Truly a higher standard in jaw-dropping PS4
Infamous: Second Son is a major step away from the comic-book origins of its predecessors.
Don't take that the wrong way - the latest offering is still very much an open-world superhero action title first, and a terrific one at that. Its flashy powers look and feel great in battle, and that's really what games like this are all about.
To Second Son's credit, I didn't expect to enjoy the weightier, more realistic tone of the characters as much as I do. It's a change that initially jarred with me as a fan of the franchise, but one that ultimately pays off. Despite failing to believably marry the player's moral choices with the protagonist's own sense of right and wrong, Second Son does a laudable job of creating a more emotionally invested experience.
It didn't take long for Second Son's remarkable lighting to leave me staring slack-jawed at my screen. The power of the PlayStation 4 is evident in every street-side puddle refelection and in every swirling cloud of smoke hanging from my flaming hands. The city of Seattle is beautifully and diversely realized, but it never looked better than when I was blowing everyone and everything around me to bits.
Serene city streets turn into fiery disaster zones with gleeful regularity, and both the before and after are great to look at, despite occasional stutters when the effects get out of hand. While high production values are often a smokescreen for weak characters, Second Son succeeds here, too. Troy Baker's motion-captured performance as our new Conduit, Delsin, remains believable whether he's being a snarky, reckless jerk, or a plucky, bohemian do-gooder. He's not universally likable, but the chemistry he has with his conservative, law-defending brother makes for some absorbing familial banter.
Story aside, Infamous is about feeling formidable, and Second Son doesn't disappoint. Delsin's four varied power sets turned every D.U.P. checkpoint into another chance to flex my super-powered muscles. From the explosive destruction of smoke to the swift precision of neon, each set feels strong enough to hang an entire game on, and strategically switching between them during heated battles by draining power sources from around the city made me feel like an unstoppable force of nature.
Between scraps, I found the continuous sense of mobility exhilarating... once you get all the right power-ups. Until then, you'll be leaning on the old-fashioned parkour from the previous games, but it doesn't feel nearly as sticky or reliable as it has in the past. This led to a few frustrating situations where I couldn't grab ledges that were clearly in reach. It becomes less significant as you expand your suite of traversal powers, put when everything else feels and plays so well, it's hard not to notice.
Open-world superhero games are ten a penny these days, but Second Son is certainly the pick of the littler. Seattle is your playground for this one, and what a job has been done in bringing out every glorious detail using the PS4's formidable processing power.