Prototype 2 is a tale of revenge.
One man’s payback for the death of his wife and daughter.
Set against the backdrop of a virus-ridden city, iron fisted soldiers and super mutants.
On paper it sounds like the stuff of legend so why then does Prototype 2 never quite reach the dizzying heights of it’s own potential?
Let’s quickly backtrack as our answer may lie within.
Prototype 2 kicks off in grand style. The Mercer virus, named after the first game’s anti-hero Alex Mercer, is back. New York City (now known as New York Zero) is under the control of Blackwatch troops and our new hero James Heller has just lost his family. This new outbreak claimed the lives of both his wife Colette and young daughter Amaya. Blaming the deaths on Mercer, Heller requests to be sent to NYZ intent on avenging his family.
As Heller enters NYZ airspace the helicopter in which he’s travelling is taken down, crashing hard into the streets below, he awakes to see the reason for his pain, Alex Mercer, before him. Filled with rage Heller strikes, but the ensuing chase and face-off ends with Mercer infecting Heller with the virus and thus making him some sort of super mutant similar to himself.
Mercer wants Heller’s help, other groups want Heller dead, Heller want’s revenge and Prototype 2 is under way.
Now that sounds pretty good yeah? It at least has the makings of some big budget Hollywood blockbuster and more importantly a game of some serious substance and depth.
Yet unfortunately it just never quite happens that way. The story never really digs deep enough into Heller’s personality and psyche. There’s never really any empathy with the character from player as we’re never really allowed to get close. Instead James Heller just comes across as an angry, profanity spewing cliché. And that’s a real shame.
Prototype 2 is a game in which after a while you forget to care about what’s happening and who’s who and why we’re slicing these guys up, shape-shifting into this fellow and blowing the living s**t out of everything else. It ends up becoming a whole city-wide escape into some mutant madness that is a hell of a lot of fun but will never leave you thinking.
Then again, this is Prototype, we have super human powers can scale tall buildings in seconds, destroy waves of enemies in a single blow, shape shift into the fallen and soar like an eagle, what is there to think about?
This use of ability and movement throughout the world is where Prototype 2 comes to life. It’s a truly exhilarating feeling to leap from a skyscraper and swoop down upon your foe before unleashing all hell upon them.
Combat is a similarly riveting and wonderful experience as Heller’s mutant abilities are brought again to the fore. Mutating arms into a variety of weapons with which to slice and dice those foolish enough to face you is extremely satisfying, you can also consume an enemy meaning you can then shape-shift into them and mingle within the enemy ranks unnoticed. This mingling though does highlight a slight flaw in the AI as I, on more than one occasion while taking on the shape of an enemy, accidentaly ran up a wall or leapt a ridiculous height while the gathered troops didn’t even bat an eyelid. Honestly if the local lollipop man suddenly soared into the sky before running up the side of the nearest semi-detached I reckon I might notice, I’d at least think it was a bit weird, even here in Cornwall. So, as a gamer who thrives on seeing realistic AI this was a little annoying.
But it is only a minor flaw in the grand scheme of Prototype 2’s masterplan.
The gameplay overall is a joyous experience when taken in small doses. Coming across as the bastard child of Crackdown and GTA, Prototype 2 has improved on the original game but not substantially. Rather, tweaks to the control system and making the whole process a little more forgiving to the gamer have been implemented. There are numerous missions and side missions to take on and although the narrow line of tedium is crossed on occasion overall the fluidity and speed of the gameplay just about override this feeling.
The missions attempt to offer more variety as you progress, sometimes throwing you into a vehicle, but not enough that you’ll want to play solidly for prolonged periods, this is still a game best served in short, sharp sessions.
The various mutant abilities are great fun to use, the hunting view, in which a pulse emits from your target allowing you to pinpoint his location works well and getting upto such antics as making a human bomb, launching it into your enemies and watching it rip through them is highly rewarding.
As Heller’s powers increase so too will your appreciation of just how spectacular this game can be, becoming a one man army has never been such fun.
Overall then where are we? Well, the graphics are superb throughout and occasionally jaw-dropping, what we have here is a living, breathing city. The voice work is excellent but unfortunately Heller himself never displays anything that makes you give a toss about him. The story has potential, but it’s never actually realised, it seems developers Radical Entertainment chose to focus on the action rather than the plot. And this action is where the game excels. The mutant powers are implemented brilliantly and become increasingly fun to use as the game unfolds. There’s a lot of entertainment to be had within this open world when straying from the storylines path, I recommend you stray often.
Prototype 2 almost achieved something special, but, while James Heller has one outstretched hand toward the stars brushing fingertips against greatness his other hand is stuffed deep into his pocket scratching his mutant nuts, bored.
But thankfully the one part tedium is outweighed by the three parts exhilaration. If you enjoyed Prototype then you’ll almost certainly find something special in it’s sequel, if not, well, this time some of the creases have been ironed out so you may find a new appreciation for the game and if you’re completely new to this world then what are you waiting for soldier? There’s buildings’ to scale, tanks to destroy and powers to unleash, time to get your mutant on!