Tom's beef with PS3-exclusive open world superhero action-er inFamous was that main man Cole MacGrath only became the badass he was born to be towards the end of the game. "A slow start and some incredibly dull and repetitive missions mean the game's heroic potential is fulfilled far too late on," Tom said. It seems developer Sucker Punch agreed.
This time around the open world is the fictional city of New Marais, a place Sucker Punch is proud to admit is inspired by New Orleans. How to describe it? Well, there are lots of people walking about. Lots of verandas. Lots of pretty lights. And more than its fair share of nooks and crannies to explore.
New Marais isn't the concrete jungle favoured by so many contemporary open world creators - and that's exactly why it's great. Although our E3 hands-on is limited to moonlit city streets and building rooftops, Sucker Punch promises a wide variety of environments, many of which should catch the eye. The promise of swamp exploration, for example, is an intriguing one.
We applaud MacGrath's change in surroundings, but the parkour-loving protagonist's redesign gets a standing ovation. He's undergone the kind of makeover Trinny and Susannah would be proud of. His hair's grown out a bit. He's wearing a t-shirt. And he sounds different - not surprising, really, given he's got a new voice actor.
There's more to Cole 2.0 than his sleek new look, though. His superpowers have been given a shot in the arm, too. This time around, he'll begin the game all-singing and all dancing. The electricity-based superpowers he took so long to gain in the original are available from the off, and he's got a few new toys to boot. The powerful Ionic Vortex, which sees MacGrath let fly a twister that gathers up cars and enemies, is evidence of the potency of his new arsenal. But there's more.
MacGrath's now packing a melee weapon - what looks like a huge tuning fork - that's electrically charged, possibly by his mate Zeke. With it, he can batter enemies into oblivion, and even send then flying across New Marais' streets via Sucker Punch's fancy new cinematic slow motion camera control. The weapon lends combat a more visceral and in your face feel. MacGrath can sprint into a pack of enemies, slide, juggle with the tuning fork, and then smash them to kingdom come. Brutal.
Talking of enemies, MacGrath's taking it from two fronts this time. On one side he faces a rabid militia, led by the southern twanged Bertrand. The silver-haired showman has locked down New Marais and hates what he calls "freaks" - horrible beasties THAT CAME FROM THE SWAMP! and threaten anyone and anything they come into contact with. That, predictably, includes our good man MacGrath, who when he isn't knocking militia goons into the next sandbox game will be knocking lumps out of the snarling dribbling ones.
Fans will remember that one of the original's more interesting mechanics was its karma system. You were able to decide what to do in many situations, which was cool, but the choices available were disappointingly black and white. Sucker Punch promises that this time around the moral conundrums will be as grey as the sky above Wales in April. There's even the suggestion that your decision-making will affect the very city itself, although how we don't know.
Clearly, there's a lot going on in this action-packed sequel - a lot more than in the original, anyway. So I'm hugely impressed to see that the visuals haven't suffered as a result. Indeed, they've come on a long way. Infamous wasn't the best-looking game of all time - a flaw many PS3 owners found disappointing. They'll be delighted to learn that inFamous 2's quite the looker. Sucker Punch has improved almost every aspect of the game's graphics, from draw distance to the destructible environment. In one sequence, we chew up an entire street, smashing verandas and taxis and street lamps to bits - and it all looks fantastically detailed. Sucker Punch reckons PS3 owners will say the game's in "the same ballpark" as standard-bearer Uncharted 2. I'm not sure about that, but I do know that inFamous' new threads are as slick as main man Cole MacGrath's.
Uncharted 2, though, is a great comparison. It's clear from the playable demo that Sucker Punch loved Naughty Dog's critically-acclaimed effort. There's more than a whiff of Uncharted 2's adrenaline-pumping cinematic moments in inFamous 2. In one sequence, a helicopter turns up and fires rockets at Cole, who scrambles on the concrete as he makes his escape. The camera then stays in front of him, with the chopper in hot pursuit in the background. You run towards the camera to run away, as Drake so often did in Uncharted 2. It's an impressive sequence - but I discover afterwards that it's not an on-rails one. Sucker Punch merely suggests the cinematic camera angle, leaving the player free to move it about, changing the perspective, and go off anywhere he wants in New Marais. The thing was, my brain was hardwired to accept Sucker Punch's cinematic suggestion so I didn't even bother trying to tinker with it.
Another example: after a rally in which Bertrand riles up a crowd of people, a freak turns up, scaring the be-Jesus out of the locals. All hell breaks loose, and Bertrand makes his escape in a limo. Cole pursues, surfing the power lines that crisscross the air above New Marais' bustling streets. Occasionally he grabs on to cables built in to walls, effortlessly sliding along with one hand. Eventually, he catches up with his quarry, landing on the roof of the limo with a smash. Bertrand, though, isn't fazed - the aforementioned chopper arrives on the scene, knocking Cole to the ground. Talk about cinematic...
Of course, inFamous 2 is a proper video game, not a superhero version of Dragon's Lair, and so gameplay counts. Structurally, the game will follow the template established by so many in the genre: the main story missions will take up most of your time, but there will be plenty of side missions to get your concrete grabbing fingers dirty with, and loads to collect, too. New Marais doesn't feel "alive" in the same way that, say, Red Dead Redemption's Arizona and Mexico do. Instead, Sucker Punch has focused on the city's laid-back people and Jazz-fuelled architecture, a move that should help it stand out from the crowd.
InFamous 2 looks the business, but it's too early to call. The game's at least a year out from release, and there's so much left for Sucker Punch to reveal. Just how will your decisions affect the story, and, indeed, New Marais itself? And what about all that ice? The game's E310 trailer shows Cole freezing the ground - obviously another element has been added to his already impressive repertoire of superpowers. How will this manifest itself in-game? And are there elemental powers, like fire, perhaps? We can't wait to find out.
InFamous 2 is due out exclusively on the PS3 next year.