Infamous: Festival of Blood Review

Festival of Blood offers a taste of the Infamous experience--great exploration hampered by frustrating combat.

Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Brave children utter these words to summon a ghost in their bathroom mirror, but Cole McGrath doesn't have to resort to such measures to make her acquaintance. Ambushed by the vampiric version of this folklore figure, Cole is transformed into a fanged monster of the night. He feasts on the innocent while striking down the undead with his electrical fury when they try to drive a stake through his heart. New Marais has never looked as haunting as it does during Pyre Night, and a wealth of collectibles give you plenty of reason to investigate this brooding burg. Festival of Blood is a stand-alone experience that encompasses many of the highs and lows of inFamous 2. The empowering movement controls clash with punishing combat scenarios, resulting in an uneven experience that constructs artificial roadblocks to your rampaging enjoyment. But the delights overshadow most frustrations, making Festival of Blood another solid entry in the electrical franchise.

Trolling through dank catacombs is seldom a good idea. Cole is rather reckless since he has been imbued with superheroic powers, and his carelessness leads to big troubles. On Pyre Night, while the citizens of New Marais are dressed as the undead to celebrate some long-forgotten pagan holiday, Cole is confronted by the real thing. A few drops of his precious blood awaken the slumbering banshee, and Cole becomes a vampire in the process. He has just eight hours to break the curse, or he is stuck drinking peoples' nutrients forever. As off the wall as the story initially appears, it fits right into the universe constructed by the previous two games. Brash and jealous Zeke still pals around with this long-toothed buddy, and the two happily murder the beasts flitting through the city. One noticeable change is that the morality system has been scrapped entirely. It's a positive tweak, letting you drain the necks of the innocent without having to feel remorse for your actions.

The structure is unchanged from the previous open-world games, though the city is much smaller than before. New Marais encompassed three separate zones in Infamous 2, but they've been chopped down to just one for Festival of Blood. Thankfully the shrinking size doesn't derail the mischievous fun because there is a lot of content packed into relatively tight confines. The story missions take only a couple of hours to play through, and they offer enough variety between exploration and combat to keep them fresh, but it's the wealth of collectibles and side missions that keep things moving. As a vampire, you are blessed with a powerful new move that affects both your movement and attack prowess. Cole can turn into a swarm of bats with the push of a button and fly freely over buildings, through teeming streets, and into the jugular of his many victims. It's a surreal feeling that lasts only a few seconds before your blood powers drain away.

The only thing that could make blood more delicious would be a sip through a curly straw.
The only thing that could make blood more delicious would be a sip through a curly straw.

This handicap may seem troublesome at first, since flying without a care is so exhilarating, but it pushes you to find the hidden goodies that raise your maximum level. And it's in the hunt for treasure that Festival of Blood truly excels. Cole has a new vampire vision ability that lets him see invisible text and highlight lost items. You may switch to this mode while standing on top of a towering building and see a flash of white in the distance. Fly to that spot and see that it's an arrow urging you onward. Once you follow a series of these signs, you reach the end, where a sigil gives you information on Bloody Mary's dark past. Her unsettling stories are enough of a reward, but your vampire sense is further heightened, letting you find secrets much more easily. There are vials that give your flight power a boost, as well as vampires masquerading as humans whose identities can be revealed in a wink. Hunting down all of these extras takes quite a few hours, and it's the best part of this package. New Marais is a gorgeous, creepy city, and being given a great reason to explore its many coves is a strong hook.

Troubles arise when you have to get your hands dirty with combat. As in previous games, Cole is a sticky man. This makes it possible to jump between buildings without worrying about being precise, but it leads to problems when you need to move quickly in combat. All too easily, you get stuck on ledges when you desperately need to flee, and the camera gets wedged between objects so you can't even discern what's stopping your progress. This is compounded by a wealth of teleporting enemies who are borderline cheap. As strong as the artistic design is in New Marais, it's not easy to make out figures in the inky fog engulfing the city. You may get shot by an unseen attacker for seconds at a time while you frantically spin your view to find a source, and the black-and-white filter denoting that you're hurt is a further hindrance. When the screen goes monochrome and there are flashes from your electrical blasts and your enemies' long-range spells, it's incredibly difficult to see what's going on. Thankfully, the enemies have small life bars, and your flying power makes a quick escape possible, but combat has so many problems that it's rarely fun.

  Vampires see arrows us mortals never even glimpse.
Vampires see arrows us mortals never even glimpse.

The combat mechanics in Infamous are at their best when enemies aren't allowed to teleport, the speed is kept at a slow pace, and positioning is the most important tactic for survival. The first game in the series used its strengths to create engrossing and exciting battles that rarely felt cheap. But Infamous 2 and Festival of Blood create combat scenarios that clash with the delicate mechanics. Cole does not move particularly well in tight spaces because he sticks on every piece of solid ground, and the screen quickly turns to black and white after just a few attacks, and stays there a needlessly long time or until you find another electrical source. Teleporting enemies who attack with flashy pyrotechnics exacerbate these problems, resulting in fights that drag on too long and often with your death coming from an unseen source. It doesn't sap away the fun of Festival of Blood because the other elements are so well developed, but it certainly makes for unavoidable rough patches.

It's a shame that fighting isn't up to par in Festival of Blood, but that's no reason to avoid this exciting addition to the Infamous universe. Depending on how invested you become in hunting down every stray item, it could take upward of six hours to reach the end, and there are worthwhile incentives to getting your hands on those prizes. Collect the right objects and you can raise your flying power, enhance your combat abilities, or just get to hear Mary's morbid tales. For those who would rather point at the screen to aim than guide analog sticks, the Move is fully supported and is a worthy alternative to the standard controller. Infamous: Festival of Blood provides a good reason for series veterans to jump back into Cole's skin or a small-scale taste for those wondering what all the fuss is about.

The Good

  • The power of flight opens up exciting possibilities
  • Lots of hidden collectibles to root out
  • Dark and demented atmosphere
  • Doesn't require you to own Infamous or Infamous 2

The Bad

  • Combat is cheap and unfulfilling

About the Author