A New Type of Badass: Prototype 2 Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
In 2009, Activision released Prototype, an open-world, bloody game that was over-shadowed by another game released around the same time that it was constantly compared to – Sony’s Infamous. For good reason too, as Infamous was much more fluid and provided a deeper combat system; Prototype had far too many flaws in comparison. Now three years later and with plenty of fan feedback, the developers, Radical, have released Prototype 2 with many improvements. With a new protagonist, a heavier focus on mutations and more varied gameplay, the question becomes: does Prototype 2 deliver a better game, or does the specimen die off like the first?
Instead of finding a cliché scenario in which Mercer was sadly stripped of his powers, the developers decided to bring in Sergeant James Heller as the new unsung hero of this franchise. Heller was on patrol as one of the military personal helping in containing the Blacklight Virus outbreak when Alex Mercer infected him with the illness, and now James Heller is out for revenge on Mercer and Gentek for the death of his young wife and daughter.
Apparently after the first Prototype game, Mercer traveled the world to see how far the infection had spread, in the hopes of being a savior of the world (since he was in control of, and could fight, the virus). Unfortunately, he got tied up with a woman he fell for, and she betrayed him for some reason, bringing out the upmost of Mercer’s anger. He then decided to go back to New York and finish off the Blackwatch Organization and Gentek, the pharmaceutical giant that created the Blacklight Virus. Luckily, the developers realized that fans might be confused with the storyline, especially since it’s filled in with standalone comic book releases, so they created an introduction video for newcomers.
Being James Heller, you are in the middle of a sick and dying New York. Citizens are crying out for help and mercy to Gentek, who has led everyone to believe that they have the cure, and normal life will renew once again. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all, and they are using these unsuspecting sufferers as a means of bioweapon research. The creatures and bosses you’ll come across were all once people walking the streets of New York. While Heller’s main goal is to take revenge upon Alex Mercer for infecting him, he partners with others along the way to stop Gentek’s evil agenda. While I didn’t have a problem with offering new characters to the story, they felt extremely empty and transitory, as most were killed off quickly by either Heller or Blackwatch. As a result, many new characters had no chance for development, and were quickly forgotten.
The story in Prototype 2 is completely forgettable. Every character, aside from any female roles, has a generic tough-guy voice that doesn’t separate them from another eventual victim to fall in the hands of Heller. Heller himself is another issue, as nothing (aside from a few flashy cutscenes showing the death of his loved ones) throughout the game makes you feel genuinely bad for this antihero. He is pissed off the rest of the time – as he should be. However, it is hard to enjoy a character that drops f-bombs every sentence and shouts out one-liners only heard from Celebrity Deathmatch. If Radical’s goal here was to create a protagonist that players could like and sympathize, they missed their mark.
The saving grace here is the gameplay: Prototype 2 is an extremely satisfying game in the sense that it would give Kratos, from God of War, a run for his money. This is one over-the-top, brutal, hyper-violent game, wherein using the phrase “gallons of blood” is an understatement. The combat system is the heart of Prototype 2’s gameplay. Simply killing an adversary isn’t enough; your goal in every kill is to put a bright smile on your face.
You have your basic attacks of punching and kicking, but you will almost never use those, as the game immediately tosses you into Heller’s hellish reality, with immediate mutation abilities to play with. As you progress through the game you will earn experience points that allow you to increase your skills and unlock mutations to satisfy your inner evil. With the infection, Heller’s arms can mutate into objects such as a giant blade, a whip, claws that would make Wolverine weep and what’s called “tendrils” that act as lugging tentacles. The only way I could familiarize this is to Terminator 2’s T-1000: no scenario is too great for Heller to handle.
A major component of Prototype 2 is its stealthy mechanic of being able to consume anyone and everyone to avoid being detected or gather information from specific members of Gentek. Many missions will start with finding a Doctor or military personnel to gain DNA or past conversations containing vital info stored in their brains, all of which are played out in a stylized noir cutscene (think of the movie, The Spirit). Once you find the victim within your reach, he/she will glow either red or white – white signaling that they are unwatched and red letting you know a nearby NPC is keeping an eye on them. Once your target is left unguarded, a simple tap of two buttons allows Heller to swallow everything about them, consuming their identity. If an alarm is sounded, your immediate instinct is to run as far as possible; however, you can turn the corner and hit left on the D-pad and assume the form of the last person you consumed. This function is an utter blast to play with, but it doesn’t come without some questionable calls. Changing identity near Gentek soldiers or using your abilities as a simple citizen doesn’t create any moderate warnings. The AI just doesn’t care what you do unless you cause a threat.
That isn’t the only laughable AI encounter. During multiple fights I witnessed Gentek soldiers bunch up like baby birds sitting in a nest while 20 feet away I was throwing a car at a helicopter. Rather than trying to spread out and flank, the soldiers waited placidly for me to hurl the next large piece of debris I got my hands on. For a game that focuses so much on combat and earning experience points with the amount of carnage you can unleash it’s disappointing to see that the game doesn’t offer decent AI to bring a challenge.
The game is also awfully painless, from the normal to hard difficulty. While starting the game on normal you felt just over-powered, as you should, so I bumped it up to hard. Being Heller should be fun, fast and brilliantly bloody, and it is; however, the game doesn’t bring any challenge at the gates to make me want to mix up my strategy, even on hard mode. The game ends up being a lengthy repeated Tarantino movie scene of wicked violence with no repercussion. One feature that, while many gamers complain is over-used, would have worked perfectly for Prototype 2 is a complete moral system. After all, Heller is out for revenge while making choices to side with certain faces that the player could have taken control of.
To try and mix the game up a bit, Radical decided to add side missions such as retrieving dropped packages off rooftops in a timely fashion, flying a helicopter, and more. Also collectibles, like black boxes that offer audio recordings, are scattered about that will all help in upgrading your mutated serial killer’s abilities. Each of these was a breath of fresh air as it takes a break from the property destruction you make of New York in the main story.
The presentation of Prototype 2’s cutscenes and menus is something to behold. As I mentioned the noir-style cutscenes are really striking with live action actors and arguments between characters that offer a glimpse of Gentek’s past. The main menu is a rather amusing trick of being a security camera along the streets of New York. Once you load your save file the camera pans in through the security system and, lo’ and behold, it was watching you; Starting you right where you left off. The pause menu contains a tremendous amount of information gathered on detailed individual screens; if you want information on Heller’s condition, Blacknet missions or the map- it’s all there easy to navigate.
The visuals of Prototype 2 are more of a mixed bag though. It runs extremely smooth while taking boundless leaps across buildings and the draw distance does its job at providing the outlook on landscapes. Up close, character models that are of importance are very detailed, and full of animation. However, once you take to the streets, every pedestrian and military grunt looks identical. Sharing only a couple different NPC models, it gives a lack of life and personality in comparison to the bustling city like New York. On the other hand, the infected mutants are much more varied, as they are the main adversaries you encounter throughout the story. Also, during your fights with mutants, you’ll notice a prompt que button to consume them, and the camera will pan around in a stylish manner as it goes into a slow-motion kill. This stylish and brutal animation is all part of the circle of destruction the developers push upon you.
In the end, Prototype 2 is what fans of Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, from PS2/Xbox, wanted in a sequel. So it’s no surprise both games were made by Radical and, thankfully, they listened to their fans. Prototype 2 has its downfalls but nothing that would drastically affect your gameplay. Aside from God of War III, Prototype 2 is the next most sadistic, frenzied, brutal and blood-spattered game to hit the market in a long time, and I treasured every minute of its butchery. Those who were put off by the buggy and repetitive Prototype from 2009 should give this much improved sequel a try. You can tell the developers spent much more time and resources on making a change for the better, and that is something you can surely appreciate.
Prototype 2 receives a 4.0 /5.0.
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