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PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Infamous Second Son’

Abigail “Fetch” Walker is a cosmopolite Conduit, capturing the eccentric beauty of neon absorption and using it to form beaming displays particle bedazzlement. She is free, pushed from society's stringent regulation due to her enriched differences, keeping solace in a makeshift home between elevated freeway signs. Society has reason to fear Fetch. With a penchant for slaughtering illicit drug dealers, this is an unstable woman, mentally hysterical over the loss of someone close. Akomish Native Delsin Rowe replaces the electric-centric Cole McGrath as Infamous' key protagonist. It's Second Son's gross disappointment. Delsin, an American Indian who may as well not…

Review Overview

three out of out of five

reviewer's score

Summary : Second Son's plight is that of a lead character who thrives on blockbuster, one liner attitude.

User Rating: 4.24 ( 4 votes)
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infamous, sony, ps4, infamous second son

Abigail “Fetch” Walker is a cosmopolite Conduit, capturing the eccentric beauty of neon absorption and using it to form beaming displays particle bedazzlement. She is free, pushed from society’s stringent regulation due to her enriched differences, keeping solace in a makeshift home between elevated freeway signs. Society has reason to fear Fetch. With a penchant for slaughtering illicit drug dealers, this is an unstable woman, mentally hysterical over the loss of someone close.

Akomish Native Delsin Rowe replaces the electric-centric Cole McGrath as Infamous’ key protagonist. It’s Second Son’s gross disappointment. Delsin, an American Indian who may as well not be for purposes of narrative, slings smoke balls and impromptu missiles toward unsavory militia employed by D.U.P. – The Department of Unified Protection – a surly government overreach program which ensnares Conduits under a delusion of public safety.

Delsin joins with Fetch, bonding and colluding to shatter D.U.P. installations across this sight-seeing worthy gameplay homestead. Together, they share a handful of missions within a mimicry of real world Seattle and Delsin, despite a middling catch-all personality, is a remedy for mental affliction. Fetch’s depression and tormenting flashbacks over parental abusiveness are apparently mended in one Seattle day, all to feed into a dry, convenient gameplay layout which is rushed to its cursory conclusion. And then Fetch is dropped from the narrative because Second Son has other things to do.

This trilogy making superhero infestation broadens Delsin with consistently refreshed powers. Smoke becomes his base ability before latching onto impractical functions such as neon… which then work identically to smoke. Despite expressively rich light shows, Delsin pairs to Fetch’s neon shots and neon explosives. Perfunctory combat is that of point/shoot uniformity, tiring form over practicality, if additional attack zone potential afforded by Second Son’s digitally molded city.

Behind it all, an imposing Brooke Augustine stands clad in a domineering and archetypal black trench coat. Augustine is the peak of villain hierarchy with a devastatingly interesting personification, rather than Delsin’s blanketed psyche. D.U.P.’s lead launches potent concrete to represent a hardened internal anger as staggering digital performances capture sneering, spiteful mannerisms. Delsin inserts into this societal war for his selfishness; Augustine is seeking reprieve from seven years of civil discontent.

Unlike a crumbling New Marias in Infamous 2, Seattle is under a veil of normalcy. The approach is less comic-centric if relevant to broad metaphors bunched into Second Son’s structure. Citizens carry an underdeveloped fear from peering D.U.P. security lenses, a routine stand-in for governmental oversight. Augustine’s spontaneous Seattle rule is not an affliction or a plight, but a mildly intrusive measure on an often indifferent populace.

Maybe Augustine is right: Uprooting innate belief systems and inherent prejudices takes too long. Acceptance may never arrive, leaving Conduits as crackable shells. Reformation is “saving” those with hyper human traits by forced imprisonment. Parallels to real world scenarios are potent in Augsutine’s methodology, if taken to excess for the sake of fictionally dynamic conflict. As is the norm, science fiction and fantasy curve themselves to reflect our callow nature and Second Son – despite never prodding deeply as to offend – seizes a snapshot of modern cultural change.

Delsin is thus a narrative outcast who skips and jumps through a comfortably structured storytelling blockade. Such enthralling missions poke his head into strewn Port-a-Pottys for a basis in (literal) toilet humor, this in-between opportunity to recruit additional Conduit escapees. Each Conduit carries distressingly similar pathways, requiring a chase, in-mission recruitment, and eventual consent toward Delsin’s cause.

Second Son allows for an interactive tug to its story run, allowing Delsin to mutilate or safely encase D.U.P. members in his grip at the will of players. For Infamous, this tactic stands as provocative given Augstine’s avoidance of mainstream villainy. Other titles in Sucker Punch’s budget sucking series offered playful separation in uninteresting good/evil scuffles. Choices were definitively sided and Second Son offers a stimulating gray area, lashing back at close mindedness with equal ferociousness, despite handling Walker’s situation with further appalling indecency when pursuing malevolent story arcs.

A blandness and familiar crankiness settle into this open world festival, a technical commonality to the genre which Second Son handles deftly. Delsin’s ingrained, unnatural talents create swift mobility. Errant missteps are frequent but corrected with extra button taps. Uses of the perceptually gimmick born touch pad are mild, while graffiti side quests are done with ample design thought. DualShock 4’s carry a speaker and motion sensing chips for a reason above Sony’s insistence to match competition. Sucker Punch’s gingerly application is assertive rather than abrupt; early Vita titles were corrupted by forcible insertion of double touch and motion control variants. Not so much here.

Still, Second Son’s plight is that of a lead character who thrives on blockbuster, one liner attitude. Sucker Punch’s work to override the cackling electricity of McGrath’s firepower is busted by Delsin’s equalized super power utilization. Paired with Abigail as she fires rock shattering beams (or another underground loner who can summon towering gods), it’s a wonder why Delsin’s powers never march onward away from third-person shooting in McGrath’s frame. Opportunity is seemingly squashed for the safety of conventional chain swinging melee and zoom-to-shoot possibilities, this on top of his disposition which buckles under scrutiny.

Despite numbness to Second Son’s discouraging AAA safety, there exists some illicit bravery in an X-Men-esque parable willing to represent anything from racial intolerance to gay rights. It is easy to be miffed over the lack solidified symbolism lest someone become offended, but interactive fiction allows for personal application. Shame then Infamous now delivers this platform with a cold lead.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • Sami

    I cannot begin to imagine why you focused more on Fetch (a side character, regardless of your apparent love for her) and Augustine (a ruthless, abusive and hypocritical antagonist).

    You tell us that Delsin is a terrible protagonist but state no real reasons why beside his habit to deliver puns. You say nothing of his reason for going after Augustine, which is to save his Tribe, yet call him selfish? Perhaps your accusation is based on his first encounter with Augustine and his refusal to reveal himself as a Conduit (which he does eventually say upon picking the Hero choice). But if that is the case, what can be said of Fetch, who also fled the DUP and got caught up in drugs? Each character has a pretty terrible life (excluding Delsin, who is more a rebel trying to break off a leash).

    The point here is that Delsin has to learn what it’s like to be a true outcast, not a thug with a spray can, and stand up for those that he didn’t care about beforehand. It’s the difference between calling someone a Conduit or a Bio Terrorist, which we see Reggie struggle with. You don’t even mention Reggie, and your sad attempt to include Eugene (who you very briefly acknowledge but not enough to even name) isn’t appreciated either.

    There is so much more to this game, like the Paper Trail DLC, or Delsin’s artwork. It seems to me that everyone that criticizes Delsin’s character fail to mention his powers past Smoke and Neon, which really makes it seem like you never bothered to play the game past Fetch’s part. Also, Delsin’s power is not Smoke, it is the ability to take on the powers of other Conduits. If you really expected him to match them power for power with a day or two, I don’t know what to day. Delsin is a novice at using his powers; he didn’t have the wonderful help of six years under Augustine’s tests.

    SecondSon is so much more than the two female characters that you chose to focus on, or the fact that Delsin isn’t the anti hero that Cole was. It’s funny; everyone would have complained if we got another Cole.

    • http://www.doblu.com/ Matt Paprocki

      Appreciate the great reply. It’s refreshing.

      I focused on those specific characters because they’re the most interesting and have the most to offer in terms of criticism. Infamous SS is trying to sling metaphors in a search for meaning, but it’s ultimately just surface level material. Anything interesting it tries to allude to wraps up so fast as to leave the entire thing offensively empty.

      I didn’t see Delsin as anything more than a typical teenage-esque rebel. He does graffiti? Amazing! There is an opportunity to use diversity as the native angle is so rare (doubly for a lead) but it’s useless. Nothing comes of it. He’s out to save people he’s close to, and shows little interest in others outside of Conduits. He goes after Augustine because he must for personal reasons. Super heroes traditionally act for everyone, not only those close. While Cole was out saving his city from undue powers, Delsin is the get in, get out type of hero. He’s breaking DUP installations to weaken Augustine for himself, not save Seattle.

      And again, Fetch is interesting because there is a suffering, unhinged character who is introduced and inexplicably dropped because she is apparently cured. Even her power is eclectic and scattered, but SS is unwilling to explore this further to rush forward with the core narrative. There is always talk of depression and other mental illness running through this industry; many use games as a personal escape. To treat Fetch’s conditions as such is pitiful, and even worse when playing through as an evil Delsin. And Eugene? He goes nowhere other than a predicable swerve which I won’t spoil.

      I didn’t expect Delsin to match power for power, rather offer some separation outside of their looks. Differences are ultimately superficial. One may fire faster than the other, but preferences in combat are ultimately meager.

      I wouldn’t mind Cole again, if only because the expectation for something new would have been softened. Overall, Infamous SS has the usual sickness of AAA titles, searching for meaning while trying not to go too far as to offend some of its audience.

    • http://www.doblu.com/ Matt Paprocki

      By the way, the reason most people only mention two of Delsin’s powers? The embargo instructions only allowed for those two specifically for the sake of spoilers.