Infamous Second Son

Third in the popular series by beloved publisher Sucker Punch, Infamous Second Son takes place seven years after the good ending of Infamous 2 resulted in the death of most mutants (I mean Conduits) from the world. Now new Conduits are appearing all over the world (with no explanation as to how) so the government is hunting down remaining Conduits while calling them “bio-terrorists” to justify their absurdly fascistic actions which really does more damage than the people they are hunting. You play as Native American Delsin Rowe, a slacker graffiti artist hanging out on the reservation while annoying his serious cop brother all while looking and acting like a parody of what a stuffy boardroom stiff thinks is “hip” and “with it” these days.

While confronting a fugitive Conduit, Delsin discovers that he can steal other conduits abilities and gains the power of smoke. However, the head of the Conduit hunting task force (The D.U.P) Brooke Augustine uses her concrete powers to torture Delsin’s tribe for information and then for no other reason than being evil, leave shards of concrete in their bodies so they can all die a long agonizing death over a period of weeks. So Delsin and his brother must travel to the occupied Seattle to get her powers and save the tribe!

Gameplay is similar to previous games. A third person action romp with a dated moral choice system set in an open world setting where you liberate the districts to reduce enemy presence and use your upgradable powers to traverse the environment and battle other superpowered government stooges. However, while Cole McGrath from the previous games harnessed electricity and was relatively easy to recharge his power, smoke is a bit trickier to find in today’s world. Fortunately, the game compensates by eventually allowing you to steal other major conduits abilities like the neon wielding Abigail and the video (digital stuff)  of reality warping Eugene.

Though weird choices that lack the simple purity of electricity, fire, or even concrete, these still add a bit of variety since though they function similarly to your other abilities, they are just different enough to mix things up a bit. Neon allows you to run up buildings flash style, but video gives you more powerful attacks and lets you fly around more. Meanwhile smoke is a bit weaker but provides a balance between combat and travel. Overall the gameplay is fine and familiar to anyone that’s played these types of games and the graphics are impressive considering this game was launched relatively early in the PS4’s lifespan, though at a cost to the map size in comparison to previous games and an insistence on hardware gimmicks like the motion controls and weird middle button thing on the controller for quick time events.

Unfortunately, Second Son falls short in some major areas especially when compared to previous games. From a story perspective, it’s a decent enough revenge story with good motivations and a relatively satisfying ending. Unfortunately, compared to how unpredictable and crazy the last games where in this department it just becomes forgettable. Not helping it is how much it steps out of established canon by making conduits just appear when they have always required some weird science thing like the ray sphere to activate their innate powers. Now they’re just spontaneously super.

Also, in the other games, you dealt with multiple factions and gangs each with their own abilities. This lead to a nice sense of progression as you battled simple thugs at the beginning of the 1st game, and ended that by fighting a weird superpowered secret society. While the 2nd game had you fighting the overly armed militia the monstrous mutant monsters, and insane ice powers mercenaries for an effective contrast. In this game though it’s all D.U.P. all the time (aside from a brief few missions with weird digital angels). Though there is a bit of power variety with some just being guys with guns while others can erect concrete barriers and even summon hulking golems.

The main villain herself is also lacking, mainly in her wasted potential. As the game goes on you learn that she has a tragic back story and a fascinating motivation for her actions that initially make her seem like a more complex character. But again, she commits random atrocities for no logical reason. Even her somewhat sympathetic reason for capturing Conduits becomes bizarre as the full extent of her plans seems to be to just plop them in a science torture prison. This one is especially egregious as her solid back story and unique motivations indicate a tragic thought-provoking figure instead of a mustache twirling maniac.

Despite some interesting elements, the lackluster story and complete contradictions in canon make this the weakest Infamous to date. Admittedly the graphics are beautiful and lead to some beautiful destruction, and the gameplay itself features some cathartic free roaming fun and mayhem. But ultimately, one can’t help but compare it to the previous games whose stories, characters, and memorable moments just exceed Second Son in almost every way. Still worth a playthrough if you’re really into the series, but if you haven’t played them already, you’re better off just playing the first two games.

3.5 super powers out of 5.

Strike Vector EX

Strike Vector EX is riddled with a cliché storyline that is barely explained and involves overused villain names like “The Consortium” and “The Horde”. These vaguely defined factions house broad caricatures of characters who will have sudden personality shifts seemingly out of nowhere such as when the main characters suddenly decide to become pirates with one becoming a righteous freedom fighter while the other becomes obsessed with victory at any cost and not caring about collateral damage with no foreshadowing whatsoever.

However, Strike Vector EX is still relatively entertaining due to its gameplay. All the missions are variants of fly around and shoot things, however, you can customize your vehicle’s weapons and abilities which adds a bit of variety. You can fly around firing wildly with your gattling guns, or you could try the more methodical carbine rifle mode. Or, you could forgo any of that pesky aiming nonsense and just use heat seeking missiles (if you don’t mind the delay between shots). Your vehicle can also convert from a fast jet mode to a floating platform of destruction mode for more precision.

These dogfights are surprisingly intense and there is a engaging thrill to the online matches which is where most of the action is focused. The abundance of health pick ups can lead to tedium as your opponents can easily heal themselves, but the massive amount of damage most weapons do helps make up for this. There is also some fun to be had with the customization as you search for the configuration that suits your play style or at least is most optimal for the current mission. Either way, the gameplay is solid and helps support the nonsensical though somewhat endearing plot.

3.5 Exploding Space ships out of 5.

Hatoful Boyfriend

Probably the strangest game released this month, Hatoful Boyfriend is a visual novel dating simulator with the twist being you’re a human girl in a world where most of humanity has mysteriously vanished and you date birds. Not bird people or even stylized birds, but actual pictures of real life birds. Before you say something along the lines of “Oh Japan”, keep in mind the game was made as a joke and fully embraces the absurdity of its premise. The potential love interests run the usual gambit of romance stories such as the childhood best friend, snooty rich jerk, or the mysterious loner. However, most have a very dark or strange twist that vary from mundane murderousness to the supernatural. All this is complemented by the surprisingly dark undercurrent to everything as you are given glimpse of this bizarre bird run world and its unsettling implications.

The gameplay itself encourages multiple playthroughs as you try to hook up with all your hunky bird buds, though it could take a bit of save scumming to get the right one. But, since each campaign is only about 45 minutes long it isn’t as tedious as one would think. Especially since each character’s story has a twist of some sort and is surprisingly well written. To say too much risks spoilers so the final word is play it yourself if only to experience one of the strangest games that you will ever play which is more well written then it has any right to be.

3.5 bird hunks out of 5.

Truck Racer

First, I want to complement the game on the efficient purity of its title. You play as a truck, and you race other trucks. The beauty is in the simplicity. As you win races you get currency to buy upgrades as well as alternative looks for your vehicles. Despite the simple graphics compared to similar games of this genre, I still found myself oddly invested in my humble little truck. Especially since you take damage and are encouraged to hit enemies for a speed boost. It’s nothing particularly great or memorable but it functions well and lets you know how to play the game so it has that going for it.

3 functioning trucks out of 5.

We Are Doomed

A simple little twinstick shooter where you move around and shoot at various geometric shapes that vaguely resemble enemies. You can also collect energy cubes which will boost your lasers allowing you to fire a massive kill everything death beam for a brief amount of time. While it has a simple but effective 2D design, the contrast in colors with yourself, your lasers, enemies, explosions, and the energy cubes is so extreme that it quickly becomes difficult to tell what exactly is going on. This is a bit of a problem since like in baseball it’s 3 strikes and you’re out. So, it’s definitely playable and easy to understand, but the flawed presentation means you probably won’t want to play for very long.

3 Potential Seizures out of 5.

Handball 2016

Handball is a form of opposite soccer that is apparently popular in parts of Europe. Handball 2016 is a PS3 game from 2015 that looks like a launch title. You can customize your player, team and play for a season to lead your team to victory. Or you could if there was any sort of tutorial or explanation regarding the games mechanics and you weren’t just shoved into the deep end and expected to move like an Olympic swimmer.

While the rules seem simple enough (opposite soccer) I ended up losing chunks of my team since they committed a foul of some sort despite the game not conveying what I did wrong (though the in-game commentators were always there to say I messed up). I only made a handful of goals and I could not tell you what exactly I did differently from the times I missed, in fact I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible to aim for the goal. I know there are techniques such as “hip throws” but I have no idea why these are better than simply tossing the ball to my teammates. In summation, a potentially decent game for fans of the sport, let down by a complete lack of tutorial or information regarding how to play the game for the average Joe Schmo. And since this isn’t the 80s, that sort of conduct is just unacceptable.

2 serious British accents out of 5