Saturday, March 29, 2014

A game where "Half as long, twice as bright" couldn't fit any better

*As a note, my review strictly covers the game from the Good Karma perspective*

Ever since the last generation, inFAMOUS has been one of my favorite new IP’s introduced, and probably one of my favorite IP’s in general. After all, how many times is there a superhero game that isn’t based off an existing license? Especially one that’s pretty dang good? Not very often, I’d say.

And after what seemed like the utter finality of both the good and evil endings of inFAMOUS 2, I was saddened to think that we wouldn’t see another inFAMOUS game again. Of course, much to my surprise (and happiness), at the PS4 unveiling last year, inFAMOUS: Second Son was announced, with a character whose appearance seemed to be as polarizing as the original inFAMOUS 2 Cole. Of course, discounting Delsin’s initial appearance for a moment, I was incredibly hyped for it, and was immediately set on buying a PS4, which, of course, back fired, but at the same time, the news of a new inFAMOUS game was probably some of my favorite gaming news last year, and there was no way I wouldn’t get it on day one.

So actually moving onto Second Son, Second Son stars Delsin Rowe, Native American delinquent, who has his life changed when a truck carrying Conduits crashes into his sleepy tribal village, and he ends up finding out he’s a Prime Conduit with the ability to absorb powers from other Conduits, as seen when he gets his first power: Smoke (the one shown during the unveiling trailer). Story reasons of having to help people in his village leave Delsin and his brother Reggie have to head to D.U.P controlled Seattle to find the head of the Department of Unified Protection, Augustine, get some Concrete powers, and go back to their village so Delsin can make things right by his people.

And boy, what a treat it was going to Seattle in that game. Without a doubt, Sucker Punch’s Seattle is one of the most interesting and best looking video game worlds I’ve experienced. It’s unlike any other: huge, sprawling, always something to see in each district, and I never felt like I was going through just another street or just another area like other open world games. It really was a city that I loved going through, and with the travel being made far more convenient compared to past games, travelling the city was fun compared to a slog or a chore. Alongside that, the soundtrack is just as good as the past games, with another fantastic mix of ambient music for walking around the city and fast-paced, yet non-intrusive music for battling.

A lot of the core gameplay in Second Son is similar to the past inFAMOUS games: your powers (a total of four) have a basic shot ability, an area attack that’s generally used to incapacitate and for crowd control, a movement option for getting around, and a powerful projectile attack that requires ammunition. Combat is very similar to past inFAMOUS games, if not a bit more hectic due to most, if not all enemies having powers of some sort and being vastly more mobile, and while this is fun, the lack of invincibility when getting hit or getting up make the combat a bit too much, and as the game progresses, the hordes of enemies you face simply get to be more and more. Combat is absolutely great in this game with most of the powers (I opted between Smoke and the third power, while I found the second power to be the weakest overall in terms of combat) and definitely retains a similar feel to past inFAMOUS games, but branches out just enough in what you can do to keep things feeling a bit more fresh.

There is one part of the combat that is, however, utterly unenjoyable and simply makes the game no real fun: the bosses. While there aren't too many bosses throughout the game, most of them are juts an absolute mess. Generally placed in small arenas, these bosses either move around too quickly and there aren't enough sources to drain powers from, or these bosses are absolute bullet sponges that take forever to chip down. Combine that with constant attacks and lack of real hit-stun on your part, as well as no invincibility frames after being hurt or knocked down, and you have a recipe for potentially repeating long segments of bosses many times from death. The bosses tend to take the real enjoyment from the combat: the wide spaces, ability to create chaos, and ease in choosing which powers and moves you want to use. For me, they dragged the whole experience down.

Going away from the bosses, however, and onto the mission design, the mission variety simply isn’t there. The side missions in each district are set between a few different types of missions: finding a hidden camera and destroying it, finding and killing a secret agent, finding an audio log… they’re all very low on interaction generally, and all the same, throughout every district. The main missions on the other hand, show a bit more variety, though a lot of them involve finding blast cores for new powers, finding a conduit, but at the least, the interactions between the characters more than make up for the potential similarities in the missions: as the interactions between Delsin and Reggie are absolutely fantastic throughout the game.

Delsin and Reggie are just a few of the great characters in Second Son, as most of them are great overall, both in motion capture and in voice acting and interactions with other characters. However, aside from Augustine, Delsin, and Reggie, other characters, such as Fetch Walker, are used very little outside of the missions you find them in which is a shame, because plenty of the other characters in the game are also pretty strong, interesting characters.

Of course, there’s the one main part of the inFAMOUS series to be covered: the morality. For the people who weren’t a fan of how the morality aspects worked in the story in past inFAMOUS games, it is almost a guarantee that you won’t like them here. For each major karmic choice, instead of going off on a separate mission, or some form of active choice by going off a certain way or attacking a certain person, all major karmic choices are instead made by the press of a trigger to choose whether you’ll do the good karma choice or the bad karma choice. While inFAMOUS has always had a bit of wonky execution in terms of morality, but Second Son is by far the worst offender.

As much as I may seem to rag on inFAMOUS: Second Son, it’s still a very good game. To expect a launch window open world game to be 15+ hours for a main story, have a ton of variety, etc., is, well unfeasible. I realize that, but at the end of the day, even noting that, inFAMOUS: Second Son, just didn’t measure up to the past games. It’s a fantastic experience, but one that’s too short-lived to its detriment.



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