If the Sly Cooper and Infamous series have taught us anything, it’s that Sucker Punch has an odd sense of humor and a penchant for the ridiculous. With Festival of Blood emerging a whole year after Rockstar’s Zombie-meets-West Undead Nightmare, it’s obvious that only a studio audacious enough to cel-shade raccoons and create their own superheros would dare to piggyback off Rockstar’s offbeat success.
Who is this lady in red? What does she want with Cole?
The entirety of this standalone tale is framed by Zeke’s attempt to secure himself a lady friend through an anecdotal account of a “Pyre Night” where the citizens of New Marais donned their bat wings, demonic masks, and partook in some heavy drinking. Our hero Cole MacGrath was lured into a crypt beneath the city to be bitten (and vampire-ified) by a vampire queen known as Bloody Mary who functions as a fine villain for the four-hour runtime. It’s ridiculous to be sure but no less enjoyable for it, serving as the kind of insane fan service Infamous fans can get behind.
If you’re familiar with Infamous 2, Festival of Blood’s art design is definitely something worth experiencing for yourself. The city center and Ascension Parish have been layered with a great veneer of old-school horror. Occult stories, milling, drunken crowds, and a color palette recast in red and black set the demonic tone perfectly. Infamous 2’s visuals still hold up as some of the best in the open-world genre, providing exceptional lighting work to match the dark and exaggerated tone of New Marais' Pyre Night.
Cole must cure his disease before dawn or remain a vampire forever.
Unfortunately, Festival of Blood’s striking presentation doesn’t make up for the fact that most of what made Infamous 2 enjoyable has been removed or neutered due to the enemies you’ll fight; although they may come with different weapons or attack patterns, the one thing that defines almost all rival vampires is their teleport ability, which basically equates to some cheap AI design intended to stop you blasting through each fight in seconds. This makes combat an infuriating mess. You’ll mostly spam your powers in every direction, hoping that one of your wayward grenades will take out the warping embodiments of tedium and confusion that are your vampiric adversaries. It's made no more pleasant by Sucker Punch removing the most enjoyable powers like the screen-filling Ionic Storm from Infamous 2.
Far more effective in combat is the stake-tipped holy cross that replaces the electrified amp from the second game, seeing as you fight most of your battles in close quarters. Sadly, this means you’ll be at the mercy of Infamous 2’s wildly unreliable camera that goes utterly mental during close-range confrontations, preventing Cole from tracking all his opponents. That’s not to say Festival of Blood is without its good gameplay moments, but most of them involve set piece chase sequences. Festival of Blood just isn’t as fun to play as Infamous 2 or its predecessor.
Bat-men wielding glaives is certainly an original twist.
At least Festival of Blood gives you a few enjoyable abilities and activities that manage to present some form of recompense for the myriad battle frustrations. Almost immediately you acquire the ability to transform into a swarm of bats powered by your vampire feasts (pressing R1 to bite) and fly around the city getting the jump on enemies or avoiding using series' staple (and comparatively sluggish) grind cables.
Even though you're limited to the first couple of areas seen in Infamous 2, you can choose to ignore the story and go about your business brutally staking vampires in human disguise, collecting canopic jars to boost your blood capacity, and finding hidden glyphs left by Bloody Mary that replace the dead drops from previous games. As with everything in Festival of Blood, the periphery is where the best content lies – ironic considering the inverse was true of Infamous 2.
New Marais' populace ignores Cole's pale condition. After all, everyone else is dressed in Halloween-like attire.
Like the last game, Festival of Blood offers user-generated content, your experience of which will hinge solely on the efforts of other people’s attempts to make working missions. If you’re one for PS3 trophies, you must play at least 25 UGC missions to get that notification, and as you’ll have to contend with many a lackluster combat sequence for most of them, you’d be better off leaving the green mission icons alone. If you like creating user content, on the other hand, then Festival of Blood does offer some interesting new additions, including the ability to craft your own graphic panels from in-game screens to fashion some sort of story.
If you loved Infamous 2’s setting, it’s very entertaining to step into its occult alter ego. The hokey story has some great moments throughout the four hours, and at $10, you’re not losing much by delving into New Marais again for a bit of fan service. However, Festival of Blood reminds you of flaws that frustrated you in Infamous 2 rather than the elements that made Cole's return enjoyable.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Sucker Punch
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: PSN (Reviewed)