Entering a battle of identities in ‘Infamous: Second Son’

Sony Computer Entertainment | Sucker Punch Production /Courtesy

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“Infamous: Second Son” is the third major entry in the beloved “Infamous” franchise and the first entry of the franchise on the next generation. In the world of “Second Son,” superpowered people, or “conduits,” are targets of public hate and fear. As a result, the government steps in and forms the Department of Unified Protection to protect the population from this new threat of conduits (now labeled as bioterrorists). By hunting and capturing conduits, the DUP is able to suppress this threat, often at the expense of public freedom.

At the start of the game, a military transport vehicle holding three bioterrorists is destroyed, causing the bioterrorists to escape into Seattle and forcing the DUP to enforce martial law within the city limits.

The lead protagonist of this game is Delsin Rowe, a 24-year-old Native American graffiti artist who discovers he is also a conduit. Due to his criminal occupation, Rowe is often at the neck of his brother Reggie, a sheriff.  After the escape, a series of events unfold prompting the Rowe brothers to go to Seattle and fight the DUP.

As is the fashion in the “Infamous” series, there is an element of choice in Rowe’s action that leads him on the path to becoming either a superhero or a supervillain. This system of choice is overtly binary, however, leading to decisions that are oversimplified and making the choice between being a healer of the city or a merchant of death too obvious.

In addition, the character relationships do not seem to be significantly altered in response to the morality path the player chooses. This is especially disappointing when one of the most prominent relationships in the game is the one between Delsin and Reggie. When playing as an evil-doer or a saint, there are few long-term ramifications in how their relationship changes. This lack of a proper morality system is coupled with a poorly paced story that often feels rushed and short, leading to a less enjoyable and less engaging plot.

This is not to take away from the production value of the game, however. The use of motion capture in “Second Son” is fantastic and brings an
extra layer to the experience. The subtle human expressions performed throughout the game craft a new emotional dimension for the characters. Troy Baker and Travis Willingham — who provide the motion capture for Delsin and Reggie, respectively — have an awesome chemistry and on-screen presence. Their performance gives a genuine feel to this brotherhood, making it one of the best elements of the story.

Furthermore, the game beautifully and effectively shows the power of the PlayStation 4. The Emerald City is glowing with high quality weather effects, creating jaw-dropping images that showcase views of the city.  Sucker Punch Productions, the developers of the game, are based in Seattle and added many landmarks such as the famous gum wall, the Space Needle and other Seattle attractions to the game.

But what purpose does a beautiful city have if it is not fun to explore? Traversal in “Second Son” is fun and fluid. Because Delsin is able to switch between different powersets by draining from the separate power sources (i.e. draining neon signs to switch to his neon power set), traversal is also varied.  Whether running at lightspeed along the side of a building with neon or dashing up a vent to the roof of a skyscraper with smoke powers, “Second Son” makes navigation exhilarating.

But these powers also bring different aspects to combat.  Firing projectiles with one power is different from firing projectiles from another. Precision and timing are key to using powers for good in order to make sure no civilians are hurt.  These precautions go out the window when playing as evil.

With its navigation and fighting, “Second Son” effectively solidifies what next-generation game play feels like. The story and deficient morality system, however, may hold the game back from effectively defining what next-generation storytelling is.

Contact Evan Stallworth Carr at [email protected].