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Infamous: Festival Of Blood Impressions

by Joe Juba on Oct 26, 2011 at 01:38 PM

I started and finished the Infamous vampire-themed DLC today, and was surprised by how much my opinion about it has changed since this morning. Going in, I was skeptical. It’s a non-canon side-story, it doesn’t use your Infamous 2 save data, and you don’t have access to Cole’s full range of abilities. That may sound damning, but now that I’ve completed Festival of Blood, I can say that it is among the best post-release additions to a game I’ve ever seen.

What makes it so great? It all comes down to the fact that the team at Sucker Punch used this DLC as an opportunity to experiment and go off the rails rather than just give gamers more of the same missions found in Infamous 2. In fact, you don’t even need to own Infamous 2 to play Festival of Blood; it’s a standalone game available for $9.99 on PSN.

The story focuses on Cole transformed into a vampire by a legendary figure named Bloody Mary on Pyre Night (a New Marais-specific holiday that combines Halloween and Mardi Gras). You can get an idea what to expect by watching the teaser trailer, but I won’t spoil the sparse plot by giving away its few developments. I will say this: A dude with an awesome mustache is involved.

Despite dealing with blood-sucking undead, the narrative is lighthearted. Since the events of Festival of Blood aren’t actually occurring within the Infamous fiction (it’s more of a story-within-a-story), it frees Sucker Punch from having to worry about whether something fits with the Infamous mythos. It doesn’t go totally bonkers, but the what-if scenario means that you can just say, “Yeah, okay. Vampires exist,” and roll with the punches.

Once he becomes a vampire, new horizons open up for Cole. Deviating from Cole’s normal abilities is initially what made me question Festival of Blood’s approach, but you gain more than you lose. By sacrificing your full arsenal (you can’t even manually upgrade your powers), you get access to new vampire-themed abilities. The highlight is called shadow swarm, and it allows Cole to transform into a wisp of smoke and fly through the world.

If you’re an Infamous fan, you know this is a huge development for the series. Cole has been able to glide and grind before, but actually flying from rooftop to rooftop feels like a perfect and natural progression of his abilities. It controls well and saves you the headache of having to scale up the sides of tall buildings if you miss a jump or get knocked of a roof. Given how well this is implemented, I can’t help but hope that Sucker Punch is testing the waters in this side-story to see how flight might work in the next full-fledged installment of Infamous.

Because it isn’t a part of his electrical powers, shadow swarm doesn’t use the same source of energy. Your grenades and rockets still drain electrical nodes, but flight runs off of a blood meter that you need to keep charged by sucking blood from civilians. “But wait,” you may be saying. “That sounds evil! What if I’m the good version of Cole?” Short answer: You’re not good. The blood meter replaces the morality meter in Festival of Blood, so you won’t be making any decisions. 

Even with these changes, the basic missions follow the familiar template. You kill a bunch of bad guys and disable some thingamajigs, but you’re not doing much repetition within Festival of Blood. Thankfully, the enemies are new, and they have some tricks that regular Infamous 2 thugs don’t. Most of them can teleport around like Cole, some can hang on the walls, and others will jump on Cole’s back. Your ability to fly, use your vampire senses, and swing a cool new melee weapon make these encounters even better. The only disappointing fight is the final one, which is your standard “hold off waves of enemies while Zeke does something” affair.

Festival of Blood integrates Move support. The less said about this the better…but here are a few sentences: The only motion-based functionality is aiming and rotating the camera, which works terribly in combat. If you’ve already played an Infamous game, you will not want to use Move controls. Also, if you have not already played an Infamous game, you will not want to use Move controls.

Like Infamous 2, Festival of Blood provides tools to make user-generated content (which don’t mix with Infamous 2 UGC missions). As with all community creations, I found the content to be wildly inconsistent in quality, ranging from fun to playable to broken. Even so, the missions give you a reason to continue playing the DLC after you’ve finished its core plot.

Sony and Sucker Punch’s release of Festival of Blood as a standalone game may seem like a warning sign, but the gameplay delivers. By not being bound to previous data or mechanics, this expansion has me more excited for a new Infamous than ever. Incidentally, if you’re interested in what we’d like to see from Infamous 3, you can check out our wishlist. In the meantime, you should play Festival of Blood.