The original Prototype was a game that found itself a victim of bad timing. Released within a few weeks of the popular and critically acclaimed Infamous back in 2009, both gave players the opportunity to experiment with superpowers in an open world setting. Unfortunately Prototype didn’t quite win the hearts of gamers, but now developers Radical Entertainment are back to show what their franchise is capable of.
Unlike most sequels, Prototype 2 does not continue the story of the previous protagonist Alex Mercer but instead focuses on the battle hardened Sergeant James Heller. The game takes place 14 months after the original and once again shows a fictional New York in the grip of an outbreak that is beginning to turn all the inhabitants into viscous infected monsters. Heller is sent to help proceedings but arrives home to find his wife and daughter have been killed by the monsters that he believes Mercer is responsible for. He therefore goes on a suicidal revenge mission to hunt him down and make him pay. Unfortunately things don’t quite go to plan and instead he awakes to find himself imbued with some seriously impressive powers that Mercer has granted him for an unknown reason.
It’s a purposefully confusing premise at first that sees Heller fighting both Alex and the specialist team sent to supposedly ‘help’ in the time of the outbreak. There are plenty of twists and turns throughout although all questions are suitably wrapped up by the end of the game. It could have been a very heartfelt story, however the main protagonist is a very stereotypical solider type that switches between cheesy one liners and senseless rage against anyone, enemies or civilians. While this does translate into a game where players don’t have to worry about the consequences of their actions, it does detract from any connection that could have been established with the lead character.
the over-the-top action is still very much aliveThose who have played the first game will be happy to hear that the over-the-top action is still very much alive, although it has seen tweaks. Players can now map any of their dangerously infected appendages to two of the face buttons so it’s possible to obliterate your enemies with the powerful but slow hammerfist while mixing in a bit of your razor sharp claws to dice soldiers into tiny pieces. This is a subtle change but makes combat far more versatile since the original only allowed for one power to be active at once. These can be reassigned on the fly to give even more tools to the player as they deal with the enemies that they encounter. Another new addition are the ‘finishers’ for vehicles. These allow for a single button press to annihilate the threat in gloriously exaggerated ways, such as upper cutting a helicopter into the stratosphere or ripping the top of a tank off and smashing it back down on itself.
As the game progresses more and more abilities are unlocked, although there’s a lot more rigidity to the evolution of Heller. Whereas the first Prototype allowed for the purchase of specific moves using points earned from combat, Prototype 2 streamlines this by giving all the moves to players as the story progresses but allowing upgrades in a system similar to the role of perks seen in many other games. These usually involve just increasing the damage or effective range and can be obtained through either completing side missions or consuming enemies.
Consumption, for the most part, provides a completely opposite side of gameplay to the all out destruction found in the rest of the game. This allows Heller to stealthily become his enemies by literally pulling them towards him and engulfing their bodies, like 2005′s Kameo. Parading around as the new you has plenty of benefits and allows access to buildings that are otherwise locked down and enables players to stroll around in enemy bases at their leisure. It’s not 100% foolproof so there’s still chance to be found out by performing unusual or unfriendly actions. The majority of the consuming is used for specific missions but can also be used to gain health at any point in the game.
Aside from the main story missions there are a large amount of side tasks that can be accessed across the vast city. While these are completely optional, they are necessary if you want to fully upgrade Heller and make him a more effective killer. All of these are simply extra versions of assignments you undertake in the main missions with a variety of tasks such as destroying a certain enemy, collecting a certain item(s) or consume a certain person. It’s not anything special by any means but gives plenty more opportunity to simply experiment with the slick controls and powers that are on offer.
Prototype 2 will take around 10-15 hours to complete just progressing through the main story, however the numerous side missions along with collecting all the upgrades has the potential to almost double your playtime. There’s also a new leaderboard and semi-multiplayer feature that’s been added this time around in the form of ‘Radnet’. This is essentially a set of in-game challenges that can be found with the Radnet Edition of the game, or purchased via Xbox LIVE or the PlayStation Store. It collects your scores for certain tasks such as throwing an enemy as far as possible, killing a number of foes with a certain move or completing a race in a set time. All of these then feed into leaderboards and are pitted against your friends and the rest of the world. Notifications pop-up during the normal single player game and it drives an addictive element of competition that’s hard to resist.
Prototype 2 offers a clear visual upgrade over its predecessor, with the developers exchanging bland, faceless environments with a sprawling, bustling cityscape that’s bursting at the seams with unique touches. There’s plenty of detail at street level with flaming bins, litter and graffiti all perfectly fitting the feel of a city on the brink of extinction.
The verticality on offer is impressive with buildings piercing the sky, making the play area far more expansive. Draw distance is something that has suffered and it’s not uncommon to see the full detail of your surroundings materialising into view as you race around at speed. It’s certainly not a deal breaker but it does break the immersion.
Prototype 2 manages to successfully build on the original with a more accessible combat system, superior visuals and even more tools to wreak havoc with. It may not have an award-winning story and can be downright crass at times but it knows exactly what it is – an extremely violent game that makes you feel like a total unbeatable badass from start to finish.