Infamous: Festival of Blood may be a rather simple and short side-adventure in the Infamous world, but it’s definitely a memorable one that should be experienced. Building upon what the series is known for, developer Sucker Punch delivers some nice action and new powers along with continuing their forte of having relatable characters and fleshed out stories. Festival of Blood isn’t a one trick pony that will only be fun to play on Halloween but instead serves as a terrific adventure in the Infamous world and I hope we see more like it in the future.
+ New powers like Shadow Swarm are fun to use and changes up the gameplay slightly.
+ The city of New Marais hasn’t undergone a massive change, but the festive vibe of the town and darker color palettes really add to the atmosphere.
+ There aren’t too many new enemies but fighting vampires and Bloody Mary is fun.
+ PlayStation Move controls feel good and don't hinder the game in any way.
- Final boss battle left a bit to be desired.
- Campaign length and bonus quest length may be too short for some since everything can be wrapped up in around four hours.
Ever since it first hit the PlayStation 3 in 2009, the Infamous franchise has become synonymous with classic comic book storytelling – all done wonderfully through the medium that is video games. There may not be any comic book pros or legends on the staff of developer Sucker Punch Games, but the Infamous series has always delivered the perfect mix of realism and complete fantasy with characters that have true depth and personality to them. The Infamous franchise may have seemed like it was all but done given the surprise ending of Infamous 2, but Sucker Punch is back with more superhero action with Infamous: Festival of Blood – a DLC only off-shoot of the franchise that ups the fantasy factor higher than before thanks to the inclusion of one thing: blood sucking vampires.
Learning that vampires have invaded New Marais and that Cole MacGrath himself has been inflicted with the vampire curse may sound like a bit much to some people – even by comic book standards. But the one thing about Infamous: Festival of Blood is that it’s a complete one-off adventure that isn’t canon by any means. Even the basis of the game’s plot is somewhat tongue-in-cheek as the tale starts out as a yarn spun by Zeke, Cole’s pal, in an effort to win the affections of an attractive woman sitting with him in a bar, which of course means there are plenty of embellishments here and there. So in a way going into Festival of Blood isn’t an instant serious adventure, at least compared to the previous Infamous games, and for that the game is nothing but a blast.
Festival of Blood kicks off with a rather intense note as Cole has unwillingly resurrected the vampire femme fatale that is Bloody Mary. Long dormant in the catacombs of New Marais, Bloody Mary is rejuvenated by Cole’s blood, which if you don’t remember is the good stuff since he’s a conduit. To make matter’s worse, Bloody Mary is given such an initial boost by Cole’s blood that she bites him upon awakening – thus he’s now a member of the vampire nation. Since Cole isn’t too fond of feasting on people’s blood and going out at night all the time, he chooses to stop Bloody Mary and her nearly unstoppable force of vampires – all while New Marais is celebrating the festive occasion that is Pyre Night.
A brief cutscene detailing Cole's key to stopping Bloody Mary.
The thing about Festival of Blood as a whole is that it’s a simple adventure that isn’t meant to be Infamous 2.5 or even an adventure comparable to GTAIV: Liberty City Stories, it’s simply a one-off with plenty of B-movie charm and good writing. There isn’t any filler at all and Cole is literally put on a near break neck adventure to stop Bloody Mary since he has near hours to stop her before the sun comes up and he’s toast, either due to becoming ash or becoming a vampire for good. Cole’s mission to stop Bloody Mary isn’t completely one-note as Sucker Punch does an excellent job of suddenly injecting vampire lore into the Infamous mythos – or at least making it a part of New Marais’ culture. Bloody Mary herself is given some personality besides being a vampire vixen that goes into the “all redhead women are hot department” so on all fronts the narrative is sound and well thought out.
Playing through Festival of Blood made me come to the conclusion that Sucker Punch are in a way underrated for their writing prowess since they manage to pull off a vampire tale that isn’t too cliché and isn’t downright silly to the point where it ruins the source material. Beyond getting a chuckle hearing Zeke mention how he thinks Goth girls are hot, Festival of Blood still has the perfect amount of substance, character building and outright cool moments that the series is known for. Given the rather fast pace of the main adventure, Festival of Blood is almost perfect in what it accomplishes as it literally can be looked at as a single comic book issue or an TV episode put in video game form.
Sucker Punch also did deliver the goods in the gameplay department since Cole’s new abilities and the abilities of his foes do add a lot to the mix – even if you’re like me and completed every aspect of Infamous 2. Being bitten by a vampire queen may suck, but it does have its benefits as Cole can now fly in a classic bat swarm along with having Vampire Vision – which despite its somewhat lame name can allow Cole to see vampires hidden in the midst of New Marais along with other secrets scattered about. One thing about Festival of Blood and Cole’s abilities that needs to be addressed is that gamers don’t pick up with everything they had in Infamous 2. So if you unlocked every power in the game and had it leveled up then you won’t be able to access that since Festival of Blood is its own thing and if such a thing was included it would likely present some nightmare balancing issues.
Cole deals with some vampires in this gameplay segment.
Anyway, with Cole’s new skills at my disposal I was surprised at how much new energy was put into the game. Even with Cole’s old tricks like lobbing electric grenades or using the sonic thrusters, using swarm to navigate around New Marais was simply wicked since it can also be used in combat for a fast instant kill move. I was somewhat surprised that many of the combat encounters in Festival of Blood have more of an emphasis on melee combat. I was certainly able to use Cole’s standard abilities during sub-boss encounters with the giant bat that is the Firstborn, but going up against some of the standard vampires required me to get up and close and personal so I could stab them in the heart with Cole’s newly equipped cross weapon (think the Tesla coil but now it’s a cool looking cross). The melee action in Festival of Blood felt rather good since the finishing moves are still flashy and doing an instant-kill via the Shadow Swarm maneuver always left a smile on my face.
Using Cole’s new vampire abilities does have a downside as Cole needs to feed; in particular he needs human blood to keep him going. Yes, in Infamous: Festival of Blood you need not worry about morale compass since there’s no Karma system and no penalties or bonuses given out for heroic or evil deeds. In some respects I would’ve liked to see Sucker Punch dealt with Cole’s new found vampire nature and perhaps still utilize the Karma elements, both thematically and from a gameplay perspective in some fashion. It’s not that Cole doesn’t turn into a cold-blooded vampire during the course of Festival of Blood, but there’s not much self-reflecting once I had Cole dine on 100+ citizens of New Marais so my vampire abilities could still be used.
One major new component that has been added to the Infamous series as a whole is PlayStation Move integration. It’s rare that we see the Move actually used for proper 3rd person action games and to my surprise I was rather impressed when using the Move to kill vampires or explore New Marais. Using both a Move controller and a NavCon was straightforward as all of Cole’s powers (both normal and vampire in nature) have been mapped to the Move controller in an institutive way. In the past when I’ve played 3rd person action games with the Move there’s always been a slight disconnect or obvious tuning problems in how fast the reticule moves, but Sucker Punch pretty much nailed it on the head in their first go.
I will say that in a few cases it was difficult to make sure my hand was steady since the Move does act as the reticule pointer during combat so it’s best not to have the thing moving all over place unless you’re tracking enemy movement. I wouldn’t say that using the Move is the immediate go-to way to experience Infamous: Festival of Blood or even Infamous 2 once the Move patch goes live, but it is a solid secondary control layout and isn’t a complete hindrance like it is in other games.
There’s not much in Festival of Blood for me to complain about since Sucker Punch did deliver the goods. New Marais itself (or at least the first section since that’s the only accessible area) underwent a face-lift to celebrate the occasion that is Pyre Night. Not a direct rift on Halloween, Pyre Night has transformed New Marais into a mass party zone as balloons are floating all over the place and slightly creepy wooden figures (think the Wicker Man but on a smaller scale) reside across town. Visually I wasn’t expecting Festival of Blood to be that much of a step up compared to Infamous 2, but the Pyre Night theme and emphasis on lighting from the burning figures and general creepy vampire vibe does manage the game to stick out and in some ways eclipse what was done in Infamous 2.
Infamous: Festival of Blood isn’t a one-trick pony that is banking on the Halloween spirit to become a success but instead is a solid and well produced entry in the Infamous series. The vampire nature of Festival of Blood manages to work wonderfully given the narrative approach Sucker Punch employed and doesn’t feel too corny or like it’s aping on the success of things like True Blood. The one gripe gamers may have about Festival of Blood is that it can be finished extremely fast when focusing on the story missions and even then there isn’t much to do aside from a few easily completed side-quests. The short playtime however didn’t prove to be too detrimental since the game was only $10, which is an absolute steal considering the production values it has. As a side story in the Infamous world Festival of Blood is an absolute must play to anyone who considers themselves a fan of the electric powered hero that is Cole MacGrath.