Best of E3 Awards Need to Stop - InFamous: Second Son Review
Each year most gaming sites publish a "Best of E3" awards for games showcased for that year's E3 for a variety of different categories. This year Cyberpunk 2077 seems to have taken home most of the awards, and understandably so. However, once these game release, do these awards have any credibility? For the game industry, their showcase at E3 can make or break the success of their game. While there has been a presence of Indie game developers or small tech developers, E3 has always been about promotion for triple-A games and game studios owned by these big developers.
Similar to Hollywood movie studios, budgets for these games can balloon to hundreds of millions of dollars that developers and publishers don't take risks on if they don't think they'll make a major profit. E3 is a chance for these studios to promote and advertise their game to as many people as possible.
With long development cycles, games can appear at multiple E3 shows. Games that are showcased can be at different stages of development, some having a playable demo while others may only have cinematic reveals.
The problem with E3 awards is that game could present all its best features, get a lot of awards and turn out to be terrible. While it's not possible to rate a game based off a short demo, these E3 awards stick with the game forever. While most developers won't falsely hype up the game with promises they cannot fulfill, getting E3 awards is a selling point for many games that are still in development. Recent games that got many of these E3 awards but disappointed gamer have been No Man's Sky and Star Wars Battlefront. Another game that left me really disappointed which is the focus of this review is inFamous: Second Son, developed by Sucker Punch Productions.
I just finished playing through inFamous: Second Son getting 100% achievements, and was angry how the back cover used to sell the game has E3 awards from major gaming sites like IGN and Destructoid. Second Son took the name of the previous inFamous games to sell this reboot to new and old fans of the previous game. I'll explain where Second Son failed and how it killed a likable series, that could have rivaled the popularity of games like Uncharted.
The first inFamous game was one of the first games that emphasized player choice as they got to control the protagonist on their path of becoming a superhero or supervillain. The main atrocity that Second Son committed was removing the ambiguous decisions by making actions clearly setting you on the path of either a hero or villain. Once you make the choice, you feel restricted as opposing choices are blocked off. At certain points in the game, I was wondering why even have the choice show up if you can't select it anyway? The game is short, about 10 hours the first playthrough, so the developers probably intended players to see the choice and be aware of the alternate path for the next time you make this decision.
Another thing that the game failed at, was making the choices you feel insignificant. After playing through the second time, I saw how your choices don't impact the story much at all. I would say that more than 90% of the game is the same whether you are heroic or evil. It's lazy game design when characters have the exact same dialogue just after a significant good or bad decision. For any game so far, I've felt the more I played the game, the more I discovered and appreciated about it. This game is not like that, there is only one extra that adds to the story, listening to audio logs that reveal some backstory about the main villain, but the more I played, the more tedious and boring the game became. While it was nice to hear the controller being used for sound, the motion controls where you mimic a spray can for graffiti art did not work for me most of the time.
I could have also written a whole post about how having a terrible main character, like Delsin Rowe, can ruin your game regardless of other positive qualities. Not even the talented Troy Baker could make Delsin a likable protagonist. The sarcastic, hipster, misunderstood rebel tries to bring fresh air to a series that no one asked for. Cole, from the previous inFamous games, didn't have any personality, but it was still better than Delsin. Other than the character Fetch, who is like Delsin's female version, none of the other characters were memorable and the story of people with superpowers treated as outcasts or persecuted have been done to death. The game would have been better, if it took out heroic options and only had one path because I felt the evil options, regardless of how little it changed things, ultimately had a more satisfying dialogue and conclusion. This could even set up for a possible sequel with Delsin being the antagonist in the next game.
There is also a huge plot hole toward the end of the game that isn't explained that has been annoying me. You'll know it after you get there. It seems like a scene is missing, and your character just wakes up in another part of town. The reason I dislike Delsin as a character so much, especially if you treat him as a hero, is that the whole plot of the story is the result of his actions and his need to be a smart ass. It would have been fitting if he learned to be a better person with the powers he develops, but he ends up being unlikable because he still acts the same way he did in the beginning only at the end he has a bigger ego knowing that he basically has the strongest power of any conduit (what they call people with superpowers).
There are some positives of the game, mostly which are taken from previous inFamous games. The action is fast paced and you can fire your projectiles as you run, jump or climb up buildings. You can level up your powers, and some battles highlight the ability to switch between the different powers you attain in the same fight. You'll soon pick a favorite power and stick with that most of the game. Even though they look different, they all have a projectile, melee, heavy projectile, and mobility skill. The open world is large and fun to explore, but it's a shame that you are essentially blocked from powering up your character until you progress further into the game, again restricting your choices to play the game the way you want.
Even the enjoyable fast-paced firefights are diminished by annoying design choices. During combat, you don't have a life meter so you can't tell how close to death you are. Like other games, you just need to avoid taking damage for a few seconds to regenerate health. However, in this game, your screen starts to turn gray, and volume starts to get muffled, simulating tunnel vision if you are low on life. Adding to the fact that I had to play the game on the brightest setting because using light effects seems to make everything around you look darker. So when you are low on health it gets hard to see and hear the enemies around you, leading to many cheap deaths.
With that in mind, I would give inFamous: Second Son a slightly better than average score of a C+. Truly great games are timeless, but Second Son does not hold up today and not worth the time.
While many games like Legend of Zelda: BotW, win accolades from E3 and go on to live up to or exceed expectations, games like Second Son, use E3 as a way of tricking fans and probably parents who are purchasing games for others. Unlike other media, like movies, video games don't have an established video game association that gives out awards like the Oscars, Emmys, or Golden Globes. I know there are The Game Awards, put publishers and marketing campaigns mostly focus on E3 awards and individual gaming sites to upsell their game. If games like Second Son can be in the same category as BotW, then there must be a problem with the system. E3 awards have become as much of a selling point as Game of the Year awards, but for E3 awards the game doesn't actually have to be any good.
There should be an asterisk on InFamous: Second Son, explaining how 2013 must have been an extremely slow year for PlayStation and early in the console's lifecycle. Thanks as always for reading, and if you made it this far let me know what your most disappointing game from E3 game turned out to be.