When it was first released, "inFamous" was a solution for the problem of bad comic book games. Instead of adapting a "Superman" into the medium, Sucker Punch Productions created a superhero universe geared toward games from the ground up. The result was an inventive take on the genre.
Since then, the team has developed a certain rhythm to the series. The games have an ebb and flow: Players take over city districts by doing side tasks to level up, and they finish main missions to move the plot forward. With "inFamous: Second Son," the team follows a similar pattern. Yes, it's more of the same, but Sucker Punch fine-tuned the formula with prettier visuals, not to mention a new hero, Delsin Rowe, and a fresh locale -- Seattle.
Set seven years after the previous title, the "inFamous" universe has changed since the days of Cole McGrath. The U.S. government has created the Department of Unified Protection to "defend" citizens from super-powered people known as Conduits. Anyone exhibiting abilities is rounded up and sent to a secret camp.
It's a system that had been working until a transport crashes near Delsin's tribal land. When he and his brother investigate, Delsin is attacked by a fugitive Conduit and the 24-year-old inherits smoke powers, becoming a Conduit himself. Unfortunately, that also raises the suspicion of the powerful Brooke Augustine, who leads the Department of Unified Protection. She attacks Delsin's tribe for information and inflicts wounds that can't be healed by normal means. It's up to Delsin to travel to Seattle and find a way to fix things.
As with previous entries, fans can choose to act as the hero or villain. The player's choices affect the gameplay, giving Delsin new twists on powers, and they also influence the plot and how the hero's allies act. Essentially, players will get two stories, but with a new chapter, Sucker Punch could have tweaked its storytelling so decisions were less binary and more organic, giving players tougher, less obvious decisions.
That storytelling, side quests and structure make "Second Son" feel like a retread -- up to a point. The saving grace comes from the character design. The team imagined powers that feel distinct as players battle the Department of Unified Protection and travel across the Emerald City. Smoke is good, but the power based on neon allows the protagonist to scale walls and shoot from afar. Later, an ability sourced in video signals lets Delsin play stealth and fly through the air.
What's smart is how Sucker Punch marries these powers to the characters themselves, so they become a reflection of those characters. Delsin's fellow Conduits -- Fetch and Eugene -- are the more interesting part of "Second Son," and I wish there were more time spent with them than with Delsin's brother. Even the big, bad Augustine has her moments with a narrative shift that makes the storyline work.
With "Second Son," Sucker Punch spins a good superhero yarn, and it shows the team has hit its storytelling stride. Let's hope they shift to a higher gear in the next adventure.
Platform: PlayStation 4