How Does inFAMOUS Second Son Hold up 10 Years Later?

inFAMOUS Second Son was one of PS4's best exclusives, but does it hold up a decade later?

Posted By | On 11th, Jan. 2024

How Does inFAMOUS Second Son Hold up 10 Years Later?

In inFAMOUS Second Son you are Delsin Rowe, a rebellious youngster and fresh protagonist for the franchise who despite having a caring network of familial support around him exudes frustration with his lot in life.

When we meet Delsin he’s a young man who channels his aggression into artistic expression, with his habitual graffiti drawing the ire of sheriff brother Reggie. Still, he’s not exactly likeable from the off; his flawed character an obvious vehicle to continue inFAMOUS’ established morality system.

See, it’s the old superhero trope rehashed – will our protagonist use their powers for good, or for evil – and throughout inFAMOUS Second Son Delsin’s choices will impact his perception in the eyes of others, both familial, of his Akomish community, and the citizens of game-location Seattle. Morality systems were nothing new when Second Son released in 2014. Fable, Mass Effect 2, Fallout 3 – these games extolled the virtues of a morality system, with player choice directly affecting gameplay in deeper ways than Sucker Punch’s superhero series. Second Son’s morality system didn’t break new ground, but – to be fair – it was decently implemented and it’s black and white options largely hold up nine years later.

It isn’t just in Seattle’s civilians appearing wary of Delsin’s presence – I mean, that would be basic implementation – but to illustrate how Sucker Punch’s binary choice of good versus evil is designed to prod at players’ personal ethics we can look at Delsin’s interactions with Conduit prisoner turned escapee Abigail “Fetch” Walker. When absorbing her neon superpowers, Delsin has the choice to redeem Fetch, or corrupt her. Treat her with respect, and she’ll continue to fight the good fight, utilising her powers to rid Seattle of drug-dealing scum. Corrupt her though, and she’ll lose any sense of remorse. She becomes a cold, calculated killer, targeting and killing swathes of anti-Conduit activists.

Real world reactions to player choice are what we want, however in the nine years succeeding Second Son what’s blindingly obvious now is that no matter the binary choice players make in command of Delsin’s actions we’re kept relatively free of accountability. Decent, innocent people can die because of Delsin’s choices, but Delsin carries on regardless. Worse still, he can continue towing the path of good guy, of a superhero using his powers to eradicate evil. Contrast this to 2019’s woeful-cop drama Disco Elysium, an RPG where failure is an expected possibility. Detective protagonist Harry Du Bois’ interactions are multi-faceted, with success depending on the roll of a dice. Odds are stacked in a player’s favour by putting skill points into relevant character traits, but the result of certain interactions are permanent whether Harry succeeds or not. It’s then up to the downbeat cop to fix his own mess or wallow unforgivingly in self-pity. Disco Elysium is a story of triumph and failure, with catastrophe oftentimes leading to the most interesting outcomes. InFAMOUS Second Son doesn’t have to have as dense a morality system as Disco Elysium, but a little more accountability for Delsin’s more nefarious actions is a glaring omission and doesn’t really support the game’s themes.

Elsewhere, one of the principal benchmarks of whether an almost decade old title has held up is with its graphics. And, as it happens, inFAMOUS Second Son was a fantastic looking game back then, and it still looks great now. Edges are sharp and colours vibrant, visceral particles explode in combat. The fact this is a PS4 title, way before the advent of the PS4 Pro, is remarkable. Admittedly, the shading is a little dark; so dark in fact that certain corners of the city streets hide enemies in an almost jet black. It is possible Sucker Punch went for darker colour palette so ensure the visual pizazz of Delsin’s superpowers really popped on screen. And to be honest, Delsin’s Smoke, Video, and Neon powers really shine, the latter especially during night-time sequences.

infamous second son

And whilst each power equips Delsin with its own visual flair and unique mechanics it’s neon powers again which offer an especially dazzling array of fluorescent beams with its super charged ‘phosphor beam’ special ability. Video powers exhibit some of the most unique superpowers ever committed to video games, even now nine years later. The unique pixelated abilities include the most devastatingly powerful melee weaponry, moments of invisibility via the ‘shroud of invisibility’, and the visually arresting ‘video surge’ which grants Delsin digital wings to glide over the city rooftops.

In fact, one of the most enjoyable aspects of inFAMOUS Second Son is its traversal, which is tied to Delsin’s equipped superpower. In a remarkable feat of world design Sucker Punch incorporated natural blast-off pads into the built environment including air conditioning vents enabling Delsin when he’s equipped with smoke powers to rapidly transfer from ground to air. Rooftops are dotted with satellite dishes too, which Delsin can absorb into when equipped with video powers, flailing him skyward in an enticing cloud of digital pixels.

Side quests are well thought out, and rarely distract from the main story. The campaign is somewhat derivative – superhero narratives often are – but its serviceable and engaging enough throughout its relatively short ten-and-a-half-hour runtime. The only misstep in this regard is the not yet mentioned fourth superpower, concrete, which Delsin absorbs from Brooke Augustine in the game’s final act. It’s far too late in the game to get to grips with the power, and the side quests and extra content, whilst enjoyable, aren’t enough to invest meaningful time in the endgame.

Infamous: Second Son

The best part of the story though is the characters, and in particular Delsin and the relationship he has with brother Reggie. Their brotherly interplay is perhaps inspired by voices actors Troy Baker and Travis Willingham and their real-life friendship and despite the character’s flaws we grow to care about them both. Even Delsin becomes much more likeable as the game goes on, a far cry from the borderline insufferable juvenile we meet at the beginning.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


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