Tuesday, June 19

inFamous: Festival of Blood Review (PS3): Treehouse of Horror

While episodic gaming hasn't exactly taken off like I thought it would, it's a formula that I believe has a great deal of merit if executed correctly. Sonic 4 is probably the best example of what not to do, but Telltale Games are on to something with their distribution model. Games like Alan Wake and Resident Evil: Revelations aren't episodic in terms of transaction and packaging, but the thirty minutes to an hour of action with a cliffhanger and story recap bracket was a great way to keep players engaged. inFamous: Festival of Blood feels like a new sort of episodic experience, the gaming equivalent of a Treehouse of Horror episode: a bite-sized (by comparison) "What if?" scenario for players to ponder. While I had my reservations -- mainly on account of me being allergic to vampires during their period of cultural relevance -- this experiment works and is easy to recommend.

Festival of Blood uses inFamous 2's combat, strong movement mechanics and a significant portion of the New Marais cityscape as the foundation for its 4 hours of horrifying questing. Most of Cole's superpowers have made the transition too, though some require a fair bit of staking and item smashing for them to be unlocked. There's not many new abilities thrown into the mix, but those that are born from the concept: your melee weapon is now a giant stake, you can feast on the citizens of New Marais and -- wait for it -- transform into a swarm of bats and fly! You need blood (read: to feast) in order to fly, and this new movement mechanic makes getting around even more joyful than inFamous 2's end game.

The only weak part of the package is the combat. Festival of Blood takes place solely at night, so unless you turn up the brightness, it's difficult to ascertain how far gone Cole really is. When you come across enemies like the Firstborn -- that are capable of unstoppable flurries of projectile attacks -- or any great quantity of Banshees, the frustration factor increases ten fold. To survive such encounters, combat devolves into a non-stop festival of forward rolls. That, and the camera can take on a personality of its own when you engage in melee combat in tight spaces. Don't get me wrong, the action is far from broken, but I came close to lofting my controller out the window on several occasions.

I won't address presentation in any great level of detail, as you've essentially got one third of New Marais in a permanent state of nightfall. Don't get me wrong, the Pyre Night festival is thick with Creole atmosphere and beautiful lighting effects; but if you've played inFamous 2, you'll know exactly what to expect. Speaking of Creole, the jazzy score accentuates the action perfectly. As per my evaluation of inFamous 2's soundtrack, it's a vastly different sound to that found in your average sandbox action game. Festival of Blood is a visual and aural feast.

It may be short, but inFamous: Festival of Blood is well worth your time and money. The horror episode concept works well and I hope it's something that Sucker Punch experiments with again. The combat may be frustrating at times, but the wonderful movement mechanics and strong presentation make for one of the most enjoyable games available via the PlayStation Network.

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