INFAMOUS: FIRST LIGHT — Only Half-Good
INFAMOUS: FIRST LIGHT is a bite sized example of what is problematic in “open-world” games. Now, it’s hard for me to rip apart every aspect of this downloadable, standalone side story to INFAMOUS: SECOND SON. Why? Because at the price of $15, it’s difficult to hold the game to the same criticism I use with $60 titles. Regardless of the price, it’s still a nice snapshot at why we should start looking for other options in our open-world experiences.
To preface this post – I have not played INFAMOUS: SECOND SON. I do not know anything about the fiction aside from what I learned in the previous PS3 titles. I saw this tiny game as a chance to see what developer Sucker Punch has done with the tech in the PS4 era.
We are introduced to Fetch – a former drug addict who is running around stealing money with her brother in order to save up enough to run to Canada. After her brother is caught, Fetch must act within the parameters of a drug lord who holds the brother’s safety hostage. All of this is told in the past tense as Fetch is in the custody of the DUP, a unit dedicated to reforming Conduits
FIRST LIGHT follows the path of a standard super-power game. You are introduced slowly to your abilities and unlock them over time. As you progress, more and more enemies hog the city and you run into trouble around every corner. But, by the end, you have unlocked super-powers that knock everyone away and don’t have to worry about conflict. The powers are pretty in this game. Neon lighting floods the screen and like the other INFAMOUS games, the combat is satisfying.
Unfortunately, that’s where is all stops being fun. The story and the mechanics are well done. You feel passion behind the character of Fetch and the player cares about the outcome of her story. And yeah, it’s fun running around near-future Seattle blowing shit up or coasting through the sky as a pink, neon blur. The joy gets sucked out when you have to engage in the missions or any of the side content. The story missions consist of doing side activity-like stuff to progress. One mission has you running around shooting down drones which you have to find with your phone. Another forces you to hunt down six trucks in the city to stop drug shipments. Oh, my least favorite was having to race from one point to another, opening cargo containers. But, in order to get to the next point, you have to get there before the clock ran out. It’s not fun to play and feels like something from a generation ago.
It was the same issue I had with ASSASSIN’S CREED IV – in that the gameplay was a blast and the side content was enjoyable to tackle but as soon as you jumped into the story mission, shit got tiring. FIRST LIGHT is problematic in the same way but because it’s so short and focused, the issues are exaggerated.
The side content is repetitive but that’s expected because of the very nature of those activities. You know, “collect so many of blah blah” or “blow up this many things.” I don’t want to say it gets a pass, but because of the optional nature, you can step away from it for a while – it’s hard to step away from the story.
Sucker Punch also included challenges in-game to aid in unlocking upgrades for powers. Those are fun but at the end of the day, I’m not going to sit around all day to kill 200 bad guys to unlock powers for a tiny game. The time outweighs the benefit. I’ll just go play SAINTS ROW if I want to fuck around in an open-world post story-mode.
FIRST LIGHT is a frustrating experience. I wanted to forgive its shortcomings because of the heartfelt story and the beautiful gameplay/graphics, but there was too much in the way. I can’t forgive the final act in which the game, instead of trying to give you a challenge, just throws a ton of enemies at you. That’s not fun and not a challenge. It’s lazy design, but I feel Sucker Punch just didn’t know how to pull off the content in its tiny form. They did it once with FESTIVAL OF BLOOD but it didn’t translate to this post-Cole world.