prefer to teleport high into the air and deliver your Karma Bomb special attack, landing on the ground like a meteor and causing a massive explosion of ash? Good times to be had all around!
And that's just combat, mind you. Each power provides you with their own means of getting around as well, be it air dashes or just being able to run straight up the walls. Needless to say, such unique modes of transportation are always a gem in a sandbox game, the kind of gem that allows you to purchase the happiness of being able to dash from one building to another, where you land greet the D.U.P. agent there with a flaming chain to the face. Really, I don't have much else to say about the powers here. It's a versatile crop of skills that allows for a lot of variety in gameplay, and all of them are just sheer fun!...Okay, except for the Car Boost. Seriously, what is the mysterious force that allowed a man to create such huge leaps, but only from cars?? We may never know...
1. It Really Does Capture the Feeling of Being a Superhero
Mind you, this is a bit based on playing through the good karma path (again, no real motivation for evil karma), but the end Second Son really gets the superhero experience down pat. As you progress through the game and begin rescuing citizens, freeing trapped people, and busting D.U.P. agents, you begin to notice that the city actually begins to react to your presence. Citizens actually cheer you on, take your picture, talk about your feats, and generally just look upon you with sheer amazement (the loading screens even allude to Delsin quickly gaining an all-female fan club, in fact!).
But while I made a bit of a Spider-Man comparison earlier when it came to Delsin, the general effect he has on the city is more akin to Batman or Superman, in that he acts more like a symbol. His protests of anti-D.U.P. graffiti, destruction of invasive security cameras, and actions that show the postives of Conduits end up inspiring people, making them question the people supposedly protecting them, culminating in a scene towards the end that I won't spoil, but made me ultimately feel proud about deciding to help these people.
And again, nothing compares to the thrill of using your powers to zip between buildings from rooftop to rooftop, surveying the city for additional challenges to take on, and zipping down to thwart a sudden crime in progress that suddenly came up. Much like Titanfall last time, it's just all of the little things that add up into one superior whole, just with an emphasis on the "super" this time around. And with this game having triggered memories of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men (them not so much in a positive way, but still), Second Son really does showcase its range as an epic superhero adventure, creating an experience not to be missed out on.
So yeah, in the end, inFamous: Second Son is a terrific game that I easily recommend, either for fans of the previous games or just as a great standalone game anyone can enjoy. If you have a PS4, scoop it up immediately, and enjoy your powers indeed. And may the spirit of Latte Owl be with you throughout it all (seriously, it will save your life one way or another...).
Special Thanks to Gallen_Dugall, RegularStormy, Timely-Tardis-Lego, and Dr.Gonzo82 for joining me as I streamed the game (but sadly couldn't record it) and supporting me, and bonus points to Gonzo for taking some screenshots...and Gallen for coming up with the Latte Owl theme song. Any other games you'd like to see us review, upcoming or relatively recent? Let us know in the comments!
Previously by Kyle LeClair: