Choosing a Game of the Year for the PS4 was agonizing, if I’m honest.
I could easily have taken the road already traveled and given the award to The Last of Us: Remastered. It would have been easy and, if you know anything about me at all, obvious. But it was too easy. I decided that this year’s winner had to be fresh to the PS4; not a remake/redux/remaster/repixel of an existing PS3 title. It could be a sequel, but not a ‘port’.
Then, I decided to make things even more difficult for myself by removing all multi-platform games from my short-list. I wanted the PS4 Game of the Year to be one that is only on PlayStation 4, which ruled out the likes of Watch Dogs, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Destiny, and more.
Of the surprisingly large list of games left for me to choose from, one stood out, beacon-like, above all others. A little like the tower that dominates the skyline of the city my GotY is based in.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t hold out much hope for inFAMOUS: Second Son when I first heard it was in development. I thought that we would get a fairly decent, better looking inFAMOUS and that would be the end of it. Enjoyable enough, but with limited life and scope.
How wrong I was.
In inFAMOUS: Second Son, you play and tell the story of Delsin Rowe. If you decide to be nice/good at various decision points throughout the story, you become a hero to all. Do the opposite, and you become the titular infamous character that people love to hate. This decision-making mechanic isn’t just arbitrary; it changes how you play the game, the powers that are available to you, and how people react to you.
As with the original PS3 title, you play in an open-world sandbox with all the usual freedoms we’ve all come to expect from games like this, only on a much grander, PS4-sized scale. Follow the story or don’t. Collect all the items, or don’t. Do all the side missions, or don’t. You get the picture.
Of course, if you want the platinum trophy (like I did), you’ll do it all, but that’s an aside.
Second Son threw in some fun additions to the usual mix of collectibles, such as the ability to paint the town red (other colors are available) by stenciling Banksy-style graffiti across Seattle. The PS4’s ‘share button’ came alive, and Twitter was a sea of proud street artists showing off their similar creations. Even the mechanic of turning the DualShock 4 sideways to ‘shake the paint’ made you feel more connected to the game. Such a small detail, but one that made all the difference.
Moreover, the gameplay is just a lot of fun. Delsin starts off on a journey of discovery, picking up powers along the way. By the time you get deep into the story, which is well written if a little formulaic, you have a whole raft of superpowers at your disposal, each of which comes with a finishing move that shows off the graphical prowess of the PlayStation 4. Speaking of which, the facial animation in inFAMOUS: Second Son is on par with anything you’ll have seen by Quantic Dream – it truly is impressive.
However, the addition of these extra abilities never conspire to overpower the gamer. The combat system remains simplistic throughout, which is a difficult trick to pull off and helps to keep the game accessible, playable, and exciting from start to finish. The difficulty spikes are well balanced and while you’ll be challenged, you’ll never feel that it is just too hard to complete.
But to play this game in isolation and ignore all the additional content is a crime.
Within inFAMOUS: Second Son, you’ll find an ARG-like crime caper that has you bouncing between the PS4 and your laptop (or, in my case, Android tablet) picking up and solving clues. Some of the puzzles are simple, but others are much more complex and will test your powers of deduction. In a world where companion apps are becoming the norm (with varying degrees of success, despite some mega-budgets; yes, I’m looking at you GTA V), Second Son took an alternate route and allowed anyone with a browser to take part in the extra trimmings.
And then there’s inFAMOUS: First Light, which you could count as DLC despite the fact that it is available as a stand-alone product. And that, in itself, is a clever move on the part of Sucker Punch and Sony. If you buy, play, and like First Light and weren’t already a Second Son owner, you’re bound to pick up the game to discover the main story. Smart.
But, moreover, inFAMOUS: Second Son wins my Game of the Year award because of what it did for the PS4. Let me explain.
Second Son was in development as ‘inFAMOUS 3’ well before the PS4 was released. The team at Sucker Punch worked alongside Mark Cerny and met with him on several occasions, giving him and the rest of the Sony team feedback on power requirements, DualShock 4 improvements and more. While it is well documented that Sony worked closely with a number of developers during the inception of the PlayStation 4, Sucker Punch definitely had a big hand in the slanty black box we know and love.
So not only did they produce a hugely enjoyable, graphically brilliant, open-world, superpower-filled game that kept me amused for hours on end, and not only did they knock up some brilliant merchandise to go along with it (yes, in the winter months I still wear my Delsin Rowe beanie-hat), but they helped make the PS4 what it is today.
That’s why inFAMOUS: Second Son is my Game of the Year.