Sequels are often lumbered with the burden of living up to their predecessors, but inFamous 2 carries even more weight of expectation.
The original inFamous was a roundly applauded action spectacle that kicked the newborn franchise into the fan favourite column. Hopes were high for number two by default.
What made things even harder for developer Sucker Punch, however, was the way in which the inFamous name was placed eye-to-eye with Uncharted 2... by the studio's own doing. SP's declaration that it was aiming for a sequel that matched Naughty Dog's amazing standard was ballsy - or maybe just balls-out insane.
If you've already had a peek at the score below, you'll happily have realised that we're more inclined to go with the former. InFamous 2 is special. And it's one of 2011's best games so far.
Let's just pause a little while though while we get up to speed on the life of Cole MacGrath. Having zapped his way to victory against Kessler, the bloke with the antagonist tag in the original, Cole comes into conflict with The Beast. No, it's not friendly.
Instead it's a big, burrowing Godzilla-like behemoth with more teeth than manners. It kicks Cole around a bit in the opening of the game triggering MacGrath's main quest of finding something called the ant-Ray Sphere (RFI to its mates) to enhance his abilities and give Mr. Beast what for.
The search takes him to New Marias with buddy Zeke but, unfortunately, the city is inconveniently under the influence of The Malitia, a relatively well armed group that don't care too much for mutants.
Oh and The Beast has got holiday plans in New Marias too. What's on the itinerary? Destroying Cole MacGrath mainly, followed by wine-tasting... Maybe.
Good job that Cole himself has been suitably supped up for the sequel, then, not least when it comes to melee. Cole's new Amp - think of it as a charged tuning fork of pain - is a pleasure to use considering how lacklustre fisticuffs was in the original.
It's a simple system of tapping the attack button over and over to string together combos, adjusting the direction of your attack with the analogue stick. As Cole continues to punish his chosen Malitia member a finisher bar charges. Said finishers throw cinematic wonders like slow-mo and the odd alternate camera angle into the mix turning an already satisfying act of battery to a violent joy.
New voltage-based powers like the ionic vortex - an immense whirlwind of wattage - are equally ego boosting but it's testament to Sucker Punch's nose for improvements that we looked forward to our next up close and personal encounter.
The telekentic upgrade is by far our favourite means of destruction though and offers the best chance to see some improved physics and damage effects in action.
On the most basic level, though, lifting up nearby cars and another odds and sods in close proximity before hurling them yonder is immense fun, even if the recipient is some innocent pass us by (forgive us lord).
More often than not though you'll be throwing everything you've got at big, nasty boss enemies and pretty gargantuan they are this time too. Don't worry though, your powers will advance as your enemies get bigger and crazier. Not only do they help you to survive but they sustain the level of entertainment even though it's clear now that most inFamous missions revolve around zapping one thing or another.
AIN'T SHE A BEAUT
When you're not channelling all your concentration into surviving a battle against some ice titan or what's best describe as a cross between an alien and a dinosaur, you'll notice how nice inFamous 2 looks.