Friday, October 28, 2011

Forty - inFamous: Festival of Blood

Honestly, going in I wasn't sure how long this one would take me, but it definitely seemed short. Here are my thoughts on the ~2.5 hours of inFamous: Festival of Blood:

inFamous 2 is one of my favorite games of the year thus far. Its gameplay was a marked improvement over that of its predecessor, with new powers, more customization, greater freedom of movement, and enrichment of holdover abilities from the first game. I also enjoyed the change of setting, in which our hero Cole McGrath exchanges the tall buildings of Empire City (fake New York) for the lower, more varied and textural homes and businesses of New Marais (fake New Orleans). The new storyline was hit/miss, as it didn't include the original's stunning final twist, but keeps the stakes high and delivers a more emotionally-charged drama, especially in the finale (which I'm still on the fence about liking or disliking). I could go on and on about this game, and probably will sometime next year when I replay it.

Ah, but this essay isn't about inFamous 2, is it? No, this is something different. Not unlike last year's October release of Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare expansion, the talented men and women of Sucker Punch created a horror-themed standalone game piggybacking onto inFamous 2 - inFamous: Festival of Blood. This game takes place sometime during the events of inFamous 2, or at least I assume so. Both Zeke and Cole are alive, and the game takes place in New Marais. Anyhow, the framework of this story is Zeke recounting the events of a vampire attack on New Marais and Cole's role in stopping it.

I'll get my major complaint out of the way - this game is short. It is easily beaten in under 2 hours, and if you keep your dicking around to a minimum you can probably knock it out in 45 minutes. The game does have a number of collectible items to locate and a few "Do THING, NUMBER times" trophies, but the core plot is very brief. The stage is a little small as well, comprising of about 50% of inFamous 2's map, except revamped (c wat i did ther?) into a nighttime bacchanal, complete with partygoers, musicians, and people decked out in glow-stick accessories. The storyline's arc, while not *bad*, is simplistic and main villain is pretty normal as far as psychotic lady vampire dominatrices go. Cole has until sunrise to try and kill the aforementioned vamp before he becomes her slave; this lets Festival of Blood use a countdown system (4 HOURS UNTIL SUNRISE) similar to inFamous 2's. Still, especially if you indulge in UGC (User-Generated Content) missions and search for collectibles, you can stretch out this game's lifetime significantly.

The real reason to play Festival of Blood, however, isn't to collect items or perform sidequests - it's to straight up suck some blood. The major sell of Festival of Blood is to use the newly-turned vampire Cole (did I mention he's a vampire in this game? Well, he is) to kill other vampires and relieve citizens of their redness. No karma system in Festival of Blood - your powers indicate that you're a neutral version of Cole, and your lightning starts out with an evil tint and then changes to some firey orange business as the sunrise draws near. Instead of a karma meter, Cole has a blood meter. The blood meter powers his new skill, Shadow Swarm - the ability to transform into a swarm of bats fly around extremely quickly at will. Shadow Swarm is not only the most powerful movement tool that Cole has ever had, you can also auto-stake a vampire by crashing into them while using Shadow Swarm. Your blood meter limits your ability to use Shadow Swarm, but refilling it is easy enough - just take a bite out of a nearby human.

The enemies in this game come in three types - humans, vampires, and Firstborn. Humans are usually non-confrontational; they're food in the context of gameplay, although in the context of storyline Zeke insists that Cole doesn't treat them as such (oh, Zeke...). Vampires are the bread and butter enemies. Shirtless vamps will throw glaive-shaped blades at you, red-shirted vampires will switch between melee slashes with their claws and shots from crossbows, and vampire girls will teleport to and fro while launching volleys from repeating crossbows. Firstborn are huge batlike monsters - they can deal massive melee damage, knock you back with a shriek, or attack you with some kind of rapid-fire blood missiles. Firstborn can also drain humans and turn them into ghouls. Ghoul'd humans will run straight at Cole and hang on to him, making him a sitting duck for Firstborn or other vampires. Firstborn can also disguise themselves as humans, but if Cole uses his "vampire senses" (holding R2; works similar to Detective Mode in Batman: Arkham Asylum) he can tell which humans are disguised Firstborn by looking for humans without visibly pumping blood. Staking disguised Firstborn is one of the activities that can upgrade Cole's powers and score the player a trophy.

Cole's arsenal is pretty consistent with his powers in inFamous 2. His Amp weapon is replaced with a large cross-shaped stake and he can stake vampires out of a Shadow Swarm or stake helpless victims on the group, but otherwise there's nothing new in his melee skill set. In addition to Shadow Swarm, Cole can use electric bolts, missiles, grenades, and shoves. Unlike inFamous 2, all of his electric powers can only be upgraded once, by performing some basic tasks (stake 10 vampires, drain 20 humans, etc.). The upgrades help a lot, and if anything the Magnum Bolt is even better than it was in inFamous 2. Combat is still fast and intense, especially on Hard difficulty; I am an inFamous veteran and died a number of times.

This was not a bad game, but it really is too damn short. If I spent another hour or two collecting Canopic Jars (increase blood meter) or searching for Mary's Teachings (similar to Dead Drops, found with vampire senses) I could get all of the trophies other than the "complete 20 UGC missions" trophy. The UGC creation interface is actually pretty well-designed and I'm sure could get good, but for now it's far from necessary. I don't regret this purchase, but it doesn't hold a candle to inFamous 2.

Games Beaten: 2011 Edition

1. Mario vs. Donkey Kong
2. Primal Rage
3. Torchlight Hat Trick
4. Ghost Trick
5. Flower
6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
7. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
8. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
9. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves
10. Tales of Eternia
11. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
12. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
13. 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
14. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
15. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
16. Dragon Age: Origins
17. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
18. inFamous Evil Finish
20. inFamous 2 Good Finish
21. Big Bang Mini
22. Final Fight: Double Impact
23. Breath of Death VII: The Beginning
24. Cthulhu Saves the World
25. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
26. Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
27. Disgaea Infinite
28. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
29. Jeanne d'Arc
30. Dragon Age II
31. Jade Empire
32. Cthulhu's Angels
33. DeathSpank: Orphans of Justice
34. Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten
35. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
36. Trine
37. Prince of Persia '08
38. Final Fantasy IV: Anniversary Edition
39. Professor Layton and the Last Specter
40. inFamous: Festival of Blood


Next up is probably going to be Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. I plan to wrap that one this weekend just in time for Uncharted 2 to land on 11/1/11. My goal of fifty is closer than ever!

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