InFamous: Second Son isn't just one of the greatest looking video games out right now - it's also a really solid, enjoyable take on the superhero genre. (Mild Spoilers abound beyond the cut).
I've played Second Son for about 5 hours now, and it's as fun to play as it is to just gawp at Seattle's beautiful and occasionally very rainy cityscape. The story, which sees Native American street artist Delsin Rowe - played to perfection by Troy Baker (Persona 4, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us) - discover his true nature as a Conduit (the inFamous franchise's term for super-powered human beings) who can absorb the powers of other Conduits at will. Stuck in a world where superpowered humans are increasingly feared and ostracised by the public and the US government, Delsin's story may have more than a few shades of familiarity to comic fans, but the tale of persecution and acceptance is still refreshing when explored in the confines of a video game.
But let's get the big thing out the way first: Dang, this is a gorgeous game.
Second Son is one of the first games of either new console's fledgling library that really shows off what next-generation hardware is capable of. From lighting to draw distance, to particle effects and some of the most well done facial mocap this side of The Last of Us, Sucker Punch has outdone themselves on a technical level. It's been hard not to fill my PS4's entire hard drive with screenshots, but Second Son's Seattle is so well realised it's been very tempting. These Facebook-compressed images via the Share feature simply do not do the game justice in compared to how it looks - and runs, which it does surprisingly well with hardly any hitching - in 1080p on a big TV. It's an incredible looking game in almost every aspect, and if I'm perfectly honest I've spent just as much time standing still and staring open-mouthed at it as I have actually playing.
Speaking of which, Second Son so far plays almost as good as it looks. Delsin is a sprightly guy, quick on his feet and the controls are responsive and slick in helping you use that to the best of your abilities. Combat is relatively simple so far with Smoke powers - you have a dash (super handy to get in and out of combat), a three-button melee combo, and some longer-ranged powers like a simple shot attack, a more powerful shotgun-esque blast, as well as a grenade that subdues enemies. It's similar for Neon too, but with a focus on longer ranges, as well as the ability to subdue (or Execute, for Bad Karma players) from afar by targeting either for head shots or ankle shots. Even without having unlocked any further powers yet, Delsin's combat toolkit already feels robust, and a hearty upgrade system, based around collecting an item called blast shards found across Seattle, allows you to improve and fine tune your abilities based on whether you're playing as a Good guy or a bad guy. I know there's more powers on the horizon, but even with the limited powerset of just Smoke and Neon so far I'm having a blast.
Traversal is equally satisfying - Seattle's a big city, and Delsin can get about very quickly. The Smoke powerset offers some great manoeuvrability with dashes, hovering and the ability to leap to roof tops or propel yourself even higher with vents, but it's when you unlock Neon that Second Son's traversal mechanics really come into their own. You're literally jolting around at the speed of light - admittedly at first it can be rather unwieldy to control such momentum - and running up the sides of buildings in the blink of an eye, taking huge leaps and bounds over rooftops. When you get the hang of it the sense of speed is absolutely sublime. For some odd reason there's a fast travel system you gain access to by taking control of a district over from the Government's anti-conduit goons, the D.U.P, but with powers that make getting across the city so fun, why would you bother?
As a protagonist, Delsin might just be one of my favourites in recent memory, even after such a short time. InFamous hasn't really been known for its charismatic cast in the past - Cole, the previous protagonist, didn't really stand out between the generic gruff voice acting and the even more generic shaved-head-guy design - so in a way it's surprising to see Delsin with not only a pretty interesting character design (or at least, how many video games let you star as a native american indie/punk guy clad in denim and a beanie? Not many!) but the character to match. Troy Baker gives Delsin a fantastic personality, funny and excitable as he is charming and caring, especially when it comes to his brother Reggie (Travis Willingham), the game's key relationship. It helps that the game's excellent mocap really sells the character's subtly emotive faces, but the voice acting and the banter between the brothers is really top notch stuff.
If there's one slight niggle I have with the game so far it feels like there's not particularly much to do outside the story, what is there is rather repetitive. There's blast shards to collect to upgrade your powers, the multiple districts to liberate from the D.U.P, and a few side activities like stencilling Banksy-ian styled Graffiti or tracking down secret government spies amongst the public - there's some tied to your Karma side too, with busting Drug deals for good heroes, and... murdering street performers and sign-spinners for the bad guys, which is rather comical. But that's pretty much it - I mean, it helps that the game looks and plays so well, but I'd really love there to be more variety in the side content. Sucker Punch patched up the game today with something called Paper Trail, which promises to be an extra 6 hours of content doled out over the coming weeks, which is a neat, but not really enough - a shame considering the world is so well realised.
Overall though my time with Second Son has been really enjoyable so far. I'll probably check back in with some more spoileriffic story-related impressions when I close out the game, but for now, I'm just gonna have me some supercharged, superpowered fun times.