Infamous: First Light is typical in a lot of ways. It's a downloadable spin-off to the solid PS4 title Infamous: Second Son, one that delves into the origin story of a super-powered character capable of harnessing neon light to do everything from glide through the air to shoot glowing pink laser bolts at bad guys. It only lasts around five hours, but First Light gives you everything you'd expect out of a superhero action game. There's one key difference, though — it stars a woman.
The protagonist of First Light is Abigail "Fetch" Walker, who first appeared in Second Son as a vigilante intent on ridding Seattle of drug dealers. In her standalone title you learn just why she hates them so much. First Light is basically a standard damsel in distress story, except in this case the damsel is Fetch's older brother, who has been kidnapped by criminals who are trying to blackmail her to take control of the city's seedy underbelly.
The Infamous series takes place in a sort of X-Men-like universe, where superpowered people like Fetch — who are known as "conduits" — are labelled bioterrorists, and a well-funded government organization called DUP is intent on rounding them all up. She’s basically the universe’s Jubilee, a spunky kid with bright flashy powers, only Fetch has a mean streak. First Light jumps back and forth between the story of Fetch's brother and her time spent in a DUP prison and, despite the short run time, the story is great, building towards a surprisingly heartbreaking ending. The final scene is perfect and makes the small slice of the game feel like a complete experience.
She loves to create mayhem
Action games tend to star depressingly generic characters that can be hard to tell apart. The biggest blockbusters — whether it’s Call of Duty, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed, or basically any first-person shooter — nearly all star straight white men that are virtually identical. And not just in terms of how they look, but also how they act: they’re angry, out for vengeance, and they have little personality beyond that. I can barely remember a thing about that guy with the hat from Watch Dogs other than him being really mad his niece was dead. Even popular games that step outside this mold, such as Bioshock, do so very gently.
That's part of what makes First Light such a refreshing change. It's not just that Fetch is a woman, a rarity in the genre — she's also a uniquely interesting and complex character." Young and immature, dealing with drug problems while living on the streets, and coming to grips with her new powers. Her life is pretty complicated. Whereas young female characters are often depicted as weak or vulnerable, Fetch destroys her enemies with a disturbing sense of glee. One mission has you trying to blow up as much of the city as possible to distract the police, and her laughter during this scene is chilling. She loves to create mayhem.
The main characters from Infamous: Second Son and Infamous 2
In fact, outside of the copious use of pink, having a female lead doesn't dramatically change the Infamous formula in any real way. Fetch isn’t sexualized and people are rightfully terrified of her and her volatile powers. The missions feel familiar, jumping between frantic action scenes where you kill waves and waves of bad guys, as well as timed chases that let you use Fetch's super speed to track down your enemies. You can even use Fetch's powers to shoot down drones that the police use to keep tabs on her. "We wanted to make a strong character-driven game, regardless of gender," says Sucker Punch Productions' Jason Connell, who served as creative lead on the game.The one exception to this is the main antagonist in the game, an up-and-coming criminal boss who spends the first few hours of the game sexually harassing Fetch every time they talk. It becomes grating, especially since Fetch is forced to grit and bear the abuse in order to protect her brother.
"I’m always stumped as to why there aren’t more."
According to Connell, Fetch was actually inspired in part by Laura Bailey, the actress who voices the character. "Laura and [director Nate Fox] were very close in further driving the character of Fetch," he explains. "Many of her personality traits come from Laura’s acting." He also says that the studio chose Fetch to star in the new game because they wanted to explore her character more in depth, not just to have a token female. "When we started exploring the characters," he says, "it was an easy decision."
As great as First Light is, though, it's somewhat disappointing that Fetch is relegated to a downloadable spin-off as opposed to a full-fledged game. First Light is a game aimed at existing Infamous fans who want to delve further into the universe. It's not really an experience that will bring in new people excited about an awesome new female superhero. (That said, First Light is a standalone title, so you don't need to own Second Son to play it. The story also works fairly well on its own.) Five hours with Fetch was fun, but I definitely want more.
Connell says that the success of First Light won't determine whether the next Infamous will similarly have a female lead; instead the choice will be story-driven, as it was with Fetch. "Our team would make those kinds of decisions by looking at the story, experience, and emotional journey we are trying to create," he says. For now, Fetch joins Lara Croft in the recent Tomb Raider reboot in gaming's small group of great female action stars, and one of its only female superheroes. Just like comics and movies, it seems like games are slowly moving to a future where female leads aren’t an anomaly. "I’m always stumped as to why there aren’t more," says Connell, "but I will say that I’m excited to be part of a project that didn’t think twice on this."
Infamous: First Light is available today on the PlayStation 4.