Infamous: First Light review
“What you’ve been through is unimaginable”
First Light is the stand-alone expansion to Infamous: Second Son, but clocking in at around 3 hours for the main campaign, it’s in a precarious position with regards as to whether it really justifies this status rather than merely being standard DLC. For fans of the franchise, the additional backstory and challenge modes will be enough to satisfy. For those yet to play Second Son, it’s a well-tuned experience, the predictable mission design however and uninspired enemies are nevertheless frustrating reminders of how the series struggles to deliver on its potential.
The game serves as a prequel two years before the events of SS, with players taking on the role as ‘Fetch’ also known as Abigail Walker, a ‘Conduit’ which if you haven’t played an entry in the series before is basically someone who has super-powers of a sort. The plot centers around Fetch and her brother planning to do one last robbery before leaving Seattle for good, unfortunately for them like it always does, this doesn’t really work out. Her brother is kidnapped by local gangsters and Fetch apart from tearing up the city trying to find him, is struggling to cope with the pressure of revealing her powers to the world. This is where the bulk of the game is anyway, on the other hand there are sections in the present with Fetch in DUP custody; they’re sort of the police regulators of Conduits. Here, she is forced to reveal her expanding powers to a scheming commander, undoubtedly eager to mould her into some sort of weapon.
So, the story follows a structure of Fetch overcoming challenges in a DUP arena in the present day and then embarking on a flashback sequence in the next. It works well for the most part as they serve as a neat bookend to chapters and a prelude to the next one, but the actual basis for such a design is perplexing. See, it uses the excuse that Fetch is holding back her powers deliberately from the commander, once she reveals a power-set, it’s immediately unlocked when you’re breezing through Seattle in the past as well. It’s an odd and rather clumsy way to introduce new abilities.
Being that it’s essentially a kidnapped story, it’s consequently a fairly basic one; the few twists that exist are practically signposted within a few minutes of interaction with that character. Speaking of characters, the cast are incredibly boring and generic with the exception of Fetch, Shane who’s essentially the main ‘other’ is a thoroughly unpleasant sexist drug-dealer, subjecting Fetch to a barrage of uncomfortable lines throughout the game. Fetch herself is an accomplished lead, her backstory told through lovely comic-book recollections humanize her sufficiently to fulfil the role as a tough, lonely young woman. Moreover, the actress who plays her, Laura Bailey gives a polished performance despite the terrible dialogue given to her by Sucker Punch writers.
The gameplay mechanics themselves as already mentioned, are extremely entertaining to play around with, for example the Neon speed power which incidentally is unlocked right off the bat, enables you to zoom up buildings, glide along roads and morph through obstacles. It’s an absolute joy to use, a perfect representation of a tool that whilst perhaps a little overpowered, is included for the sheer enjoyment it brings in using it. Subsequently, this makes traversal in this lean Seattle playground a complete breeze, using one of the many boost jumps dotted around, Fetch will be able to jump up and glide past three-storey buildings as if they were a curb in the road. The combat is as equally refined, with Fetch being able to target the highlighted weak points of enemies for cleaner kills. The result is that the game doesn’t pose anywhere near enough of a challenge, but that largely doesn’t matter as long as the player is enjoying the gameplay experience, and to its credit First Light’s core mechanics are very polished indeed.
This polish extends to the visuals with First Light being more than capable to dazzle the player on occasion; with Fetch’s Neon power having the basic attraction of just looking really damn cool. Seeing her whiz through the environment in a blistering pink haze never seems to get tiresome. Similarly, it’s worth putting up with the wonky Sixaxis controls for the Neon graffiti segments to marvel at the beauty of the end product. Furthermore, the Sucker Punch’s artists demonstrate once again why they are among the best this industry has to offer, the logos and art murals that adorn the multitude of walls and billboards in Seattle are highly detailed and cleanly designed. So it’s a bit of a shame then that all this artistic skill is let down by the hollowness of the world itself, pedestrians are passively-robotic in their behaviour and in general the city doesn’t seem to react to the events that transpire. One of the key strengths any open-world game strives to achieve is immersion; First Light’s environment however is merely reduced to something of a playground.
Being an open-world game, it follows the structure you would expect, albeit in bite-sized portions, the bulk of the campaign revolves around taking missions from Shane as you try to hunt down who kidnapped your brother. These missions however are incredibly limited in their ambition, after a few sequences, you’ll have experienced all there is to mission design in this game which is bitterly disappointing. There’s a couple of escort the vehicle missions which are exasperatingly repeated despite the short length of the game, furthermore there is rooftop sniping against waves of enemies and the usual run from Point A to Point B, clearing out enemies as you go along. If you’ve played an Infamous game before, then you may be happy with just that, but for many the stubborn unwillingness of Sucker Punch to take more risks will be maddening.
The last act of the game lets itself down though, foregoing the streets of Seattle to instead culminate in an achingly tedious chase in the snowy mountains, diversity is something that any game needs, but Sucker Punch’s change of pace here is a real slog to play through unfortunately.
The attractiveness of the side-missions will largely depend on much you like collecting stuff, Fetch can chase down energy balls called ‘Lumens’, which evokes Crackdown’s orb hunt in a good way. There are also civilian hostages to save, police drones to destroy and neon graffiti to spray using the ridiculous Sixaxis controls. Despite the uninspired origins of such activities, it’s difficult to criticise since they are all based on the enjoyable core gameplay mechanics. Zipping around using the Neon powers to catch the Lumens is great fun whilst saving hostages and taking out bad guys only serves to highlight how tight the combat is here. It suffers through inevitable repetition, but these are all optional extras to take on and the mechanics remain effortlessly fun regardless.
Then there’s the challenge mode in the form of the present-day DUP arena, exactly as you would imagine it to be, get the best score you can in modes ranging from survival to hostage rescue in tracked leaderboards. This is where a fully-upgraded Fetch can be fully let loose, zipping between enemies and blasting them in the face with delightful ease, it’s in here will you notice how responsive the controls are and how silky chaining attacks can be. However the difficulty never seems to be bite even in challenge mode, the combat lacks any form of tension. Thus it means it really can’t stand up to compare with the far superior survival modes of other games.
First Light overall then is a lean, serviceable open-world package and fans of the series are sure to appreciate the additional backstory. Yet it’s a game that is brimming with inconsistencies, for example the core mechanics are certainly enjoyable but it’s disappointing to see them wasted in such generic mission design. This is then echoed through the beautiful artistry of the world; yet it lacks any sort of life and although Fetch is certainly a good lead, the story she finds herself in is very dull.
Nonetheless it remains a decent experience to play through in a day or two, but don’t expect the game to leave a lasting impression.
+ Fun, responsive gameplay mechanics
+ Beautiful visuals
+ Fetch is a likeable lead
– Deeply generic mission design
– Uninspired story
– Very short