inFAMOUS: Second Son

Have you ever wanted to fly through the streets of a city, whipping lightning from your fingertips and destroying anything which stands in your way? Well, your prayers have been answered… back in 2009, with the release of Sucker Punch’s comic book inspired action game, inFAMOUS. The story followed Cole Macgrath, a man with the power to harness and utilize electricity to defeat his foes. As popular as inFAMOUS and its sequel were, Sucker Punch decided to shake things up for the third game. They announced that the protagonist of the third game, Second Son, would have smoke powers instead of electric powers. Now, fans were a little skeptical, mostly because being able to emit smoke from your hands doesn’t sound nearly as cool as shooting whole bolts of lightning to strike down opponents with the blazing wrath of the heavens. Whatever, smoke’s cool too, I guess. But wait, there’s more! As well as being a human smoke machine, this new guy could have multiple powers at once! Now that is interesting. This concept was experimented with a bit in inFAMOUS 2, where Cole could have ice powers as well as electric powers, but it was mostly just an underdeveloped idea that hadn’t attained its full potential yet. In inFAMOUS Second Son, we knew that Delsin, our new protagonist, would have multiple power sets, but we were only told about two of them. Delsin could use smoke, and… neon. Okay, seeing as how we’re already two-thirds of the way to a U2 concert, we could only expect to harvest the power of Bono in this highly anticipated game. All joking aside, I was actually pretty excited for inFAMOUS Second Son. I was looking forward to the ability to switch from power to power to defeat enemies in a variety of ways. Plus, this Delsin guy looked likable enough.

So did the game deliver? Well, kinda. The game’s story was certainly lacking. Second Son feels like more of a functional inFAMOUS fanfiction than an actual installment. The events of inFAMOUS 2 are mostly ignored, with only minor references throughout. I mean, I get that Second Son is trying to be a reboot, and that it’s unhealthy to rely on the plot of previous installments too much, but the idea of a direct followup to the previous game is incredibly interesting, and I think everyone would like to see it. As it stands, we get zero payoff in this new story.

I feel like ruining everybody’s day”

— Delsin

The main character hit me as a whiny, angsty, rebellious teenager right off the bat, and never seemed to fully evolve from that no matter which karmic path the player chooses. Seriously, I played through the game on both sides, and the story hardly changed at all. What’s more, Delsin seems to have absolutely no motivation to choose the evil path, making him feel like a brooding, anarchistic, “rebel without a cause” cretin the whole way through for no good reason. So any choice made in the game essentially boils down to: “You know what, this seems like the only logical way to go.” or “Actually, screw logic. I feel like ruining everybody’s day.” Besides, even if the good path is the only sensible option, the story really doesn’t carry much impact anyway. There are tragedies along the way, sure, but they’re largely predictable and mostly happen to characters not worth caring about. The story is clichéd and mostly uninteresting, populated by a host of walking stereotypes. All in all, the plot of Second Son was a major letdown. However, games should not only be judged by their plot, and I’d like to believe that Second Son does actually have merit in its gameplay.

Second Son follows the combat formula of the previous games, except with a different power. Smoke actually turned out to be pretty useful, and I quickly forgot all about Cole’s skills while I was familiarizing myself with the vastly improved upgrade system that Second Son has to offer. The combat gets really interesting when Delsin obtains the ability to switch powers, because availability may change how the player handles situations. Absorbing an energy source also heals Delsin, which means that if you’re on the verge of death you may be forced to absorb the nearest energy source (which may not be the same element that you currently have equipped), potentially switching up the flow of the battle by changing Delsin’s entire arsenal mid-fight. Starting a fight using one power and ending it with another takes skill and adaptability, and is incredibly satisfying if done successfully.

The four abilities available in Second Son are actually surprisingly balanced. One could theoretically complete the whole game with any one of them, yet switching between them on the fly is completely practical and useful for different situations. Some are better for transportation, while others are more for brute force, but no power is in any way useless. Balancing all these powers makes Second Son the most varied and interesting inFAMOUS game to date.

In conclusion, while Second Son may have one of the more uninteresting plots I’ve seen in recent years, and doesn’t possess a fraction of the suspense and intrigue of the prior entries, it does bring fresh and innovative gameplay mechanics to the series, all wrapped up in a aesthetically pleasing and technologically impressive package. Seeing as how the game is quite affordable, I’d certainly recommend picking it up, so long as you’re not bothered by a somewhat lacking plot.