Big ideas but bad execution in the disappointing long-term DLC for inFamous: Second Son
When Sony first revealed the PS4 in February 2013, one of the stars of the show was Infamous: Second Son, the next story in Sucker Punch’s well-received Infamous series. No longer focused on Cole McGrath of the first two games, Second Son features Delsin Rowe, an unemployed graffiti artist living in the shadow of his cop big brother Reggie. Alongside Killzone: Shadow Fall, it’s about as close to photorealistic as PS4 exclusives are currently pushing, displaying natively at a pin-sharp 1080p for beautiful cityscapes, stunning facial animation and superb particle effects.
Though the graphics put on a good show, the rest of the game is less than impressive. As of launch, there are four powers to be mastered, each with a number of abilities and their own strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, they are essentially variations of the same thing. The game’s location, Seattle, is split into two main sections, though there’s little difference in gameplay between them. The main story is pretty short, completable in a few days if you don’t get distracted by side missions and such, but it doubles up by playing with good and evil karma for different endings, slightly different events through the story and adapted objectives for the good/evil missions. You’re still likely to complete the whole thing fairly quickly, though.
So once I was finished, it raised a key question; what do I do next?
Second Son’s side activities are sparse and easily doable in a few days, which means that, after about a week of playing, there isn’t really anything left to do besides suppress the DUP raids that pop up in districts from time to time. These are basically reruns of destroying the Mobile Command Units from earlier in the game, so nothing new at all. It’s a shame; given the variation of powers, I’m really surprised races and similar challenges are completely absent. It’s a good thing, then, that there’s some DLC to dive into.
Paper Trail is a set of missions available after you meet Fetch, another Conduit with neon powers. It’s unique in its setup: as well as extra gameplay you are given a real-world website with which to investigate crimes and track your progress. The in-game ‘rewards’ are underwhelming, though, just earning you some more karma, and a few of the online activities are uninspired. The main problem is that actual progress is limited almost entirely to using the Internet. As far as I’ve played (before getting bored), the only in-game objectives are chasing characters, photographing crime scenes and gathering evidence. Tedious, and I suspect this would have only continued. The DLC distracts from the game rather than encouraging me to play it. I’d rather enjoy using my powers instead of sleuthing through websites solving puzzles for reasons unknown.
I say unknown because the story is a mess. Each crime you investigate is a murder and each victim is linked to the previous one in some tenuous way. It comes down to why this guy was in contact with this woman, who was a lawyer representing this dude who was a criminal working for someone else too. Or something. Sure, it’s suitably lengthy, but when there are so many people involved in such a jumbled way, it becomes hard to follow. It’s also given next to no representation in the main game. I don’t expect Deus Ex-style subplots, but indication that these people even existed in the game world outside of the DLC would be helpful; a businessman’s name on some billboards, or some of the drug dealers mentioning another character as you bust their arses, for example. The game does very little to maintain a sense of cohesion between the game itself and the Internet activities.
The solutions to the puzzles are either insultingly obvious or obscenely arbitrary. One had me dive into the website’s source code to find a random six digit number, which I personally wouldn’t have thought of if someone didn’t tell me that’s how they found it. I would have considered it cheating and tried another way, but when all you’re given is a number pad and no clues whatsoever, the game basically forces you to cheat. Another puzzle requires using a number code on an accompanying keyring to unlock someone’s mobile phone. Evidence from the scene includes a defaced poster claiming that ‘good things come in threes’. So… what do I have to do? Multiply each number on the keyring by three? Is that it? No. Turns out, you have to add three to each number on the keyring. What the fuck? How the hell would I have worked that out without looking it up? It’s a nonsensical solution to a puzzle I wasn’t enjoying for a story I couldn’t understand.
Week four is now available, though I have no intention of returning to the game. I’m having too much fun actually playing Assassin’s Creed IV, rather than jumping back and forth between the game and a website for unsatisfying puzzles and an incomprehensible story. It’s a pretty cool idea, fusing the game with external media and a weekly story, but the way Sucker Punch has run the show so far is just painful and unfun. Here’s hoping the last few weeks are actually enjoyable.