When the first Prototype game busted on the scene in 2009 it was met with mostly positive reviews. Critics praised the game for its arsenal of moves and intriguing storyline. Prototype certainly did well in the sales department but it came out at a time when Sony’s inFAMOUS arrived. At the time, many compared Prototype to inFAMOUS and for good reason as both had many similarities. I cannot help but speculate that inFAMOUS may have cut into Prototype’s profits and perhaps its overall success. Regardless, almost three years later Radical Entertainment releases Prototype 2. Does the sequel address the issues from the first game and deliver a fantastic open world experience? The answer is an absolute yes; however, Prototype 2 is far from an unparalleled experience.
In terms of Prototype 2’s storyline, 14-months have passed since New York was plagued with the massive outbreak. New York City is now a war zone which has been quarantined off by the military. The man who is seemingly responsible for it all, Alex Mercer, is still on the run and has become a shadow that looms over the city as the government’s military attempts to track him down. You play as Sgt. James Heller, whose family was destroyed by Mercer’s apparent release of the Blacklight virus. With his wife and daughter gone, Heller now serves in the military working towards attempting to stop the outbreak from spreading beyond city limits, and of course track down Mercer who everyone blames for the outbreak. As the game begins, Heller and his unit find themselves massacred by a swarm of infected leaving Heller as the sole survivor. Soon after, Heller runs into Mercer but it doesn’t go too well for him as Mercer quickly infects him with the virus and explains to Heller the government conspiracy behind the virus. By infecting Heller, Mercer has now made him his prototype with special powers and so the game begins.
Overall, I found the narrative to be a gripping story and I was immersed in it. The game starts out at a frantic pace and much of the story is told in the first 10-minutes of the game. Sure, once the game switches gears, and you really sink your teeth into the single player campaign, the story tends to drag as you progress along the 15-20 hour single player campaign. That being said, I give plenty of kudos to the development team for their introduction to the plotline, which stays true to the original, and the high production values that come along with it.
The only problem with the story as I see it is the disconnection with the game’s main characters: Heller and Mercer. Simply put, I wanted to see much more character development. The more I played the game, the more I found myself not caring all that much for Heller’s plight. You would think the game would have gone to great lengths to create an atmosphere of compassion for Heller given his family was killed by the virus. Unfortunately, due to his ‘potty mouth’ and the way in which he slices and dices half the occupants of New York City, some of that empathy and compassion is lost. It is certainly not a deal breaker by any means but I just expected a little more in the character development department especially when you consider how riveting the TV trailer spot is (the one with the Johnny Cash song).
Much like the original Prototype game, Prototype 2 is an open world sandbox game where you can take on various missions, free roam the city, and tackle side quests every so often. Much like Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Heller can sprint up the side of buildings, take massive leaps, glide in the air, and is pretty much free to roam wherever he wants in this re-designed New York City now called New York Zero (NYZ). I have to say, leaping tall buildings and just whipping around the city is a blast. Even during those segments when you need to ‘escape the alert’, the game is a blast. Sprinting and gliding your way through alley-ways, in-between buildings, under street bridges and pushing your way through crowds of people as military choppers and troops hunt you down is just as intense as it is enjoyable. The open world aspect of the game really works as I could not imagine Prototype 2 being a linear experience as that would have surely put a damper on things.
Before things really get going in the single player campaign, Prototype 2 does do a nice job introducing you to the game’s basic controls. You will be sprinting away from a massive beast as the game shows you how to the sprint and dodge the madness, you will be stabbing Mercer as the game introduces you to the basic attack button, and you will then be surrounded by a gathering of infected enemies inside a lab as you are shown heavy attacks, light attacks, jumping, grabbing and consuming the target buttons. I enjoyed this style of tutorial as not only are you introduced to the game’s basic controls but it keeps the game moving as you are also introduced to the game’s storyline as well.
Prototype 2’s combat system is easily one of the best aspects of the game. You are given 5-weapons in total at your disposal. You earn these weapons as you progress along and eventually you can assign two of them to your face buttons. Heller’s weapons are morphed onto his hands and become incredible tools of destruction in the process. Whether it is leaping across a city block as you use your giant Wolverine-like claws to behead an enemy or ingesting an enemy as you steal their memories, the game’s combat system is entertaining and enjoyable. You can hack and slash your way through layers of enemies or you can sneak into an area, absorb an enemy and infiltrate a lab disguised as a soldier. Needless to say, I was impressed with the combat system and the amount of ways you can dispose of your enemies.
When compared to the first Prototype game, the controls feel very tight and fluid. You really feel like you are in control. Not to mention the addition of dual-wielding is very cool as well. By dual-wielding you can do such things as a “Hammerfist Slam” to launch enemies into the air and then follow up with a “Blade Slice” that cuts them in two while they are still in midair. The result is gruesome but very cool indeed.
Prototype 2’s levelling up system is also quite good. There are several areas you can upgrade as you progress along in the game. You can level up Heller’s evolution by boosting such things as your sprinting speed and height of your jump. You can also increase your powers, skills and mutations. Sure it is not as deep as it could be but the game’s “experience points” system is basic enough and rewarding enough to keep you coming back for more.
Like any good open world game, Prototype 2 also features a good amount of exploration. There are black boxes to find in each of the three zones and each of the sections contains a great deal of side quests. You will do such things as clearing out an infected area with your super killing powers or simply track down an important scientist. The side quests will keep you busy but completing all of them in the game can lend to a feeling of repetitiveness. Shapeshifting and taking downs enemies is a blast but over the stretch of 15-hours the experience does become tiresome and eventually the game losses its lustre.
The bulk of the enemies you encounter in the game are easily defeated. In fact, I found myself cruising along; that is until I hit the first big enemy boss. To say this boss was a bugger to take down is an understatement. As I fought him I also unfortunately uncovered some wonky camera issues in the game as at times the camera had a mind of its own and I would struggle to get away from the grasps of the beasts arms. Likewise, picking up a bazooka and firing it towards the enemy was not as simple as it could have been. In any event, I was surprised how the level of difficulty ramped up significantly in such a short amount of time.
The game’s navigation and map system is decent and pretty much helps guide you where you need to go. When in doubt the game also features a sonar system which acts as a sensor in your efforts to track down the enemy. By clicking on the left thumbstick an orange light scans the environment and is used to track down your target. It is not a bad little radar system but certainly takes some getting used to. Often areas are not easily found and the sonar doesn’t make it obvious where you need to go, so it is imperative that you find the tallest building in the area, get to the top of it, and complete a proper scan of the land so you find your way to the target.
Visually, Prototype 2 is good but certainly not great. The cut scenes are well done and the black and white ‘Sin City’ like effect was is very cool. The character animations are decent and the level design is top notch. This being said, it did not have that sharpness or tight visuals we have come to expect with major blockbuster games. Prototype 2 falls somewhere below Gears of War 3 but above Red Faction Armageddon. Some areas seem murky and there are points in the game where the graphics almost seem dated; however, visually Prototype 2 is an upgrade over its predecessor.
As far as the sound is concerned, Prototype 2 delivers. The voice acting is solid, believable and raw. Sure Heller gets carried away with the f-bombs a bit too much, but overall I found the dialogue powerful. The soundtrack is equally impressive and features fantastic sounding tunes for all the game’s many missions. The sound effects are also well done and sound great in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. All in all, I had no complaints with the games sound effects.
Overall, Prototype 2 delivers an experience which advances the franchise in the right direction. Many of the issues which plagued the first game have been addressed this time around making for a sequel that feels great, is engaging, and is a thrill ride from beginning to end. While the game’s visuals could have used a few more months in the shop and the repetitive nature of the game’s mission and quests do hamper the experience somewhat; at the end of the day Prototype 2 is an enjoyable open world experience that fans of sandbox style games are sure to enjoy and fans of the original game should appreciate.