by Matthew Thompson (Images from the PS Blog’s First Light Flickr set found here)
I’ve yet to be blown away by an Infamous game and as I mentioned back in my review of Second Son, this series has always remained a step away from the top-tier of gaming franchises for me. But it is a very consistent series and I always have fun with Sucker Punch’s superhero simulator. That remains true with the latest game, First Light, a standalone downloadable entry focusing on one of Second Son’s supporting players.
Abigail “Fetch” Walker takes center stage in First Light which tells a tale that leads up to the events in Second Son. The story isn’t much to write home about, but I do really like Fetch as a character, more so than Delsin, and I think the issues she copes with land better for me. I also think she might be the first character design I’ve truly loved from the series which doesn’t hurt. The majority of the game has you playing out flashbacks described by Fetch while she is detained in the D.U.P facility Curdun Cay. The new villain felt overly slimy to me, but it did make Fetch’s pursuit of him satisfying. Gone from the story are the moral choices, but given how out-of-place they felt at times in Second Son and their extremely binary nature, I didn’t miss them here.
The story does just enough to push you forward and enjoy the well-polished gameplay. Fetch uses the main game’s best power set, Neon, but her abilities easily outclass Delsin’s. Neon flourishes littered throughout Seattle act as speed boosts to Fetch’s already fast Neon sprint. This along with a new air dash maneuver and smoother traversal up buildings makes getting around more fun than ever. This includes grabbing First Light’s version of blast shards, Lumens, which involve more than simply scaling buildings, but finding the right blast off points to soar through the air and nab those floating high above Seattle’s architecture.
It is not just the way Fetch moves that makes her better, but her combat powers too. Back is the ability to slow down time and snipe enemies’ weak spots, but she now has a better suite of powers to complement it including some really fantastic homing missiles and improved melee capabilities. Just like in Second Son, this core gameplay is where the game shines and it does so even brighter here. While Fetch may not have Delsin’s varied abilities granted by being able to switch to Smoke or Video, I ended up preferring this more focused set of powers.
First Light does struggle in similar areas to its predecessor. Mission design is still lacking in creativity compared to other entries in the genre and even the PS3 Infamous games. The same goes for the game world. Whether it is because of its real-life counterpoint or how it is designed, Infamous’ rendition of Seattle lacks variety and everything just runs together. This is even more true of First Light which cuts out the second island leaving Fetch to roam only the more boring side of the city.
But even in these problem areas First Light takes some steps in the right direction especially in improving on Second Son’s forgettable side content. The new Lumen Races that have you speeding through boost rings to chase down a Lumen as it darts through alleys and over rooftops adds something I really wanted to see in the main game. They are a little easy and over too quickly, but I love that they developed a side mission that focuses on traversal over combat. And after playing the new arena battles, I feel like they should have always been a part of the series. They test your skills with all the powers at your disposal, add some replay value to the game through its leaderboards and give you a new location to play around in. I loved the new enemies and power-ups they worked into this mode as well. If this series returns, I hope these arenas are here to stay.
It is also worth noting you get a little time to spend in a snowy alpine area surrounding Curdun Cay, but it is a mere tease at what could have been. I would have killed for a mini-sandbox in that kind of locale complete with side missions. It would have been a great change of pace from Seattle.
If you are looking for more super-powered goodness after completing Second Son earlier this year, First Light will deliver for you. Fetch makes for a more interesting lead character, her version of Neon is my favorite set of powers in the series and it looks as good as ever. While it definitely isn’t a long game, the price feels about right especially if you dig into the arena challenges at all. I also think the shorter length means the game never wears out its welcome. I feel short games like these focusing on a single well-developed power set might actually be a better fit for this series going forward however unlikely that scenario may be. Along with being a nice package for fans of the series, it feels like a perfect way for those who want to take Infamous for a test drive. If you were unsure of making the $60 plunge on Second Son, the $15 asking price for First Light will be easier to swallow and give you a great sampling of the series. It isn’t without its issues, but I had as much fun as I’d ever had with the series during my time with Infamous: First Light.