Game of the Week: Infamous Second Son

I still think Infamous was better than Prototype. There were a lot of cool things in Prototype, but throwing them all together didn’t create a great game. Of course, I might be bitter that we got Prototype instead of a follow up to Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Infamous had its share of problems, but it managed to be more than the sum of its parts.

The sequel improved on nearly everything with more powers, a better setting, less frustration and a surprisingly great halloween expansion pack. Despite some occasional frustration, it no longer felt like you were fighting the controls as much as enemies.

Here we are with the next generation debut of the series with Infamous: Second Son. As the title implies, we have a new hero. Cole’s sacrifice at the end of Infamous 2 (good ending, canonical) apparently launched a chain of electronics stores. We now have Delsin Rowe, Native American troublemaker and brother to the local sheriff. Most conduits have been rounded up and shipped off to a high security facility for their own protection.

As the game begins, a conduit prisoner transfer goes awry. Three escape. One runs into Delsin who discovers his latent conduit power to copy the abilities of conduits he encounters. We soon encounter our antagonist. She has the wonderful property of being instantly dislikable.

It’s hard to say what makes Second Son so good. Sure, the graphics are impressive. In fact, it took a patched in photo mode to help us realize how much there was going on in each frame and how good it looked. The controls are much improved. The city feels more alive (though it’s clear we’ll see much better later in this generation). Animation and AI are much improved.

The different power sets feel distinct and useful. The key characters are interesting. The city is an interesting place to explore. All that is good, but the game is more than the sum of its parts. There’s enough going on that there’s always something compelling to do. You grow in power, but you never stop feeling vulnerable. Stupid or overly aggressive play will be punished.

There are some problems with the writing and character development. The boss battles don’t work as well as the rest of the game. As with any open world game, there can be too much repetition if you want to complete everything.  I ended up caring about the defeat of antagonist more than the heroic or antiheroic arc of Delsin.

In the end, none of that mattered.  I had fun moving.  I had fun fighting.  I had fun exploring the world.  I had fun building up my character.  I played the whole game and even enjoyed the Last Light expansion.  It was better than any but the best superhero games and did it without a famous tie in.  Highly recommended.

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