Blogtober 2019 – inFAMOUS 2: Festival of Blood

Welcome back for another Blogtober gaming post! Today’s Halloween-themed game is inFAMOUS 2: Festival of Blood. This stand-alone DLC for Sucker Punch’s second entry in the inFAMOUS series is what I would describe as inFAMOUS 2 mixed with the HBO show True Blood. I loved playing Festival of Blood after it was initially released and have since regarded it as one of my favorite DLC offerings, that WAS a few years ago…so let’s take another look at the game.

Festival of Blood takes place in the fictional city of New Marais(where inFAMOUS 2 is set) during the city-wide festival known as “Pyre Night”. The city of New Marais and the surrounding locale very closely resemble New Orleans, the party atmosphere of Pyre Night also works as an allusion to Mardi Gras, where numerous people dress up in varying costumes and party all night on the streets of the city. The swampy vampire setting of the game makes it very hard to NOT think of the cast of vampires and werewolves in True Blood.

Players control electricity-powered protagonist Cole McGrath – “the Demon of Empire City”. The story begins with Cole racing to the aid of those trapped in the dark catacombs beneath the cathedral of New Marais, he quickly rescues the unlucky individuals before hearing cries for help from one last person deeper in the catacombs. Just as Cole approaches the final victim he notices the sharp fangs protruding from their mouth but is not fast enough as he is bitten by the vampire before being brought to the inner depths of the catacombs where he is held over the preserved corpse of a head vampire – “Bloody” Mary. Cole’s neck is cut and after just a few drops of blood come into contact with the corpse, Mary comes to life and descends upon the city. Cole is able to fight his way out of the catacombs and out into the city, as he emerges from underground he faces the realization that he has been turned into a vampire and is horrified to find himself feeding upon an innocent passerby. Another discovery is the fact that Mary herself can communicate with Cole telepathically as they share the same blood, the powerful blood of a Conduit nonetheless, with Mary informing him that by sunrise he will become just another of her undead army. Cole contacts his best friend Zeke regarding his newfound predicament before deciding that to defeat such a powerful enemy they will need to learn more about Bloody Mary. There just so happens to be an information center set up in a park located in the middle of the city which shows a film describing the history of Pyre Night and New Marais.

Pyre Night is an annual tradition memorializing the date when the patron saint of New Marais – Father Ignatius gathered an army of upright citizens and brought Bloody Mary’s reign of blood terror to an end by driving a stake through Mary’s heart. A night of celebration and declaration that forces of evil would never again overcome the city has been held every year since as the citizens of New Marais dress in costumes of devils and other monsters to take part in the festivities; this unfortunately provides more than sufficient cover for the army of vampires under Mary’s control as they begin to feast upon all of this within the city. The holy weapon used by Father Ignatius is known as the Barbed Cross – a crucifix created of pure silver and baptized in holy water before being blessed by the Pope himself…a vampire-hunter version of the BFG. Cole and Zeke then decide to investigate the grave of Father Ignatius with the hope of recovering the Barbed Cross before confronting Bloody Mary.

Festival of Blood plays exactly the same as the prior two inFAMOUS titles, but in this side story the Good/Bad karma meter has been removed, allowing you to drink the blood of anyone in the city without any fear of getting the “bad” ending. This time around you have a couple extra powers due to being bitten by a vampire – you are able to turn into a swarm of bats and fly across the city rather than the conventional method of running or induction grinding along power lines around the city. Another new ability is your Vampire Sense allows you to see through things that mortal eyes are unable, such as hidden Vampire Glyphs which provide hints as to the direction of a set of collectible backstory-expanding texts known as Mary’s Teachings. You also use your Vampire Sense to detect through a sort of infrared vision any vampires walking amongst humans, and when detected you can run up and impale them through the heart as they transform back into the hideous Firstborn vampires(think Man-Bat from Batman). Using any of your vampire abilities will drain your Blood Gauge which will require you to feed off an unsuspecting victim or find any of the 100 Canopic Jars scattered throughout New Marais. The game takes place over the course of a single night with a warning that you have only eight hours before sunrise after emerging from the catacombs in the game’s exposition. You are kept informed as to how long you have left to complete your mission( 4 hours, 2 hours, 10 minutes), but it acts more as a show of progress through the story rather than a timer as you can’t simply wander about and run out of time before sunrise. The main storyline of Festival of Blood will take you no more than two and half hours to complete with the Vampire Glyphs and Canopic Jars providing a modest set of collectibles to expand on the replayability of the game. Once you complete the main story you are taken(in typical open-world fashion) back to the middle of the night with encouragement to further explore the city to upgrade your powers and round up any remaining collectibles.

My biggest issue with Festival of Blood lies within the games controls – you are either standing completely still or you are running full-speed with no real in-between. It’s very difficult to grab a ledge or even simply walk a short distance with any real accuracy which leaves the game with a really jittery, twitchy feel. This isn’t the only game where its desire to provide a very fluid experience ends up feeling far too similar to how a teenager will frequently alternate between stepping down too hard and the gas and then quickly hitting the brakes to compensate(we ALL did this…right?). A more recent example of this would be developer Insomniac’s Spider-Man exclusive for the PS4 released a year ago, the extreme disparity between either standing still or high-speed aerial acrobatics was my biggest complaint of what I still feel is an AMAZING Spider-Man title(pun intended!). Another negative aspect of Festival of Blood, or really any of the inFAMOUS games is having the ability to lock on to a single enemy similar to the combat of the more recent Assassin’s Creed games would make fighting enemies less frustrating as you are only able to guess at times where an enemy is due to both controls and camera, leading to a lot of blind button-mashing. The combat in the game due to a mixture of controls, camera and general design can be quite frustrating as you find yourself greatly outnumbered by enemy vampires that hurl all manner of projectiles at you with some firing at you with Uzis and…upside-down. For everything that I love about inFAMOUS 2: Festival of Blood, it sadly would be viewed as another PS3-era game that hasn’t aged well.

I played through Festival of Blood on my PS4 as a bit of a trial of the Playstation Now service, this MAY have made some of my issues with the fidgety camera and controls seem exaggerated. As a result, I fired up my old PS3 and played the game for a little bit and it felt just a little bit better, not enough to completely disregard any issue as simply related to latency because I was streaming the game, but also serves to show that game streaming may be on the horizon, but there’s still a ways to go. My critiques of Festival of Blood don’t completely tarnish my love for the gothic vampire side story; I still enjoy the majority of the gameplay and its cutscenes depicted as comic book panels add to the dark, brooding pulp book atmosphere. The game is definitely worth a playthrough for anyone who’s a fan of the inFAMOUS series, or just looking for something dark and full of vampires to annihilate during the Halloween season(who isn’t?).

That’s it for now! I still have more Halloween-themed games to cover for my Blogtober posts with another PS3 stand alone DLC title for later this week. Have you played inFAMOUS 2: Festival of Blood or what games do you plan to play this Halloween? Let me know in the comments!

Blogtober 2019 – Left 4 Dead

As we approach the Halloween season and make our way through October, I thought it would be a fun idea(though not unique by any stretch) to spend the month posting about different games with a spooky theme. I will be going over two different games each week leading up to Halloween, which as I’ve stated previously will most likely be spent sitting at home playing Luigi’s Mansion 3. The games I will be writing about will be both games I’m playing through for the first time as well as some of my favorite games to play this time of year(or ALL). I’m going to kick off this Blog-tober fest with the zombie-filled mayhem of the Left 4 Dead series.

Left 4 Dead was developed by Turtle Rock Studios and published by Valve being first released in November of 2008. The game is structured as a first-person shooter in which you play as one of four “survivors” making their way through a zombie apocalypse that is the result of a viral outbreak two weeks prior. The core gameplay is a mix of standard FPS and survival horror games, but in Left 4 Dead you control a player in the group of four survivors, with teamwork being imperative to surviving the onslaught of zombie hordes. The co-op element of the game centers providing cover fire for the other survivors as you make your way from start to finish across different campaigns, with each one containing several chapters. One of the unique aspects of the Left 4 Dead games is the campaigns, each one is self-contained and is designed to resemble some of the most used horror movie backdrops. The first campaign – No Mercy sees the 4 survivors make their way across ravaged city streets and subway tunnels to reach the helipad atop Mercy Hospital. In the fourth campaign – Blood Harvest the survivors finally reach an abandoned farmhouse which they must defend from multitudes of the undead after sending a distress signal over the radio. In the sequel Left 4 Dead 2 released only a year later, the opening campaign – Dead Center whose final two chapters take place within a shopping mall overrun by zombies…sounds familiar. Each campaign loading screen depicts the survivors as a poster you would see outside a movie theater. Another cool touch is in the game options you are able to adjust the Film Grain Setting if you wish to experience the game as if watching on an old snowy black and white television set. The lo-fi zombie movie aesthetic is one of my favorite details of the Left 4 Dead games.

The largest portion of zombies you will fight are of the standard mindless variety, but you will also have to defend yourselves against different types of “special infected” which include the Hunter, which will approach low to the ground before pouncing on an unsuspecting player like a lion ambushing its prey. Other types of special infected include Spitters, which spews toxic green…spit(?), dealing damage to the player and can incapacitate quite quickly if not careful, or the Boomer, a giant bloated zombie that can vomit on careless players and the stench of undead bile will quickly attract a horde of zombies, resulting in an early demise. Valve’s AI Director in the game was put to use in adjusting the sheer number of zombies thrown at you or generating great numbers of special infected; this adds a procedurally-generated sense of never knowing when or where you may come across a swarm of hungry zombies.

As one might assume, the game is created with online multiplayer in mind. The game modes include co-op play through the various campaigns, a survival mode, as well as competitive mode in which two teams of four players square off against one another with one team playing as the survivors and the other playing as the special infected whose goal is to keep the opposing team from reaching the end of the chapter. At the end of each chapter the teams are reversed to provide each team with a turn as the survivors and the special infected. Left 4 Dead 2 also added Realism mode, which offers health pack in much scarcer supply as well as not being able distinguish where the other survivors are as the bright character outline has been removed. The other game mode added was Mutations, which works the same as Competitive mode, but with random “perks” may be added such only being able to use specific weapons or the entire opposing team playing as the same type of special infected.

A creepy zombie-filled amusement park…

Left 4 Dead 2 took everything that was great about the original and added the two game modes, as well as the ability to wield dual pistols and various melee weapons to pick up and splatter zombie brains. I still feel the shot feedback feels a little better in Left 4 Dead 2 as the zombies don’t feel quite as much like paper targets. The campaign Dead Carnival in which you make your way through an amusement park with the finale being fighting off waves of zombies at the amusement park’s concert arena as you await the evacuation helicopter, this seemed extra awesome as the game was released the same year as Zombieland. Valve supported both Left 4 Dead games with additional dlc campaigns such as The Passing and The Sacrifice. The final campaign released – Cold Stream still may contain the most difficult segments within the games as you at times would have to fight your way through a seemingly infinite number of zombies on screen to reach safety. Eventually all of the campaigns from Left 4 Dead were made playable on Left 4 Dead 2 which made for an impressive 15 different playable campaigns.

I recently sat down and played the game for a while and still found it every bit as fun as when I first played the game on my Xbox 360. The familiar Valve feel is still there….along with difficulty in going through doorways and climbing ladders 😉 I still recall quite frequently, how at the end of several campaigns you escape via helicopter and it was a race as to how quickly someone could use their Arnold Schwarzenegger voice and shout “git to ze choppa!”. If Valve were to ever accomplish making a third title to any of their franchises(Half-Life, Portal, Team Fortress), a Left 4 Dead 3 just may be my first wish…maybe. One drawback to the game is the fact there can be so many zombies on screen that the frame rate completely plummets, but outside that I don’t have many negative things to say about the games. Anyone who appreciates the finer things in life, like splattering zombies and explosions I give the Left 4 Dead games a hearty endorsement.

Yup…there’s even clown zombies that honk when you bash them

Ok…I admit, Left 4 Dead isn’t necessarily SCARY, but is definitely one of my favorite zombie shooters and I wanted to include it for my spooky games blog 🙂 I’ve got plenty of other fun Halloween-themed games planned for the rest of the month. Has anyone else played the Left 4 Dead games? If so, what do you think of them? Let me know!

“Get to ze choppa!”