Sucker Punch has released a new standalone inFamous title as a sort of spinoff to this year’s Second Son. This time they’re telling the backstory of Abigail ‘Fetch’ Walker. You’ll get to explore part of Seattle again in all of Fetch’s neon glory, with a completely new set of Neon powers.
I’m not going to rewrite everything I wrote about inFamous: Second Son here. The gameplay, sound design, and visuals are all largely the same, the voice acting is just as well done, and Fetch’s Neon powers are just as engaging to use as Delsin’s were albeit slightly different… and they did add one really cool traversal mechanic called ‘Neon Clouds’ that make you move really fast if you run through them… but the real differences lie within the story and the overall flow of the game.
First Light is Fetch’s origin, as told through flashbacks during her ‘training’ at Curdun Cay. Scenes alternate between a weird mix of interrogation and training in Curdun Cay and those telling the actual story. This story telling felt so out of place, and the Curdun Cay scenes felt so contrived… it just did not work the way I think it was intended to. And it’s a pity, because the story itself is pretty interesting – it’s not often you get to see a sympathetic look at a homeless former drug addict, but they pulled that part off very well. Fetch’s instability came across loud and clear and made me care for her and worry about what was going to happen even though those of us who played Second Son knew the eventual outcome. This is an impressive feat given the specifics of Fetch’s character – it’s not easy to make a homeless uneducated former drug addict appealing or relatable as a character. It’s just presented in a way that separates you from the parts you actually care about occasionally for no real reason other than to introduce you to new powers.
Which brings me to the other key flaw… the game doesn’t flow very well. inFamous games have traditionally been about recapturing parts of a city and expanding the territory that you’re free to roam in… so certain mechanics make sense in them. The concept of having a subdivided map with various points of interest, completion percentages, etc make sense when you’re essentially conquering territory. When you’re just trying to find your brother and leave… not so much. And the laid back pace of the game is really incongruous with the time-sensitive nature of your objective. As a result of this, the side missions – even the fun ones – kind of feel out of place, and having to do so many to get access to the fun upgrades doesn’t feel natural. Some of the missions in previous entries have had a bit of this feel, but in First Light the feeling is everywhere. The entire thing feels like they’re just trying to make the game seem longer… which is silly because the game features a very clever endless game mode.
You see, the Curdun Cay segments I mentioned before – they’re repeatable. And if you had Second Son, you can do them as Delsin with his full powerset as well. It’s a very interesting and intelligent way to introduce replayability into what is essentially a side story. The missions themselves are not the most satisfying, but the global leaderboards and the competitive nature of them works very well. And judging from the scores I saw last time I looked at them, it’s clear that some people have taken this to heart and have been grinding these out for practice.
It’s understandable, since Second Son’s strongest asset was it’s gameplay, and that carries over into First Light as well – this ‘third person shooter’ simply works incredibly well, and it is just as fun as Second Son was… it’s just a pity the game’s pacing and flow were mishandled and that they weren’t willing to drop mechanics that wouldn’t fit where necessary. If they had, this could have been Sucker Punch’s chance to refine Second Son and create a perfect small morsel of the game… but in stead we end up with a game that stands almost entirely on its gameplay and the replayability the arena mode provides. It’s great, but not as much so as it could have been.