I had a blast with Infamous: Second Son. For me, it was probably the best game in the series thus far, a polished experience that did the basics incredibly well, delivered some cracking performances from its leading stars, and dazzled the senses with a gorgeous Seattle sandbox and plenty of interesting abilities. It didn't seek to really break new ground or reinvent the wheel, but Second Son was supremely satisfying because Sucker Punch managed to nail things where they counted -- combat, traversal, scale, story. Would it have been nice to have Seattle live and breathe a little more rather than simply being an obviously gamified sandbox? Perhaps. But frankly I was having too much fun to really care.
Given the hot topic of female protagonists in the gaming industry, it's not surprising really that Sucker Punch were asked in the run up to Second Son's release about the possibility of a female playable protagonist. That questioning only became stronger when we were introduced to Abigail "Fetch" Walker -- a Neon-powered Conduit with some serious baggage in her past and a heavy chip on her shoulder. That Sucker Punch followed through and have given us a fat slab of Fetch's backstory to play through here in First Light is admirable.
More importantly, it's pretty damn good.
Laura Bailey is back to voice Fetch, and once again, the strength of Sucker Punch's performance capture really comes through. Anyone familiar with her story in Second Son will already know the end state of this prequel, set two years before the events of the original game. Fetch is making a living on the streets with her brother in First Light, making ends meet by doing unsavoury jobs for unsavoury people. By the time we meet her in Second Son, she's lost a huge deal, not least a sense of control, and First Light tells the story of how she goes from being a woman trying to hide her powers to being a Conduit fixer and assassin, to eventually becoming a powerful renegade filled with rage and anger.
Unlike Delsin, who could absorb the powers of others, Fetch can only tap into the Neon side of things, but frankly that was probably the power I used most in Second Son, and it's nice to see it explored in more depth in this game. Fetch moves more fluidly than Delsin, and traversing this smaller chunk of Seattle is an even greater joy than before. The effects have been tuned up a little, and they are absolutely fantastic -- I sunk over thirty hours into Second Son, and First Light is still making my jaw drop. But it's the subtle changes to movement that make Fetch a delight to control.
Little Neon Clouds litter the streets, springing up when you're lightspeeding around the city, giving you boosts and allowing you to run faster and jump higher and further. They come in pretty handy because the fastest way to unlock Fetch's Neon abilities is to go hunting for skill point Lumens. A little like Crackdown's agility orbs, purple Lumens are scattered about the city in hard to reach places, many of which require a little dexterity, a hop, skip, glide, and a dash to reach. Then there are Super Lumens -- chunky, white blobs of ability-bestowing light that zip around the streets on a predetermined route, and have you bust a gut through the Neon Clouds until you can finally catch up with them. It's a nice little change from point-to-point races, and you get double the points for your trouble.
Combat is still a large part of proceedings, but Fetch is a little more melee-oriented than Delsin was. Instead of the Neon sword, Fetch fights with her fists, each blow given more weight by the punchy sound design and flurry of Neon sparks. She can unleash one-button finishers that, though limited in number, can be replenished by chaining together melee kills and takedowns. There's no persistent morality meter in this game, and you don't really miss it, though it strikes me that it might have actually made more sense in this game, given that Fetch's (understandably) volatile emotional state and lack of control are key to the story, than in Second Son.
In any case, taking down goons is still lots of fun, and there are little dynamic scenarios that pop up, like hostages to rescue and drive-bys to interrupt, DUP armoured carriers to offend, and so on to help you vent through pixellated violence. A slew of challenges have been worked into the game to also help facilitate skill point unlocks, such as taking down a certain number of henchmen by targeting their weak points, or eliminating foes using certain combinations of powers, or just clearing out 150 DUP Knights. Little things, but they add a bit of spice to things.
There are other little activities to engage in as well. Fetch doesn't need aerosol cans to make her mark on the city, a flick of the wrist and her Neon powers can paint a pretty picture. Using the DualShock 4's accelerometers once more, you can paint Neon murals in certain spots across the city for skill points. There are also police drones to find and break, tapping into their camera feeds and using their surroundings to get the drop on their locations. Simple sandbox stuff, but effective and well-worked. I only wish that there were more missions like that, really. One of the story missions has you tapping into CCTV feeds to track a kidnapper rumoured to be working for a trafficking ring. It's one of the best sequences in the game, with Fetch running down cameras, hacking into them and analysing the footage to determine the kidnapper's next move. I was rather hoping it'd unlock a handful of vigilante-esque side missions, but alas.
The story is around four hours long if you rattle through it quickly. I spent about seven or so mucking about at a leisurely pace, and I finished the game with a 74% completion rating. It's a good length, and would have been well worth the price as it is, but Sucker Punch have thrown in some leaderboard-stuffed combat arenas as well, all of which can be played with Delsin as well as Fetch is you've got a Second Son save file on your system. Participating in the arenas matches will give you skill points depending on your performances, but in a nice touch, finishing the story mode unlocks some pretty sweet ability unlocks that can be used to great effect in the arenas.
The game costs £11.99 on PSN here in the UK, and when you consider that Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes cost nearly twice that, it's hard not to view First Light as a pretty sweet value proposition. The standalone nature of the game means it's perfect for Second Son fans who want to know more about Fetch and her backstory, not to mention another excuse to bust out those Neon powers again, but also for newcomers looking for a taste of Second Son's action without buying the full game. In fact, I'd almost suggest that it'd be better starting with First Light if you're yet to play Second Son, as the events in the prequel will hit much harder if you don't have knowledge of Fetch's story from the original game.
First Light doesn't break the mould, Seattle is even more of a fairly soulless sandbox from a population aspect than before, and on reflection it's a shame that more of the PS4's power wasn't brought to bear on filling the streets. I can't help but feel that there's still much more room for a superhero game where your actions have serious consequences on the world around you on a macro and micro level, and I really hope that's where Sucker Punch go next, though I'm not sure if they're the studio to pull that off.
That said, I can't say I ever really felt the disconnect here. Seattle itself has a lesser billing in this game, and I was able to forgive more because of it. I want to have that superhero-meets-world game one day, but this isn't it, and it's not trying to be. That might be a bit old-fashioned, but First Light, like Second Son before it, excels in execution. We put too much stock on polish these days, it has to be said, but First Light just feels incredibly good to play -- visually, aurally, and mechanically. And that makes it very easy to recommend.
- Absolutely gorgeous
- Emphatic sound design
- Fetch is a joy to control
- Traversal is brilliant, and the Lumen collection ties into that perfectly
- Touching story helped along by great performances
- Lots of content for those twelve pounds
- If you didn't get on with Second Son, you won't get on with this
- Playing detective is too much fun to only restrict to one mission
- Seattle really just a playground in this game -- still pretty, but lacking life
The Short Version: Infamous First Light packs a whole bunch of content in at a decent price, and fleshes out Second Son's most interesting character in fine fashion, with a sibling story that tugs at the heartstrings thanks to another great performance from Bailey. It's an extension, perhaps, more than an expansion -- more of the same sort of thing, but with a slightly different flavour -- but given how much fun Second Son was, that's no bad thing.