InFamous PS3

InFamous PS3
If you go out and buy inFamous because you were a fan of the developer's past work on the Sly Cooper series you may get a better understanding of the company's name, Sucker Punch, since their super-heroic new game couldn't be further from their cartoon racoon past.

InFamous is a dark, gritty game, but not nihilistic, at least not unless you want it to be. The open-world setting is inspired by the post-disaster urban jungles of Batman: No Man's Land and DMZ. As with those comic books, and, of course, Escape from New York, the city has been quarantined by the government, with its remaining refugees left to fend for themselves against the predatory gangs fighting each other for territory and the civvies for shits and giggles.

This has come to pass because a terrorist attack laid waste to six square blocks of Empire City, resulting in death, disease, riots and all-around anarchy. The terrorist responsible? Well, seeing as how you, Cole, were the bike messenger who delivered the explosive, and the last man standing in its aftermath, all signs are pointing in your direction.

It wasn't you but the blast did give you electricity-based powers, from shooting lightning bolts and blast waves to tossing energy grenades. (Though you must stay away from water and trying to use a gun or car will make them explode.) And you can handily replenish your electricity at any power source: a pay phone, a lamppost and yep, even a human's bioelectricity.

Of course, that will kill them. And here's where the game gets real interesting. You can play as "heroic" or "infamous," and though this isn't the first game to judge your morality it really pays off here. Decisions, both big (sharing a food drop versus electrocuting the starving) and small (healing a plague victim or sucking them dry), feed into your karma meter and the impact is more than superficial.

Zapping the innocent will get you some cool-looking red electricity but it also changes how the bystanders feel about you. Inspire them and people will want your autograph, they'll hang posters of you and even start cleaning up their godforsaken city. Play evil and the city's downward spiral will continue unabated. (Though the plot stays pretty much the same, there are 15 additional missions available to each path, but not both).

The city is a wonder, largely because you have mad climbing skills that make the game almost as vertical as it is horizontal - think Crackdown or Assassin's Creed but with a proper story. And the graphics are great, but they look far too similar to every other now-gen game with great graphics. Given how stylized Sly Cooper was, and how beautiful inFamous's graphic novel-inspired cut-scenes are, it would have been way cooler if the game had a unique visual aesthetic to match its setting.

Superhero stories have taken over the culture in recent years but despite success on film they've had a hard time similarly soaring in the gaming world. Well, thanks to inFamous you can consider that villain finally vanquished. (Sucker Punch/Sony)