Thursday, October 27, 2011

REVIEW - inFamous: Festival of Blood

If inFamous and inFamous 2 are each twelve months' worth of comic-book story arc - meaty and satisfying meals of gameplay and narrative - Festival of Blood is a little two-issue affair that will only really appeal to collectors. It's a two-hour side story - a tongue-in-cheek Halloween-themed episode of your favorite TV show that suddenly posits the existence of undead. It's Sucker Punch having some fun - and it's fun for the player as well - but Festival of Blood draws very little sustenance from the lively, vital body of inFamous 2.

A skimpy pinch of new abilities, a fresh (see: spooooky) color palette, new enemies and a legitimately interesting story are the stars of the show. Sucker Punch have always provided a good, workmanlike narrative that suitably engages the player - and Festival of Blood's truncated tale is as good as a B-side in a comic book serial or TV show. The story of Bloody Mary, her gruesome history and her terrible mistake of going against hero Cole McGrath is fun enough to see us through FoB's proceedings, but has no real lasting resonance.

After having been bitten by the malicious matriarch of the vampires, Cole begins to notice some changes.

He can turn into a flock of bats and fly at will - which instantly makes the lack of Lightning Tether or Ice Launch abilities acceptable. Whooshing over the city and coming to know when, precisely, you should re-form into your earthly body takes a bit of practice and becomes suitably satisfying when mastered. In order to power his flight you have to suck the blood of the innocent populous for a full recharge of your canopic jar or stake vampires for a much smaller portion, but that's pretty much it for interesting new powers.

Elsewhere, every new gameplay mechanic on offer is simply one from inFamous 2, dressed in a Halloween costume.

Staking a vampire when it's down.
Kicking any normal enemy to finish it off.

Vampire sense, to detect vampires hiding in crowds.
Cole's pulse sense, revealing enemies disguised as pedestrians.

Finding jars of blood to increase the capacity of your canopic jar.
Discovering blast shards.

Finding parts of Bloody Mary's story hidden in vampire glyphs.
Finding dead drop recordings.

Using vampire sense to detect a hidden vampire and one-shotting him with a stake to the back to see him lose control of his shape-shifting, turn into a monster and die with a roar.
is actually pretty awesome.

Festival of Blood sees the use of the game's entire first two neighborhoods - a goodly amount of real estate to run around and break up vampire feedings - and the act of playing the game retains the easygoing, comfortable pleasure that made inFamous 2 such a stunning success. The only real misstep is that, once you've read five of Bloody Mary's vampire glyph stories, an upgrade to your vampire sense provides the same ability as Blast Shard Sense at the end of inFamous 2 - the direction of the nearest blood jar and vampire glyph can always be brought up on your minimap - and you can simply fly straight to it.

This drains your blood supply, but upon picking up a jar it is completely refilled. After you've found one, just ping for the nearest jar and take to the skies again. It took me about fifteen minutes to find every single jar last night before I tackled the last two missions.

Another missed opportunity are the inclusions of a few indoor sequences that do little to leverage inFamous's greatest strength - its platforming.

In inFamous (and Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood, come to think of it) some of the best platforming in the game could be found within directed, contained interior sequences. inFamous used dimly lit sewers to highlight the grace and precision of Cole's platforming abilities, and one would expect Festival of Blood's occasional foray into the crypts beneath New Marais to similarly champion the best facet of the game, but these sequences are simply long corridors you have to fight your way through.

Shame, that.

If you're a fan of inFamous or you're just up for a fine few hours of vampire-killing action to celebrate Halloween, you could do much worse than inFamous: Festival of Blood. It's nice to be back in New Marais with Cole and Zeke - a pleasure to spend more time with them and leaf through a new inFamous story - but there is little and less on offer here, when held up to its more ambitious counterparts.

We live in a world, after all, where the brilliant Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare exists for the same ten-dollar price point. When campy, fun, supernatural-themed DLC can take on such scope and depth and completely change the way a modern classic is played in the process, I can't suggest that anything less is a true success.

Taken on its own merits, it's fine. A decent story - and fun to play - with several familiar inFamous gameplay tropes done up in holiday masque. Compared to the best similar fare on offer, however, ivory-skinned Vampire McGrath is very pale in comparison.

  • very fun gameplay - it's more inFamous 2!
  • new art assets and color palette do a great job of dressing up New Marais
  • you can drink the blood of pedestrians. It's very brief and weirdly sexy.
  • bat flight is way more fun than it should be
  • great voice work
  • a fun, indulgent little story
  • detecting a vampire hidden in a crowd of pedestrians and staking him is pretty awesome
  • there's very little new content here - you can find every canopic jar and beat the game in about 2.5 hours
  • not much in terms of new gameplay mechanics
  • indoor sequences fail to capitalize on inFamous's strengths
  • doesn't even compare to other, more ambitious fare
  • ten dollars is pretty dear, for what's on offer
  • it feels as if there was a great deal of potential to do more with this


inFamous fans will find some fun at the Festival, but it's a far cry from required reading and doesn't compare to its more ambitious competition.

1 comment:

  1. There's been surprisingly little buzz about this. It's a shame that nothing really came out the mission creator for 2.