When the PS4 was first announced, there were two reasons I wanted one. The first is because I want to livestream my eventual crusade and inevitable Dragon Age: Inquisition love affair. But the more pressing one, the one that spurred a desire for a launch unit, was inFamous: Second Son. Sony and Sucker Punch made it sound like everything I’d wanted—a new inFamous in a gorgeous, detailed work, with a variety of powers, new moral choices, and my voice actor crush, Troy Baker.
I cautiously hoped for the best, but now realize I didn’t have to worry. inFamous: Second Son is everything I’d hoped it would be.
inFamous: Second Son starts innocently enough. Delsin Rowe is vandalizing a billboard on top of a fish cannery. Don’t get too upset, as it’s one promoting his older brother, Sheriff Reggie Rowe. Of course, the cops come, and Delsin needs to make a getaway and stows inside. There he encounters Betty, a kind older woman and member of the tribe who agrees to cover for him. He then races to the nearby Longhouse, where members of the Akomish tribe are gathering for fun and festivities, as a cover. However, before he can get inside, Reggie catches him.
He never gets the lecture he deserves, though, because it’s then that an armored car from the Department of Unified Protection carrying three known bio-terrorists (Conduits) crashes. Reggie and Delsin run to assist. Delsin pulls one of the victims, a Conduit named Hank, out of the crash.
No good deed goes unpunished, though, as his kind action results in the revelation that Delsin is a Conduit. One who drains powers from other Conduits. Hank runs off as he attempts to escape, and locks himself inside the cannery. Delsin chases him inside, in hopes of protecting Betty from him. He succeeds, but the three come outside to see the DUP and it’s head, concrete Conduit Augustine, waiting outside. She demands answers. Delsin can turn himself in, or lie and let his tribe take the punishment. Either way, Augustine doesn’t like what she hears, and uses her abilities on him and other members of the tribe.
He wakes up with a mission. The Akomish attacked by Augustine can only have the concrete removed by a concrete Conduit. So, Delsin and Reggie head up to Seattle to face Augustine and make things right.
It’s this start and Delsin’s characterization that makes the moral designs and repercussions in the game most interesting. Delsin is a smart aleck with a mouth, and a past that could make him a hero as easily as it could a villain. Though there was always a decision with Cole, I never really got a “villain” vibe off of him. For some reason, despite playing both sides of his story, he always seemed to strike me as more innately good. When I made decisions in inFamous or inFamous 2, I’d sometimes wonder what Cole would do. Delsin truly feels like he could go either way, and I feel like when I make decisions, I’m doing what I would do in every situation.
Given that Delsin is such a blank slate, morally, it’s only fitting that he’s also a blank slate in terms of powers. His Conduit ability is that he can absorb the powers of any Prime Conduit, of which he encounters four throughout the course of the game. During the opening skirmish, he gains the smoke manipulation ability from Hank, one of the three escaped Conduits, and eventually is able to manipulate neon and video as well. Though players are initially “locked” into a new power shortly after they gain it, as a means of tutorial, they’re eventually able to swap between powers by draining more of it from a source. So if Delsin has video powers at the moment, he could sap a neon sign to switch to neon, or drain a chimney for smoke.
Of the powers available, I tended to favor the neon abilities. They’re great for quickly traveling from one point to another, though they don’t have the floating abilities of smoke or video. And while it is quite entertaining to watch enemies burst into pixels with video attacks, I liked how easy it was to subdue with neon blasts, and the temporary slowdown when Delsin is about to first unleash a neon attack is invaluable in some situations. I must preface that this is just a personal preference, however, and each of his abilities is quite versatile. I imagine anyone who plays will develop a fondness for one and tend to stick with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if my favorite changes once the paper power comes from inFamous: Paper Trail.
While Delsin is the main focus of inFamous: Second Son, he isn’t the most important character. Supporting characters Reggie, Fetch, and Eugene are just as important, as are villains like Hank, the man from whom Delsin first gets his powers, and DUP head Augustine. I especially appreciated Reggie, who makes for the perfect straight man to Delsin’s outrageous behavior. That said, interactions between Delsin and both Fetch and Eugene are also quite enjoyable to watch. These people play well off of each other, and you can see how all (except Reggie and Augustine) could go either way in terms of morality.
Even the city itself could be considered a character, because it has so much personality. It’s a beautiful place that doesn’t deserve to be occupied. Even with the DUP stations, blockades, and propaganda, the Seattle of inFamous: Second Son is a beautiful place. Climb up high enough and you’ll be treated with a view of an extraordinary skyline. Walk around on foot, and you’ll find a city filled with art installations, detailed buildings, and even amusing standouts like Lincoln’s Towing Toe Truck, a tow truck shaped like a foot. If I knew DUP agents weren’t afoot, I’d take my time going from place to place, taking in the sites. Which meant having to do everything possible to get those pesky enemies out of my new town.
Completing story missions alone won’t be enough to set Seattle free, though. Delsin needs to wrest control of the city from the DUP. In fact, some story quests won’t even be available unless he takes over a district. As far as I can tell, this is optional, but those up to the test will find Stencil Art to create, Secret Agents to smoke out, hidden Secuirty Cameras to find, and Informant Audio Logs to recover. Once enough of them are completed, a District Showdown will open up, allowing Delsin to call the DUP and rumble to see who controls the area.
All of the side-missions add a bit of entertaining variety. I appreciated the Stencil Art most, because the designs are incredible, but enjoyed almost every one. In fact, I only loathed the Secret Agent smoke-outs. This is because a discovered agent then takes off, tearing around the entire city, and it’s so tedious to chase them down. Especially if you don’t want to go firing around like crazy for fear of permanently damaging your city. As promised, Seattle doesn’t miraculously restore itself. (I’ve noticed DUP stations I demolish stay leveled.) I’ve been saving the Secret Agent missions for last, but I doubt I’ll ever go back and do any of them.
There’s another plus to these extra missions. It’s on these side-quests that all of the Easter Eggs will be found, and inFamous: Second Son is filled with them. After about 15 minutes in Seattle, I saw a Cole McG’s electronics store. As I was passing through a district, searching for a Stencil Art mission, I happened upon a playground with a mural starring Sly, Bentley, and Murray. As I finished one of my last District Showdowns in the first area of Seattle, I came across a business complex with a masked raccoon logo and Cooper & MacGrath on the sign. Sucker Punch remembers its roots, and wants players to remember them, too.
Even more important is the way that inFamous: Second Son hails back to the original inFamous games. The progression feels natural, considering how Cole’s story ended in New Marais. Not only has Sucker Punch not forgotten its roots, with its constant references to Cole peppered throughout Seattle, but the people haven’t either. The DUP exists because of it. I heard a reporter mentioning it in-game. The government using Conduits against themselves work because the game as a whole is so believable, as are our heroes and villains.
inFamous: Second Son is an extraordinary game that doesn’t play like a launch library title, where it felt like the developers weren’t entirely sure of what they could do or were just taking a previous generation title and doing the bare minimum to beef it up for next-gen. You can feel and see the love that went into the game.
Food for Thought:
1. Laura Bailey does a wonderful job as Fletch, though I must admit I was actually a little tired of hearing Troy Baker’s dulcet tones again as Delsin. (Even though I adore him. I think it was too soon after The Last of Us and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.)
2. I highly recommend playing through the inFamous: Paper Trail game. The extra propaganda, karma, and missions are a nice reward. Though, have PC nearby to play. Once I actually started the missions, I kept getting messages that my Nexus 7’s screen wasn’t large enough to view content online and I needed to use a PC or different tablet.
3. I will be very disappointed if someone doesn’t create a fake Delsin Selsun commercial or advertisement. Very.