I’m worried they can’t. Or at least won’t.
In fact, a part of me was anxious when the Next Generation consoles were announced. I felt devs had only recently wrapped their heads around the nuances of PS3 and 360 hardware. Now they need to learn the ropes anew. I feared a nigh-obligatory focus on next-gen prettiness would halt, if not actively hinder gaming creativity and ingenuity by at least a year. Infamous: Second Son seems to vindicate this concern…
My first impression of Second Son – Didn’t I play this already? Back in 2009?
My second impression of Second Son – Didn’t I play this already? Back in 2011?
My current impression of Second Son – Hey! Wait a damn minute! If he can turn himself into propellant smoke on a whim, why is he even bothering to parkour up the side of that building?
The answer, of course, is ‘Because that’s what you do in inFamous.’
My mistake! I forgot IPs are eternally shackled by their genre’s formula.
That was sarcasm.
This epitomizes my gripe with the Next Generation – Why bothering tinkering with the nuts and bolts when you can slap on a new coat of paint? God forbid we waste time reverse-engineering basic UI for something fresh, innovative or logically consistent with the central conceit when we can just give Cole McGrath a skin-job and cover him in purple sparkles!
Am I expecting too much? No.
But am I being unduly harsh? Naturally. I am speaking.
And though it looks, for all the world, the same game they served up four and a half years ago, in Sucker Punch’s defence, Second Son is one glorious looking sumbitch!
Extensively mo-capped, Second Son’s facial animations are fantastically expressive. A welcome break from the inFamous norm… Throw in the added bonus of Troy Baker as beanie clad protagonist Delsin Rowe and Second Son rolls a +15 for gravitas!
I should also wax lyrical talk about particle effects. Because apparently that’s now THE major selling point for a Triple A games. Yeah, I’m a cynic. But credit where it’s due, the smoke, lighting, shadowing and wholesale destruction showcased in Second Son are not to be sneezed at! Smoke trails in curling tufts from Delsin’s hands, neon refracts and bends about him while shards of debris explode in hemispherical arcs. And the consistently showcased absence of a Heads Up Display is a decision of rare bravery and vision!
It’s a sexy beast.
It’s also a derivative one.
Let’s start with the whole smoke thing, shall we?
Yes, I understand Sucker Punch have confirmed that, alike inFamous 2 (sensing a pattern here), Delsin will absorb different powers from different super human conduits. ‘Neon Powers’ is one such example. But from the off, Delsin can shoot smoke, absorb smoke, manipulate smoke, BECOME smoke. This is a veritable goldmine of gameplay possibilities!
Last time I checked, smoke is a prevalent feature in urban hubs. Cigarettes. Car exhausts. Chimneys. Kitchens. Incinerators. Fires. Gun nozzles. Hell, set the damn game in China and you’ll have Smog all up in your grill!
Imagine a game in which you could eavesdrop for vital intelligence via the cigar smoke of an informant. Envisage an experience wherein you traverse a sandbox by hijacking the exhaust fumes of speeding vehicles. Visualize a mechanic wherein gamers can infiltrate compounds by wafting through an open window or down a chimney. Picture a fight you can end by simply clogging your opponent’s gun barrel.
I’d play that. And not just because I just came up with it.
(Though admittedly that would be a determining factor…)
But inFamous is an action game.
So shut up, Jack!
Despite the fact the principle instance of smoke in video games (smoke bomb) is a stealth tool, you can kiss goodbye to any element of stealth or non-violent resolution or reconnaissance or cerebral analysis. In fact, if it doesn’t have a direct gun/weapon allegory, it’s cut.
Delsin shoots smoke bullets, hurls smoke grenades, wields a smoke whip and can hammer the ground like a smoke ballistic missile. Just deal with it, Jack, you narky git!
That’s fair. I’ve been know to indulge in the occasional nark. But, I’m not even saying Second Son sounds in any way bad. It’s a proven formula. It’ll be fun to play.
But is there anything especially Next-Gen about it?
Is there any reason my PS3 can’t handle this?
Does the enemy AI then, being the player’s primary point of interaction in an action game, seem especially intelligent?
Do they leap and dodge and counterattack?
Do they form up and flank?
Do they ambush or set traps?
Do they retreat or call for reinforcements?
Do they dig in and concentrate their firepower?
Do they take hostages in a bid to stop Delsin’s rampage?
Do they use water to literally dampen his abilities?
Do they upgrade to airtight weapons and armour in a bid to outmatch him?
Or are they just bullet sponges? My bad, SMOKE bullet sponges!
Perhaps it seems cheap to hate on an action game for not having grander aspirations. But inFamous: Second Son is no ordinary action game – It is a PS4 exclusive Next-Gen action game. And as such I’d be thrilled to see some ingenuity, some invention, some imagination in anything other than graphical presentation.
And perhaps I will. Perhaps I’ll eat these words. Perhaps the inevitable deluge of vitriol and hate I’m about to drown in will be richly deserved. I’d love that…
But I’m worried that on March 21st 2014 I’ll play a prettier version of same game I’ve played twice before, as opposed to a fresh experience and a novel, resourceful implementation of the PS4’s impressive hardware.
Come on Second Son- Step out of Daddy’s shadow!