There's no lack of superheroes on the big screen this summer with Green Lantern, Thor and Captain America receiving the film treatment. However, one of the most electrifying wonders to debut in recent years will only be found on video game consoles. He's less legendary than the X-Men, but Cole MacGrath packs just as much punch.
"inFamous 2" (Sony, for PlayStation 3, $59.99) finds the growly messenger-turned-marvel, who spent most of his original 2009 adventure honing his ability to control electricity, in a second free-running mission to bring down the Beast, a gigantic villain foreshadowed during the climax of the first game. This time everything is bigger, badder and brasher.
After the first battle with the Beast goes awry, Cole retreats to New Marais, a stylish rendition of a swampy Southern town that's more of a character than some of the humans depicted in the game. From intricate balcony-lined city streets to a flood-ravaged suburban neighborhood, the details laced throughout this virtual take on New Orleans are astounding.
The sprawling town, which is slowly revealed to the player as the story progresses, just like Empire City was in the first game, serves as the perfect parkour playground for Cole as he zips around battling a gun-toting militia, swarms of swamp monsters, troops of icy soldiers and other assorted baddies with an ever-growing array of sizzling superpowers.
The story picks up a month after the first game ended, and Cole has most of his previous powers intact. The game makers have smartly included some bonuses for players who finished the original "inFamous," as well as a few nods to the heroic or villainous choices they made the first time around. Those who didn't play the first installment might feel left out.
The plot of "inFamous 2" allows players to make karmic decisions at predetermined points that impact the story line. At one juncture, for example, Cole will be asked to choose between two superpowered allies to share abilities with before continuing further. That new superpowered concoction invigorates the often frantic gameplay.
Like its predecessor, "inFamous 2" excels at making gamers feel similar to the superheroes they'll see in theaters this summer without the all-consuming constraints of actually portraying such well-known creations. The developers at Sucker Punch Productions have also achieved a fine balance with Cole, who never feels too powerful, even the second time around.
Besides gaining new abilities, Cole has a few fresh tricks up his sleeve, including electric poles that blast him up buildings and a much-need melee weapon. The other major addition is a user-generated mode that allows players to create new levels within New Marais, though this feature feels unnecessary and ultimately diminishes from the experience.
The only other frustration with "inFamous 2" might be the lack of an impactful score akin to the "Uncharted" games, especially given the game's jazzy setting, but that's a minor quibble with a follow-up that's so flawlessly electrifying that it will no doubt leave players feeling satisfied - and charged up for another "inFamous" installment. Four out of four stars.