Infamous: Second Son has timing on its side.
Think about it. If you’re anything like me, your PS4 is gathering dust. My Xbox One isn’t even plugged into my television. Next generation consoles are in our homes, they are in our lives but – in a sense – we’re still waiting for next gen to start.
Some will argue that next gen starts with Infamous: Second Son. I’d argue it starts in March with Infamous: Second Son and Titanfall. But Infamous: Second Son has something over and above Respawn’s reinvention of the twitch shooter. It’s a pure, unadulterated next generation game. There are no compromises. No PS3 version, no PC version. It’s a video game designed from the ground up for one platform and one platform only. In that sense Infamous: Second Son is a next gen game. Legit.
But what does it mean to be a next generation game? Does that question even make sense?
Probably not. Video games themselves aren’t really changing; the parameters around them are simply expanding. We share our experiences now. We connect with them in different ways, on second screens, on Twitter, on Facebook. The games are smoother, higher resolution but – for now – we’re not really doing anything differently.
It makes sense. Technology doesn’t always drive innovation in video games. It doesn’t. Technology drives sales, it drives marketing, it drives hype. It doesn’t always generate the new experiences we expect and crave on consoles. That comes with time, or in a flash of genius.
Infamous: Second Son doesn’t feel like a flash of genius. It feels familiar and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Unsurprisingly it is a game that is very similar to its predecessors. The controls retain that floaty, light sensation. Again, not a bad thing. That’s one of the hallmarks of the Infamous experience. There is a focus on feeling overwhelmingly powerful. Again, another hallmark of the Infamous experience. This is, after all, an Infamous game.
Infamous: Second Son is a game that makes progress in increments. The lighting is phenomenal, transitions between combat and traversal feel fluid and – more importantly – engaging to interact with.
Shooting is almost precisely the same, and has the same problems. Line of sight seems completely out of whack. Sucker Punch still seems to believe that launching waves upon waves of enemies, all firing from multiple different directions at the same exact time, is a good way of making the player feel ‘powerful’, like a one-man-army. The reality is it’s actually frustrating as all hell trying to take out enemies when you have no god-forsaken idea where they’re shooting from. It was a problem in previous games, it’s a problem in Infamous: Second Son.
The ability to dash across the city in a neon flash, like a lightning quick beam of light, is by far the most exciting addition to the Infamous repertoire and – ironically – it’s a feature that makes the player feel far more powerful that shooting oodles upon oodles of faceless goons. It’s the goal of Infamous to make players feel like a super hero and when you’re rapidly traversing the rooftops in seamless bursts of neon light by god do you feel powerful. There’s an incredible sense of flow that I’ve rarely felt in a game of this type. It feels sort of [shudder] next gen.
That bloody word. Next gen. It’s a cumbersome word. It’s literally weighty and cumbersome. What does it mean to be a next generation game? We have to redefine the answer to that question, if the question is to matter at all. I’d argue that next-gen is actually a harbinger of slow-burning improvement, not the grand leap we always seem to demand or, worse, expect.
Within the confines of that definition, Infamous: Second Son is about as next gen as it gets.