Developer: Sucker Punch / Publisher: SCEA / Price: $9.99 / Rating: Teen [Suggestive Themes, Violence, Blood, Use of Alcohol, Language] / Played on: PlayStation 3
When I first saw the announcement for InFamous: Festival of Blood, I groaned. I couldn’t help but feel that Sucker Punch was directly cribbing from the moderately creative idea of taking your franchise and adding a slight horror twist a la Red Dead Redemption’s Undead Nightmare DLC. But aside from not being DLC (Festival of Blood is a stand alone game), the latest release in the InFamous series makes some welcome tweaks to the core formula while keeping the best parts intact. However, its incredibly short length and mostly inconsequential storyline make it tough to recommend except to the most hardcore of InFamous fans.
Imagine if Mardi Gras happened at the same time as Halloween. That’s what Pyre Night is. It’s an annual celebration during which masked street performers and demon wing-wearing women crowd the streets of New Marais. It just so happens that this one particular year, a group of vampires is using the night as cover to invade the city. The celebration turns sour for Cole and his chubby sidekick Zeke when Cole gets bit by the head vampire babe, Bloody Mary, giving him until dawn to slay her before falling completely under her control.
The entire narrative is framed through Zeke as he (unreliably) reminisces about the night to a prospective lady friend he drunkenly meets at a bar. While this provides a change of perspective from the standard narrative devices used in most games, the tale ultimately lacks any kind of drama because you know how it’s going to end well before it really starts.
In some ways, Festival of Blood is a direct response to mechanics that, in my opinion, didn’t work in InFamous 2 proper. Gone is the grind-heavy morality system, replaced with the Blood Meter. Cole’s new vampire abilities (which I’ll get into shortly) will drain his Blood Meter. The only way to refill it? Suck the blood of innocents. There’s no choice here. Taking out civilians for their delicious blood is a necessary evil that Cole must cope with. Completely doing away with the morality mechanic of InFamous 2 is maybe Festival of Blood’s greatest accomplishment. The problem was that InFamous 2 often forced you to earn good and evil XP just through the actions of completing missions. So if I wanted to be Evil Cole, I’d have to grind evil side missions in order to make up for the good XP I was unintentionally earning. This removed the impact of any meaningful “choices” you had to make in the game.
Other improvements to the core InFamous experience come in the form of Cole’s new abilities. Holding down R2 will cause you to enter into Vampire Vision, an X-ray-like filter that, for all intents and purposes, is used to highlight collectibles and otherwise hidden objects. Using the entire screen is a welcome change from constantly pinging your mini-map for Blast Shards in InFamous 2. The other useful ability you’ll unlock is Shadow Swarm. For a short period of time (until your blood meter runs out), Cole is able to turn into a flock of bats and actually fly. As you might imagine, this eliminates some of the trial and error inherent in the vertical traversal mechanics of the series.
Taking just around two hours to complete, Festival of Blood’s storyline is incredibly brief. But my disappointment at the game’s brevity was offset by the realization that, after the credits rolled, I was dumped back into New Marais with a crap ton of collectibles to find. Over 100 Canopic Blood Jars, which will increase the capacity of your blood meter, are strewn across the south island of the city (the north island is inaccessible in Festival of Blood) and are just as addictive to collect as Blast Shards. This is in addition to Bloody Mary’s markings, which are invisible to you without Vampire Vision active. If InFamous scratches your completionist itch than this alone may be worth the price of admission.
And after you’ve done all that stuff, there’s still user-generated content missions that will populate the game world. The full suite of tools is available to you inside of Festival of Blood and if you think you can get past the somewhat obtuse interface, there are some new art assets available to use. I didn’t dive into this feature when I played InFamous 2 but taking a quick go at it in Festival of Blood I was able to create a mission that required players to push a group of skull mask-wearing drumming dudes off the top of a roof.
InFamous: Festival of Blood is more InFamous. At just under two hours of story here, it’s kind of hard to recommend this to someone looking for an engaging narrative, even with some improved mechanics. However, if you’ve got 100 percent of everything in InFamous 2 and have the itch to collect more then Festival of Blood should be up your alley.