Anyone glancing at Console Arcade since the turn of the year would be forgiven for thinking that Halloween had come early, what with the likes of Scarygirl and Haunt being released for Xbox Live Arcade. And it seems as if there’s no letting up in this unseasonal barrage of horror as our review for inFamous: Festival of Blood for the PlayStation Network jumps out at you from a hidden corner while making a scary face.
Festival of Blood is best described as a lost chapter of the disc-based inFamous series of open-world action games. While the original release saw bike courier Cole McGrath turned into a lightning bolt-wielding superhero after exposure to a mysterious power, the second game in the series took Cole and his buddy Zeke away from the urban sprawl of Liberty City to the New Orleans style swamp and funky streets of New Marai. This is where Festival of Blood starts its tale.
Told in flashback, Festival of Blood sees Zeke attempt to curry favour with a young lady in a dingy bar by telling what appears to be a tall tale about how Cole turned into a Vampire after being bitten by über vamp, Bloody Mary, during the seasonal holiday known as Pyre Night. What unfolds is a race against time to find a hidden cross used to vanquish Mary in the past, while battling her minions, amassing new powers along the way to the ultimate battle to save Cole’s soul; lest he be cursed to sleep during the day and forever walk the night. Y’know, much like the average teenage Emo.
There’s a real sense of fun that permeates through Festival of Blood, an experience not unlike when The Simpsons wheel out their Treehouse of Horror episodes as they kick back and are *gasp* actually funny. The seriousness and, dare it be said, po-faced nature of inFamous is given a day off here as it dresses up, lets loose and enjoys itself, wallowing in its ridiculousness.
This feeling of the brakes being taken off extends to the superb gameplay and the new abilities Cole wields. With his new found lust for blood, Cole sucks the blood of Pyre Night revelers and fills up an additional health bar which allows him to turn into a colony of bats, or gives the ability to see whether passers-by are human or vampires in disguise, with a point of view that is similar to John Carpenters superlative 80’s film, They Live. But sadly without Rowdy “Roddy” Piper and hidden subliminal messages. These new powers, added to Cole’s already impressive arsenal, makes for a seductive proposition, and may leave the player wonder why he would want to relinquish his new found abilities.
While it retains both the assets and structure of the disc-based inFamous titles, the look of Festival of Blood is a riot of colour and contrast. Revelers indulge themselves in fancy costumes, street performers let off fireworks, while up tempo Jazz mixes with the ambient swells of the game music to create a distinct experience. As the night shifts from its darkest point, all inky blacks and shadows, to the breaking of dawn as the sun threatens to appear all too prematurely for Cole, the look of the game is one to be savored. New Marais during Pyre Night is one helluva party town, one that many would want to experience first-hand.
Ultimately inFamous: Festival of Blood feels like it kinda makes Vampires cool again, especially after taking such a battering with the truly terrifying (for all the wrong reasons) awfulness of the likes of the Twilight series with its teenagers, feelings, problems and existential angst. Listening to Mary’s teachings, accessed by using Cole’s Vampire vision, reveals some truly terrifying tales from her past as she describes merciless toying with whole families and individuals, helping to add flesh to the bones of the backstory in a gruesome manner.
While at the time of writing it might not be Halloween, infamous: Festival of Blood is a fun diversion that manages to feel fresh and exciting while it lasts. It gives hope that Vampires might actually be cool again, and for that we should be truly grateful to developers Sucker Punch.