inFAMOUS: First Light is nothing if not ambitious. Most DLC releases, even standalone offerings like First Light, come off as attempts to extend the same basic experience as the main game while throwing in a handful of additional powers or weapons and new plot points. Second Son’s first piece of downloadable content goes much, much bigger than that—and it’s a gamble that mostly pays off. In short, First Light tries to pull off three tricks. It nails two of them and flubs the third.
The first—and seemingly most difficult—task is to make Abigail “Fetch” Walker feel like a brand-new protagonist. Anyone who’s played Second Son already knows her basic shtick, and since Delsin hoovered up her neon powers, the reasonable assumption is that her abilities will be entirely familiar, too.
That’s where First Light really caught me off guard. While many of the basic concepts are the same, Fetch feels surprisingly fresh compared to neoned-up Delsin. Not only does she get her own slate of special attacks and a unique karma bomb, the basics of traversal and combat have been reworked and refined to better suit a faster playstyle. She still runs up walls and obstacles at superspeed, but the entire process is much smoother, since she can phase through fences, balconies, and overhanging roofs that block her path. The city is also now dotted with neon clouds that provide a temporary speed boost, which makes getting from one place to another a more active and inherently fun process.
The big tweak to melee combat is the addition of a takedown that allows you to knock out standard enemies in a single hit—though you’ve only got a limited number of uses, and you’re required to get normal melee kills to recharge it. It might not sound like much, but it’s an excellent tool for getting out of a jam, one that really frees you up to take the close-range berserker approach when you’re greatly outnumbered and still come out on top.
Just about the only thing that’s remained unchanged are the basic ranged shots, where you slow down time and snipe at enemies’ weak points for quick kills. Once you unlock the late game abilities, though, even that gets its own neat twist. It’s frankly astounding how much Sucker Punch was able to mix up the flow of combat and traversal without straying far from the original neon concepts.
The second trick is to instill a fair bit of a replay value into a series that’s always struggled on that front. While First Light’s approach isn’t the most novel thing you’ve ever played—a score-based battle arena that pits you against wave after wave of increasingly tough enemies—the execution is nothing short of excellent. The three arenas at your disposal have a great sense of flow, the rulesets and scoring system make it easy to pick up but tough to master, which makes seeing your name at the top of the leaderboards feel like a genuine accomplishment. Heck, the arenas even go so far as to provide a reasonable explanation within the narrative for why they exist, even sprinkling a handful of challenges into the campaign to entice reluctant players to give it a shot.
Alas, those tie-ins are the only time First Light’s third attempt—at delivering a fresh campaign experience—is entirely successful. While the four hours or so you’ll spend completing missions and tracking down open-world collectibles aren’t unenjoyable from a gameplay standpoint thanks to strong fundamentals, they pale in comparison to the more imaginative moments from Second Son.
That’s likely because Sucker Punch went out of their way to find entirely different objective types, but it seems like they’d already used up their best ideas on the main game. Here, you’ll spend a pair of missions riding on top of a truck and defending it from attacking enemies—which quickly proves to be a chore. If you’re anything like me, you’ll fail often and progress through anyway, thanks to generous checkpointing that makes the entire exercise seem almost pointless. The segments where you charge up your neon beams and have a superpowered shooting gallery are pretty brainless, and those where you race to get to a location in time using neon boosts to refill a dwindling timer are only slightly better. (The latter missions do have the added benefit of making no logical sense within the context of the game, though.) Oh, and did I mention that you’re limited to the smaller, less varied top half of the main game’s open-world Seattle? Because you are, and it’s a fairly disappointing.
The outlook is even worse from a narrative standpoint. Fetch’s relationship with her brother, Brent—the linchpin of the entire story—is too dull and rushed to bear any emotional weight. Shane, your primary antagonist, is a lazy, utterly forgettable paper tiger of a villain. Second Son’s Augustine was a bit of a mustache-twirler, sure, but that game managed to make her at least a tad bit complex and sympathetic in the final act. Your nemesis here has nothing to offer beyond casual sexism, cheap power-hunger, and evil for evil’s sake. By the time the final confrontation rolled around, I wasn’t worked up for some cathartic kill; I was just happy I wasn’t going to have to listen to him spout any more poorly written innuendo.
But that apathy was also due, in part, to First Light’s single biggest story stumble: a pivotal scene that the game manages to rob of any real meaning or character agency. The event in question felt poignant when it was referenced in the main game’s flashbacks, but watching it play out here reduces it to a borderline farcical misunderstanding with some bizarrely cartoonish D.A.R.E. undertones. It’s capital-b Bad.
In spite of the campaign’s issues, though, First Light does succeed where it matters most. Namely, it feels complete and distinct for a DLC release, standalone or otherwise. It’s admirable that Sucker Punch has done so little recycling here. Even if their substitutions don’t always pay the dividends they should, this is one of rare cases where add-on content has no trouble justifying it’s own existence. Given the reasonably low price point, anyone looking to extend their next-gen inFAMOUS experience or those who are interested in seeing if they’d like Second Son should have little reason not to check out First Light—even if it’s always going to flicker in the shadow of its full-length big brother.
Unexpectedly, First Light’s story campaign ends up being its weakest link. Compared to the depth and replayability of the score-driven combat arenas, Fetch Walker’s origin story proves to be a bit of snoozefest, especially in the context of Second Son’s respectable storytelling and mission design.
T – Teen
|inFAMOUS: First Light is available on PlayStation 4. Primary version played was for PlayStation 4. Product was provided by Sony for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|