Seattle comes alive in Sucker Punch’s PS4 visual showcase.
Sucker Punch Productions had its work cut out for it with inFamous: Second Son. How do you take a franchise with very little distinguishing visual flair – despite solid efforts in the first two games – and completely transform to represent the potential of next gen console technology?
With games like Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes and its FOX Engine taking the open world sandbox genre by storm with its visual prowess and intricate detail, Sucker Punch also had to go for a distinct style. Something that would set it apart from the crowd and yet still showcase the power of the PlayStation 4 in its own way.
"The sheer detail in the reflections, surface texture, water simulation and weather effects is still startlingly accurate, all the more so in motion."
inFamous: Second Son is set in Seattle, several years after the second game, and focuses on Conduit Delsin Rowe. Unlike Cole McGrath, Delsin is capable of a variety of powers that go beyond simple ice and electricity. He can dissipate into thousands of individual particles, and reconstruct himself accordingly. He can convert himself into light streaks to traverse through stages. He can even generate smoke to propel himself into the sky when he’s not using his Neon powers to blast away baddies.
But as much as Rowe’s powers serve to showcase the amazing particle systems of Second Son, along with Havok Physics’ accurate modelling of objects and collision detection between said particles – which are almost untraceable in their magnitude – it is the city of Seattle that’s the real star of inFamous: Second Son. Sucker Punch decided to accurately model the city right down to distinguishing between a wet pavement and a damp one, illuminating it with multiple tones and light settings to grant an understated but realistically fetching look.
These time settings also allow the game to avoid real-time lighting, thus ensuring no performance hits. The sheer detail in the reflections, surface texture, water simulation and weather effects is still startlingly accurate, all the more so in motion. You won’t notice it from pictures or just simple gameplay footage – inFamous: Second Son makes a very strong case for that nifty full HD screen in your living room. This is a game with details for days but one that doesn’t beat you over the head or overwhelm you like, say, Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes would.
"A new patch has been released which locks the frame at 30 FPS and the game is all the better for it."
Sucker Punch opted for a 1920×1080 resolution with Second Son and a unlocked 30 FPS frame rate (A new patch is in works that locks the frame at 30 FPS). Unlocked frame rate fluctuations occur often which causes an odd shuddering effect at times. Hopefully it won’t be so pronounced with the patch.
All of the above visual prowess would mean nothing if inFamous: Second Son didn’t have a strong anti-aliasing solution to back it up. Thankfully, Sucker Punch opted for enhanced sub pixel morphological anti-aliasing (SMAA T2X). It’s usually an anti-aliasing technique reserved for mid-range PCs but the effect it has in inFamous servers to smooth out any jaggies and maintain a crisp image at all times.
As stated above, the game is relatively understated in its atmosphere, setting and environment – but when you combined it all together, along with thousands upon thousands of particles, smoke and light streaks dancing about, the resulting composition is rather mesmerizing in its own right.
"The visuals feel kind of wasted since you’re mostly tasked with the usual running around and humdrum side quests."
inFamous: Second Son is a very solid visual picture that manages to stand out from the crowd of open world games, especially those that are next-gen bound. In choosing Seattle, Sucker Punch managed to deliver an environment that is not only hyper-detailed but capable of showing off the realism of weather effects and reflectivity without bothering the frame rate.
As a game, Second Son’s visuals feel kind of wasted since you’re mostly tasked with the usual running around and humdrum side quests. Even the visuals in battles are seemingly there to look good rather than serve any real purpose. This doesn’t take away the fact that inFamous: Second Son’s gameplay on a whole is reliable, if a little too familiar, and backed by one of the strongest showings by next-gen console hardware thus far.