This review may contain mild spoilers for inFAMOUS: Second Son. Read with caution.
Games like inFAMOUS are tricky these days. Once upon a time, studios could make a game, release it, and be done with it. Today, it’s all about longevity. Those studios have to consider content after the game is released. They want to make sure that gamers do not want to put their games down, and that they continue purchasing tidbits of content.
inFAMOUS, however, is so story driven that post-launch longevity is not very simple. Sucker Punch Productions could just chuck a multiplayer mode onto it, but not without making it feel like… well, like it just chucked a multiplayer mode onto it (lookin’ at you, Naughty Dog). If I’m a developer, I’m faced with the question of how to add longevity and value to my game in a way that is meaningful to my gamers and profitable to my company.
Sucker Punch’s answer: make more game.
Announced at E3 2014, inFAMOUS: First Light is an addition to the excellent inFAMOUS: Second Son. It’s not just DLC though; Sucker Punch has chosen to release First Light as a standalone game, available for purchase and use independently of Second Son.
First Light does not focus on Delsin Rowe, the main protagonist (or antagonist, as it were) of inFAMOUS: Second Son who fought against the Department of Unified Protection to free himself and other super powered “conduits” from oppression. Instead, it focuses on the story of Abigail “Fetch” Walker, who Delsin befriended on his journey. In Second Son, gamers got only a glimpse of Fetch’s story, a mere narrated flashback.
The flashback explained that when Fetch’s powers came in, her own parents tried to turn her in to the D.U.P. Brent, her brother, ran away with her, and the siblings lived on the streets and became very addicted to drugs. At some point, Fetch believed Brent stole her stash of drugs, and the addiction that consumed them led them to fight each other. Fetch had the sobering experience of accidentally killing her brother with her power. After this flashback, Fetch and Delsin worked together with very little reference to Fetch’s past other than her desire to victimize drug dealers (in Hero gameplay).
In First Light, this rather riveting flashback is expanded into a good 4-5 hours of content. In addition to that, there is plenty more for those gamers who like to find collectibles or race little balls of light around Seattle.
Gamers first find Fetch sitting in a dark room, with only the voice of Brooke Augustine, Second Son’s villainess, for company. Gamers know from Second Son that Fetch is in Curdun Cay, the D.U.P. detention facility for conduits. Augustine coaxes her to tell her story, the game moves to “two years earlier,” and gamers finally get a taste of what it’s like to be Fetch while Delsin is still off somewhere nearby with his brother and the rest of his Akomish tribe, probably ordering a truckload of spray paint.
Gamers also get to meet Brent, Fetch’s brother, and see for the first time that his mohawk is blue. He and Fetch are loading a boat, intending to leave Seattle after Brent completes one last “job.” Fetch agrees to provide her own brand of help, to Brent’s dismay, but since they’re on their way out of town, he allows Fetch to neon off into the city in pursuit of a red briefcase currently in the Akurans’ possession.
Naturally, the job goes wrong. The Akurans, the mysterious foreign gang that hangs around brandishing guns threateningly at Delsin throughout Second Son, can’t help but make life a drag for First Light’s drug-addicted protagonists.
After awhile, the story pauses, and gamers are taken back to Curdun Cay, where Fetch is taken to an arena where she gets to practice her powers on holograms so generously provided by Eugene, another of Delsin’s buddies from Second Son. Augustine is very supportive as Fetch defeats enemy after enemy, whether to save an unarmed hologram with an HP count over his head from holographic Akurans with their guns aimed sideways, or to simply survive.
Though very un-inFAMOUS, the arena gameplay is actually rather fun, but each time it transported me from Seattle two years ago to Curdun Cay in the present, I felt a bit of whiplash. I’m into the story, into the open world, and then suddenly I’m stuck in an arena. In hindsight, I’m sure Fetch probably felt a lot worse about that than I did, but as a gamer it’s jarring to suddenly be transported from one world to another in the middle of the story.
That said, if arena gameplay was set in stone on Sucker Punch’s to-do list, this was probably the best way to implement it. It’s natural that Fetch might take a break while telling her emotionally charged story. The arena is also where Fetch tends to show off new powers. Gamers are forced to give it a try, and are shown that there’s far more to do once the story is over. The arena isn’t left as a menu option on the title screen for gamers to ignore.
After the arena, Fetch returns to her original seat to continue her story. This back-and-forth between Seattle and Curdun Cay happens a few different times throughout the game.
Exploring Seattle as Fetch is extremely fun. Many gamers loved the neon power as Delsin in Second Son. As Fetch, it’s on a whole other level. For example, clouds of neon gas appear when Fetch dashes, and if she runs through them, she rockets forward at even greater speed for a decent amount of time. She also leaves that glowy neon trail in the air when she dashes that Delsin seems utterly incapable of replicating.
In combat, there is no morality gauge, but the slowing of time and the appearance of glowing weak points are still a thing, and a good thing at that because they allow Fetch (or Delsin) to defeat large numbers of enemies without feeling too overwhelmed or having it too easy.
One of Fetch’s most useful tools is the ability to see what’s around her. A click of the left analog stick highlights all enemy targets nearby in pink, and all objectives in lime green. Delsin did not have that in Second Son, but now that it exists, I wish he did.
The story ends differently in First Light than it does in the Second Son flashback. Obviously, Fetch kills Brent, but in Second Son Fetch thought he stole her drug stash and they fought. That’s not what happens in First Light. The differences between First Light and that flashback in Second Son are noticeable, but I like that they are there. First Light’s version makes for a more satisfying game than Second Son’s might have, and really, after experiencing one of Fetch’s drug trips, I’m not sure I’d want to play the whole thing like that anyway.
Oh, and you do get to move around Curdun Cay after awhile. There are no hints as to where exactly it is, but it’s very snowy—and Sucker Punch’s snow does look amazing.
As an aside for Second Son, inFAMOUS: First Light provides some engrossing background for one of Second Son’s most interesting characters, taking what worked very well in Second Son and using it to tell a different story. As a standalone game, it accomplishes this while being fun, engaging, and without relying too heavily on Second Son, or spoiling it for those who may be interested in playing it. In fact, First Light ends in a way that would point new gamers to Second Son.
You finish First Light feeling that the story shouldn’t be over. I wasn’t sure whether to tag that as genius or neglect on Sucker Punch’s part, because though I feel like I wanted a little bit more from First Light, I now want to play Second Son again. Of course, the true end is actually in Second Son. For now, let’s mark it as genius. First Light and Fetch’s story are not about closure. That’s Second Son’s job.
First Light is only 15 US dollars, 12 British pounds (just under 16 for the physical copy), or 15 Euros. If you have played inFAMOUS: Second Son, or if you haven’t but could use something to show you why you should, inFAMOUS: First Light is definitely worth both the money the time. To other game developers looking to add longevity and value to their games, take notes: this is how you do it.