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!

Geek Out Challenge – Day 19

There’s always going to be the game, movie, or tv show that you absolutely love, but don’t come across many others that have the same level of appreciation(obsession?). Our newest challenge question for Day 19 of the Geek Out Challenge is discussing what series do we find underrated.

What series is underrated? – As a surprise to absolutely NO ONE, my pick is a video game series. While I could probably spend a considerable amount of time on different games that I think are a bit underrated. The first games that come to mind for me are the Sony-exclusive inFAMOUS series, which is developed by Sucker Punch Productions – the studio that created the Sly Cooper games of the Playstation 2 era. The first inFAMOUS game was released in 2009 on the Playstation 3 with its sequel inFAMOUS 2 being released in 2011 and inFAMOUS: Second Son in 2014 on the Playstation 4. The series itself received critical acclaim, but it remains a series of games that I never really hear many people talk about. I have always been a huge fan of the PS3 exclusive games like the Last of Us, Uncharted, Resistance, or inFAMOUS games. While the former two received much critical praise and word of mouth amongst gamers, the latter two it seems were relegated to “lesser status”. The first two inFAMOUS games tell the story of protagonist Cole McGrath – an everyman bike messenger in the fictional city of Empire City who is caught in an explosion which infuse his body with a set of electricity-based powers. The setting of the game at first glance seems nothing more than that of a run-of-the-mill comic book story set to a video game. I certainly understand that perception, that is essentially what I though about the game before I ever played it, however it was how well the game works within that setting, in both gameplay mechanics and story. The central theme of the game is the question “if you found yourself in possession of powers far greater than the average person, how would you use them?”. The inFAMOUS games feature a Karma meter similar to the light side/dark side element of the Knights of the Old Republic games, you can simply take anything you want and destroy anyone standing in your way, or you can use your abilities to help and protect those around you; this would be the “with great power comes great responsibility” theme of the game. I also really enjoyed the storyline throughout the game as it establishes Cole’s relationships with his best friend – the slightly meddlesome, yet well-meaning friend Zeke, as well as with his girlfriend Trish. The climax of the first inFAMOUS game features one of the biggest plot twists I had played in a video game in quite some time. Between the seemingly generic superhero sandbox setting and the fact the PS3 was well behind the much better selling Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii at the time the franchise seems to get forgotten quite easily. I heartily recommend the inFAMOUS games to anyone looking for an under-appreciated gem on the PS3.

What are some movie, tv show, or game series that you feel are getting nowhere the appreciation they deserve? Let me know in the comments below. See you tomorrow…