reviews\ Oct 27, 2011 at 10:00 am

InFAMOUS 2: Festival of Blood Review


New Marais on Pyre night is a city abuzz with the sound of fireworks, dancing, and vampires tearing out the throats of passersby. Cole MacGrath has protected its citizens from thugs and gangs, villains and monsters. Now, to save people from another threat, he has to eat them alive. Before the night ends, he must defeat his maker, the legendary vampire queen Bloody Mary, and her legion of vampires to save himself from damnation and the city from the thirsty undead.

Sucker Punch gives the city one hell of makeover, festooning it with banners, balloons, and musical entertainment. The city behaves like it would in real life—with traffic slowed down and sectioned off for the event, and partygoers filling the streets in celebration. The environment of New Marais is transformed into a breeding ground for bloodsuckers, topped off with a full moon looming low on the horizon and gray and purplish clouds hanging thick overhead.

Infamous 2 Festival of Blood screenshot

It's important to note that Festival of Blood is a standalone game, so you don't have to own either of the two InFAMOUS titles to play it or follow the story. Even if you haven't played InFAMOUS 2, the DLC brings you up to speed with the mechanics, so navigating the city and deploying Cole's super and supernatural powers are a snap. Using both electricity and close-range melee attacks and tapping into Cole's newly acquired vampire abilities add more depth to the gameplay. The combination of superhero and vampire works amazingly well. When a situation gets out of hand, Cole can easily retreat to a safer area as a flock of bats—an atmospheric, first-person transportation mode that looks cool and controls intuitively. Moving Cole around buildings, across telephone wires, and around obstacles is slick and responsive, and whenever Cole clings too eagerly to an object, players can always tap Circle to ease him down.

Festival of Blood involves, as mentioned, tracking down and slaying the spiteful Bloody Mary, who's out for revenge on a city that took her to the grave years ago. Once or twice you'll also team up with Zeke, who's telling the story of Cole's scrape with vampires to a flirtatious woman he meets in a bar, but the real joy is had wandering the streets and claiming victims of your own. No penalty is imposed for killing humans, either on purpose or by accident; karma doesn't matter, and you won't be cornered into any escort missions, so the only person you have to worry about is yourself. You're free to save citizens from cages, locked by vampires, only to make them a personal meal. The anything-goes spirit is simply refreshing, and so is staking vampires from behind and in the heat of combat.

Of course, biting people left and right bears its own risks. No one will stop you, but occasionally you'll dig your fangs into the wrong person—a Firstborn in disguise. Firstborns are huge, bat-like vampires that stomp around the street and vanish in a flash of tiny bats, only to reappear somewhere nearby and turn horrified onlookers into mindless vampire slaves. They look more like zombies, but they act like true bloodsuckers—jumping on top of you and sinking their teeth into your neck. At a later point in the game, fending off these hoards becomes ridiculously fun and satisfying. With rowdy vampire minions to stave off, killing Firstborns is almost always a challenge, and creative players will come up with different strategies using their environment.

Infamous 2 Festival of Blood screenshot

Cole's transformation comes with a sixth sense. Viewing the world through special vampire sight works a lot like detective mode in Batman: Arkham City. Enabling and disabling it with a press of the R2 button will light up enemies, distinguish normal citizens from Firstborns, and pinpoint collectables and other markers on your radar.

Enemy types are limited but varied enough for the 5-6 hour game, featuring foes that throw projectiles and shoot guns from the ground or while hanging upside-down (talk about talent). The mix is routine but well-conceived, but the more exciting encounters come from going toe-to-toe with Firstborns and mind-controlled civilians.

If you're worried about replay value, Festival of Blood resets to midnight after completion so that you can collect any missed trophies and participate in user-generated content (UGC) missions. The two that are included by Sucker Punch as part of the story show off cutscenes that resemble comic book panels, complete with word balloons, but they're not as interesting or impressive as the normal animations with voice-overs. As for those, Festival of Blood experiments with its own artistic capabilities, making the narrative cutscenes engaging to watch.

Infamous 2 Festival of Blood screenshot

Festival of Blood is mildly glitchy. One time, a Firstborn kept humorously falling down and bouncing back up, but the problem was easily amended and I never experienced any other weird bugs apart from a couple minor instances of slight skipping in music and in-game scenes. Cole will often kick fallen enemies around instead of staking them when needed, and while this is the biggest issue by far, it can be circumvented by waiting a second to strike after your enemy collapses.

The best part about Festival of Blood is the freedom of a sandbox game bolstered by new twists and familiar mainstays. New Marais is spectacular to behold, so much so that you'll want to sit and admire the festivities while doing nothing at all. At least for a minute, before hunger gets the better of you.


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Stephanie Carmichael Twitter: @wita
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