Game Review: Infamous First Light

Oh my word it’s September already.

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Platform:
PS4
Developer:
Sucker Punch
Rating: M
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A physical copy of the game is coming September 10th, but it's download-only for now.

A physical copy of the game is coming September 10th, but it’s download-only for now.

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Not light entertainment.

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Sony-owned developer Sucker Punch’s choice to make, and then heavily promote, a DLC pack-turned-full-game based on this March’s PS4 exclusive Infamous: Second Son is on one hand a clear, unorthodox attempt to fill a perceived gap in both the current general game release schedule and in Sony’s presently bare catalogue of compelling exclusive game offerings. However, it’s hard to argue that its mere $25 presence is a good thing. Sucker Punch is a talented bunch of people and First Light represents a chance for them to take a really good game and apply a (neon) laser focus to one of its best characters. The result is a game that, while understandably shorter than its predecessor, boasts a much better story as well as genuine value for money. PS4 owners shouldn’t pass it up.

THE SET-UP

If you’ve played Infamous: Second Son (which you really should do before playing this), you’ll be familiar with the story of Fetch, the former drug addict conduit with powerful neon-charged abilities. You’ll also be familiar with the story of how she came upon the situation in which Delsin finds her during Second Son. And it ain’t pretty. First Light essentially retells that story, but makes it playable with a suite of potent neon talents Delsin wishes he could have and a few significant plot details added in.

This is more than just DLC.

This is more than just DLC.

WHAT YOU DO

Gameplay in First Light is rather cleverly divided into two types of action, and this division serves the story nicely while shaking up the basic gameplay rhythm of Second Son. The game starts with Fetch imprisoned in the infamous (no pun intended) D.U.P facility known as Curdun Cay, where she is under interrogation by conduit hunter Augustine about the events that led to a personal meltdown immediately before her capture. As Fetch tells the story of her most recent time in Seattle, you play through parts of it via flashback, gallivanting around the city completing missions and collecting delicious skill upgrade orbs. In between the flashbacks, however, Augustine will walk you through training exercises inside the facility, a much more confined space, in an effort to draw out Fetch’s powers for her own use. The duality is rather effective at keeping things fresh where a simple retread of Delsin’s gameplay pattern may have been expected.

Curdun Cay is not a friendly place.

Curdun Cay is not a friendly place.

Of course, Fetch isn’t quite as gifted as Delsin, at least in the power diversity department. Fetch only has access to one power, neon, which compared to Delsin’s four might not sit well with some players, and there is no good/evil morality system anywhere to be seen. This certainly doesn’t give viewers the same range of visual splendour as they had this March. However, as an original conduit, Fetch’s neon powers are far stronger than those of the man with the maroon beanie, and almost all of neon’s weaknesses from Second Son are negated here by amalgamating some of the characteristics of smoke, video and concrete into her power set. She will phase through fences automatically, for example, and can be upgraded to allow for straight aerial dashes a la Delsin’s “angel glide”. In addition, Sucker Punch has added neon gas clouds to the streets of the city, which give Fetch an impressive speed boost when touched during a neon run, ensuring an unprecedented and invigorating sense of speed. Though there are certainly limitations to the neon-only approach, I found being able to enjoy flexible and fast travel without seeking out specific power-changing sources to be quite nice.

This is neon, so high-speed running is definitely on the agenda.

This is neon, so high-speed running is definitely on the agenda.

WHAT YOU SEE

Infamous: Second Son  was a very pretty game indeed, so given that First Light shares the same engine and assets it should come as no surprise that it looks pretty damn good too. The development team finds ways to leverage the basic building blocks of the world to create impressive new effects, such as those on show when Fetch burns her own style of graffiti onto walls, but really, everything that applied to Second Son visually (here’s my review of that game, if you’re interested) applies here as well. The world looks good, the effects look good, and the motion capture-heavy cutscenes look great.

Seattle on PS4 still looks damn good.

Seattle on PS4 still looks good.

Infamous on PS4 still looks damn good.

Cutscenes continue to show off SP’s fancy new motion capture tech.

WHAT YOU HEAR

Said motion capture is, of course, paired with vocal performances, and those are strong in First Light. The talent at hand is very experienced, with Laura Bailey in the important title role and Christine Dunford as the manipulative Augustine. In perhaps a sign of the times, Travis Willingham, Bailey’s real life husband who played Reggie in Second Son, returns to play a different character in First Light even though his face is visible through the motion capture technology. Ashley Johnson of The Last of Us fame pops up in a supporting role, too. The writing is generally much better than it was in Delsin’s adventure, partly because the shorter length and lack of a binary morality system allow a more focused narrative and thus a more intimate one. Bailey’s intense performance helps, and she really sells the pivotal moment you know is coming in Fetch’s story.

Laura Bailey's performance is great.

Laura Bailey’s performance is great and she isn’t alone.

WILL YOU GO BACK?

Infamous: First Light takes a rather different approach to extending its length than Second Son did. After completing the game’s 4-5 hour story, which is unusually meaty given its price and production values, most of the remaining replay value comes from the game’s Curdan Cay challenge arenas, within which you need to save virtual hostages and/or dispatch increasingly intense waves of enemies. Sure, there are things to collect in Seattle, but not nearly as many as in Second Son, particularly given that only half of the Seattle map is actually used for story this time around. These arenas, thankfully, are a lot of fun, and they aren’t exactly easy either. Reaching a high score requires bouts of patience and shrewd positioning in between rapidly executed rampages.

Getting into a destructive combo rhythm leads to high arena scores.

Getting into a destructive combo rhythm leads to high arena scores.

Most of my game time with First Light was ultimately spent completing challenges in Curdun Cay, because that feeling of completing a challenge is never that far away and the lure of beating friends’ high scores when you know you can do it is great. However, if you find the enclosed spaces and enemy spawns not to your taste, there’s no getting around the repetitiveness at hand. Fortunately, if you’re a PSN trophy hunter, you won’t need to look far for another motivation. Unusually for a game that started as DLC, First Light has a platinum trophy, and even more unusually packs more silver trophies than it does bronze. It’s a great way to give your percentage a nice boost without feeling guilty that you’re playing a bad game on purpose. Just saying.

A Second Son install will let you play as Delsin in the arenas.

A Second Son install will let you play as Delsin in the arenas, which is a nice touch.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Focused and personal story, challenging arena gameplay, good value for its price, absurdly trophy-licious
Bad:
Lastability tied to repetition, just one power
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515/110A M A Z I N G

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