Infamous: Second Son gives players the chance to see how their choices—for good or evil—shape the protagonist and influence the people around him. Second Son is beautiful with its next-gen graphics and, like the two previous Infamous iterations, it asks players to ponder what they would do if they had super powers. Would they use them for the good of others or selfishly? How players answer that question molds the main character and paints a picture of man’s depravity that Christians will recognize. If it weren’t for some profanity, violence, and mature themes, this game could be appealing to a broader audience.
Second Son succeeds by weaving together a fun story, beautiful graphics, and clever gameplay. This third game in the Infamous series takes place in Seattle, seven years after its predecessor. The story focuses on Delsin Rowe, a young adult delinquent and member of the fictional Akomish tribe. As far as Delsin knows, he has no special skills except his graffiti prowess. The game starts with Delsin tagging a billboard with a picture of the local sheriff, who we soon learn is Delsin’s older brother Reggie. The two brothers have their worlds uprooted when an armored prisoner transport crashes. The escaped prisoners are anything but normal.
The game does a good job of standing on its own and not relying on the two previous games. Players new to Infamous will have no problems understanding the world and history of the super-powered people called “conduits,” who have the ability to manipulate and use natural and manufactured elements. When Delsin discovers his special ability is absorbing the powers of other conduits, he is both excited and scared. The world considers conduits bio-terrorists. The Department of Unified Protection, or DUP, a paramilitaristic group of power-wielding soldiers led by the game’s main antagonist, Brooke Augustine, hunts the conduits.
Some of Second Son’s gameplay mechanics involve making the choice to be good, a “true hero,” or evil, “infamous.” These choices can be as small as making sure not to harm innocent civilians during heated firefights with the DUP. Morality also improves with the use of non-lethal attacks to stun enemies, instead of killing them. Occasionally, Delsin faces a big choice. In one instance, he can confess about his powers or remain silent and let others suffer for his resistance.
Second Son encourages players to choose a path and stick to it. The goal is to become either completely good or totally evil. The game makes new powers available depending on which path players choose.
This game has some of the best graphics seen so far on a home console. The city of Seattle is beautifully recreated on a smaller scale, and it’s wide open for players to explore, or tag with stencil art. Players can do a clever bit of spray painting, but the execution makes it really fun. Players must hold the game controller sideways, as if gripping a real can of spray paint. Even shaking the controller produces a very life-like rattle from its built-in speaker.
Second Son has less objectionable content than most mature games released today, but it still has enough to make it inappropriate for younger audiences. Profanity is the main offender. But the moral path the player chooses influences how objectionable the game is. For example, one scene involves two players spending the night together. If Delsin is on the “good” path, the situation is only implied. But if Delsin is on the “evil” path, the game is explicit about saying the players “hooked up,” although nothing is shown on screen. The violence level also depends on Delsin’s moral choices. And perhaps most realistically, Delsin’s personality changes depending on his choices. He is not as likable when he is trying to corrupt other conduits to use their powers for evil, and his actions and attitude are cold and selfish. In portraying Delsin’s degradation, the game’s creators seem to be making their own moral statement about the power of good over evil. The story even seems to flow better when Delsin is being good.
Infamous: Second Son is one of the best experiences on the PS4 so far. The marriage of engaging story and well-balanced gameplay helps to make a game that’s not only fun to play but also to watch. From beautiful graphics and great motion-captured performances, Second Son offers a glimpse at the potential of this new generation of games.