InFamous: Festival of Blood hands-on preview

Aside from scaling buildings, hanging out with annoying rednecks and zapping cultish weirdos with your electrical superpowers, InFamous has always been about one thing: moral choices. InFamous: Festival of Blood, the series’ first substantial piece of DLC, throws that out the window by (temporarily) turning Cole MacGrath into a vampire who needs human blood to fuel his new powers. There aren’t any plot-altering decisions or karma to worry about; in fact, there’s no time for them, because unless Cole finds and kills the vampire who bit him by daybreak, he may never regain his power of choice at all.

Above: The Harpies are even more agile than Cole, and they have guns

If you’re asking yourself where all this fits into InFamous 2’s narrative, well, it doesn’t. Not really. As it turns out, the whole thing is a story spun by Cole’s buddy Zeke, who’s trying to impress a girl in a bar (and who appears, for the first time ever, without his iconic shades). Since she’s new to New Marais, he invents a holiday called Pyre Night – a sort of dark, twisted take on Mardi Gras – and tells her how it almost caused Cole to lose his humanity.

With a run time that Sony tells us is “comparable to other PSN games,” the standalone DLC gives players a single adventure set in New Marais, key parts of which have been redecorated and overhauled (with fireworks, souvenir stands, bonfires, costumed performers and giant hot-air balloons) in honor of the dark street festival. More importantly, it adds a selection of new abilities to Cole’s arsenal, a few of which we had a chance to try out.

Above: Shadow Swarm in action

Probably the most significant new power is Shadow Swarm, which lets Cole turn into a swarm of bats and fly rapidly around the city. It’s a cool addition, but it comes with two drawbacks: first, you have no control over your speed, just your direction. Second, it drains Cole’s Corruption meter (which replaces his Karma meter, and which needs to be refilled with blood) pretty quickly.

Luckily, New Marais is full of potential victims, and the fact that most of them are decked out in obnoxious neon festival crap makes the decision to give them a good chomp an easy one. Interestingly, as we soon found out, not all of them are chompable, as some are in fact “Firstborn” vampires hiding in human form. Bite them, and they’ll not only fight back, but turn into hulking bat-creatures that can hurl deadly projectiles, flatten Cole with a sonic attack and bite civilians to create other, weaker vampires.

So it’s a good thing, then, that Cole still has a full range of beefed-up electrical powers to draw on, and can still refill his health by draining nearby power sources. However, Firstborns (along with the weapon-wielding, parkour-using Harpies and every other vampire in the game) can only be killed with a stake through the heart, meaning you’ll have to stab them with Cole’s new weapon (a sort of iron cross with a jagged chunk of wood attached) before they’re no longer a threat.

Sometime after you meet your first Firstborn, you’ll earn another power, Vampire Vision, which lets you – among other things – scan crowds for heartbeats. Anyone you see that doesn’t show a heartbeat is a vampire in disguise, meaning you can just walk up to them and give them a quick stealth-kill stab. Vision also lets you see things like the trails of fleeing vampires, and becomes especially important when exploring the new area Festival of Blood adds to New Marais: the Catacombs.

You’ll be introduced to the Catacombs early on, and they’re actually pretty spacious for a vast underground tunnel network, resembling the interiors of cathedrals and abandoned train stations in places. Once you’ve earned Vampire Vision, however, they take on a new importanct, as Vision reveals numerous secret doors and hidden glyphs – some of which reveal backstory about Bloody Mary, the vampire who bit Cole – that weren’t there before.

In addition to the new storyline, Festival of Blood also comes equipped with side missions, collectibles and Move support, which – somewhat surprisingly – won’t involve any swinging or gesturing, but will instead be used FPS style to aim Cole’s attacks. Also being added are new materials for user-generated content, which, sadly won’t be compatible with InFamous 2 (and vice versa). However, some of the additions Festival of Blood brings – specifically Move support and the ability to create 2D cutscenes for UGC – will also be added to IF2, for free, at the same time Festival of Blood hits PSN. In any case, you won’t need IF2 to play Festival of Blood, meaning anyone who’s held off on picking up the full game can get a taste of its experience – and the full run of its city – for $10 when Festival of Blood releases on Oct. 25.

Oct 17, 2011

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