The complete package after 2009's foundations.
You would be forgiven for thinking that Prototype and inFamous were the same game. It was a massive case of unfortunate timing, back in 2009, as besides PS3 exclusivity on inFamous’s part, there was little to differentiate them in the mind of anyone who hadn’t been following the development of either. In truth, they were different, but sitting here three years later, I’ve mashed them into a jumbled mess of destruction in my fading memories and struggle to recall what happened in which. But that’s all behind us now, as Prototype 2 launched in late April as the only major release of the month, with nothing similar in sight.
What Prototype 2 Got Right
James Heller - Prototype 2 puts us in the shoes of new “hero” Stg. James Heller. Former protagonist, Alex Mercer, has become the enemy; although, he was never that "good" to begin with. Heller blames Mercer for the death of his wife and daughter and is hellbent on revenge, even after Mercer infects him with his unstoppable powers and reveals that there is more to the truth than there seems.
Heller’s story is a little clichéd, but it serves as a platform for a revenge driven, but otherwise good, person to act more as a hero than Mercer ever did, whilst still having license to destroy the city.
Destructive fun - Simply put: Prototype 2 is loads of fun. Traversing skyscrapers, gliding through the air, jumping on helicopters, unleashing mayhem on anything in your path. It does everything Prototype did, but better. The controls feel more fluid than they did in the first game, and movement is seamless as you run, bounce, jump and crash all around the city. New York is an open world for you to explore and destroy as you please.
As you progress, Heller gains more weapons to morph his hands into -- beginning with claws -- for a total of five, each more badass than the last. Completing tasks allows him to level up certain attributes, such as jump height, speed and health, with a rudimentary RPG-style XP system. While his skills progress with the narrative, Heller is a god damn machine from the conclusion of the tutorial. Nobody is going to mess with him, or at least, they shouldn’t.
Combat is improved by mapping more skills to the face buttons and a greater focus on defense. Mercer was designed as an offensive weapon, but we never really had any control when he wasn’t dominating. Heller is the complete package, with a strong defensive basis to complement his deadly arsenal of attacks.
It really all comes down to fun. The combat has a touch of button-mashing madness and the gore-infested violence won’t do anything to shock you. Meanwhile, leaping around all over town is more economical in the sense that James “Hulk” Heller doesn’t waste much time when scaling buildings, but has obviously taken a leaf out of InFamous’s book. None of it’s groundbreaking, but it is well polished, and most importantly, plain old fun. Remember when you just played a game for fun?
Improved gameplay - Prototype 2 completes the original game’s half-formulated ideas and expands the creativity with a raft of new gameplay features. Missions rotate between gruesome melee battles and ridiculous boss encounters, to undercover stealth infiltrations and running all over the city. They don’t stray too far from the conventions of the action sandbox genre, but they don’t really need to. You know what you’re getting into what you play a game like Prototype 2: clawing hundreds of clones, mammoth bosses, trailing important perps, commandeering tanks and helicopter takedowns.
Stealth is the opposite to Prototype’s fundamental concept, thanks to Heller’s new ability to consume victims and acquire their physique, as well as their memories. It’s a nice change of pace, when it lasts, and also doubles as a cunning way to evade the Blackwatch troops hellbent on destroying the entire city to facilitate your demise. The cunning sergeant is equipt with a pulsing sonar that can be used to locate targets anywhere in the city and see who has them in their line of sight. It makes stealth relatively easily, with so many warnings about the precarious nature of your actions, that getting caught on a regular basis will require an inability to comprehend the simplest of tactics.
What Prototype 2 Got Wrong
Becomes repetitive - Prototype 2 does repeat itself throughout the 15 hour adventure, but that’s almost up to the discretion of the player. If you just plow through the main story, it will quickly become a stale, repetitive affair. Most of the diversity comes from the unique side missions, which keep the whole thing feeling fresh considerably longer. However, the game doesn’t try and hide the fact that you’re doing the same things on a constant loop.
Lack of originality - Prototype 2 is more of a refined version of the first game than an original idea. It is noticeably more polished in every aspect, and has some new gameplay features, but does little that hasn’t already been seen -- and mastered -- before in the action sandbox genre. Prototype 2 is the perfect example of safe sequel; a game that was always going to be well received without doing anything amazing.
Looks a bit 2009 - If it were a movie, Prototype 2 would be a Michael Bay blockbuster. The story isn’t very deep, but that’s countered by lots of expensive explosions. Only, it doesn’t quite look as good as it should either. The city is impressive, but Heller’s animations are similar to those from 2009, which was an aeon ago in gaming years. Likewise, you’re constantly fighting the same minions. My 500th kill was probably identical to my 5th. While it doesn’t look bad by any stretch of the imagination, it isn’t the visual stunner we expect in 2012.
The Final Verdict
Prototype 2 is a significantly more polished version of 2009’s open world romp. While it doesn’t do much we haven’t seen before, it does everything well. The combat mechanics are much improved and James Heller is as badass as they come. While it isn’t a game that will go down in the history books, it’s plain old fun, which is exactly why it’s worth playing.
By Ben Salter