Developer: Radical Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Price: $59.99 – Available Here
Open world action games used to be a rarity, however two years ago not one, but two, brand new franchises were established featuring open world action. In what can only be seen as an odd coincidence, the PlayStation 3 exclusive inFAMOUS by Sucker Punch was released only a month before the multiplatform Prototype was released to stores.
Both of these games featured intense action with main characters that developed super human powers allowing them to dominate any force they came across. However while inFAMOUS offered powers based on electricity, Prototype raised the bar with outlandish transforming abilities, plenty of violence and multiple other features we’ve never seen before. Now Radical Entertainment has brought us the sequel to 2009’s dominate open world action game. Is Prototype 2 even better than the first? We shall see.
In the first Prototype we followed the journey of Alex Mercer, a man who woke up in a morgue with no memories of his past life but in possession of superhuman abilities. From thereon was a story of mystery as players unlocked more information on what happened to Alex and about the nefarious Blackwatch Company who engineered the virus which changed his life forever. Now while Alex Mercer was never a saint in Prototype 1, he has become quite the sinner in Prototype 2 as he has become the primary villain of the series.
While the first outbreak of the newly named “Mercer Virus” happened during Alex’s death throes, this second outbreak of the virus was purely intentional. However was Alex himself the source of the outbreak or has Blackwatch returned simply to test their next batch of genetic mutations? Could Alex Mercer simply be a good guy still after all this time? That is the players’ job to find out because you will no longer be taking control of Mercer anymore, but one of his victims named James Heller.
James Heller is a Sergeant in the army who lost his family due to the outbreak of the virus and only thinks of one thing, the death of Alex Mercer. However despite his burning hatred for the man, upon confrontation Alex easily handles James and infects him with a strain of the disease that gives him the same abilities that Alex himself possesses. With super human abilities and deadly powers at his disposal, each faction begins to move slowly as the player must not only find out what Blackwatch is planning to do to the NYZ but also what Alex himself is up to.
With James’ loss of his family still weighing heavily on his mind and his world turned upside down, we are presented with an unwilling protagonist who has been thrown into a terrible situation that shattered everything he previously knew. James Heller as a whole is more likable and well developed than Mercer ever was in the first game and by the end of the story many gamers will find themselves invested in seeing how Heller’s story will end up.
This is also helped by the fact that Mercer’s full antagonist swing has given him a tad more personality than before, offering up a formidable foe more dangerous than anything Blackwatch could ever muster up. With plenty of twists and turns Prototype 2’s storyline never feels dull and gamers will be eager to slice and dice their way through the game’s decently long storyline.
Visuals & Audio:
One of the interesting aspects of Prototype 2 is the way that New York is split up into three different zones. The yellow zone, green zone and red zone which each have their own unique atmosphere and design. These zones all are designed to look like New York City of course, but they are all in various levels of infection which gives them a life of their own. For example the yellow zone is an area held under tight control by Blackwatch with people being used as test subjects for various monsters, the green zone appearing relatively peaceful minus the occasional mutant attacks and ever present military and the red zone that is like a complete war zone where mutant monsters roam the streets alongside countless infected and the military rolls through the streets armed to the teeth.
As for the rest of the game, players can expect Prototype 2 to be even more brutal than the first as enemies are torn limb from limb, sliced apart and more. The character models on generic characters aren’t the best looking but are suitable enough. Interestingly enough Prototype 2 features stylized cutscenes where they are mostly in grayscale except for specific objects they wish to highlight.
Smashing your way through military vehicles and tearing apart bodies has never sounded better as the sound effects presented in Prototype 2 are great to listen to. The characters themselves seem adequately voiced with James Heller’s voice actor providing a suitable voice for the anguished father. On the other hand, generic enemies tend to be a bit repetitive in their dialogue when you are tearing through their ranks.
Considering Alex Mercer himself infected Heller, it only makes sense that Heller has the same potential to acquire all of the abilities that the former Prototype protagonist has. This means players can take James Heller all over New York, whether it is running along the ground at super speed, jumping eight stories in the air, running straight up the side of a building, gliding through the air with the greatest ease and even hitting the ground like a meteor and leaving giant cracks in the pavement where you land.
Heller also can acquire a number of viscous weapon transformations as the story progresses. This includes a number of returning morphing abilities such as claws, blades, whip arms and hammerfists. One new ability is the ability to use tendrils that can tie larger opponents up, allowing players to perform special maneuvers that will weaken said enemy significantly. When you don’t feel like getting physical yourself, you can even pick up a car or any other number of debris and throw them ridiculously far distances to splatter your enemies.
Besides being able to morph his arms into deadly weapons capable of tearing humans and monstrosities alike limb from limb Heller also eventually obtains the ability to drive tanks, pilot helicopters, use firearms dropped from enemies and even rip the missiles or turrets right off of the armored vehicles and use them himself. The level of insanity that the combat can reach at times is absolutely amazing. Radical Entertainment seems to have found a nice balance between making the chaotic combat not only enjoyable but also challenging at the same time.
Heller can easily still die as the only way he can recover health is either to consume humans/monsters or, at later levels, run away from combat to heal. This balance only raises the enjoy ability of the combat further as enemies are enemies are torn apart, bullets fly through the air and explosions occur all around you.
There are still a few problems with the game’s combat system, though a number of the past issues have been addressed. For example there are multiple infected creatures, super soldiers and even others who have received Mercer’s gift to mix things up and the combat is always very fluid and varied, especially absorptions with various abilities.
On the other hand the controls themselves tend to be a bit awkward at times with Heller sometimes randomly aiming for enemies you want nothing to do with, or even locking onto a passing civilian instead of a large infected creature ready to take you out. While this doesn’t make too much of a difference in combat, it is a significant problem when Heller chooses to grab the nearby car rather than the nearby soldier you want to consume and recover from near death.
This is also an issue when players try to navigate the city as Heller’s movement across the city streets and buildings is usually situational, meaning he will do various things depending on the obstacle in his path. This means that there will be plenty of times he will simply do a backflip off of a tiny ledge he encounters on a building or begin hopping awkwardly on the ground over the slightest bump in the road.
As the player finishes story missions, runs around killing people or consuming certain special targets they will receive EP (Evolution points). This EP is basically experience points that help them level up to the next level, or shall we say “evolve.” As the player evolves he can place a single point into various attributes such as increased health, better regeneration, shapeshifting, mass and more. He can also level up various weapon abilities such as machine gun, tanks and even his own arm powers by consuming specially marked targets. This means that there are plenty of skills to level up and eventually create an unstoppable killing machine of epic proportions.
As the player makes his way around the city there are a few “collectibles” that are scattered throughout each of the three zones in New York. These collectibles range from black boxes with audio on them, lairs to destroy and squads of scientists to kill. Whenever the player finds a certain amount of these they will receive a special mutation. These mutations are split into different categories such as Locomotion, Power, Defensive and more. These will add some special characteristics to your skills or allow for wider attack range and more.
Another way to accumulate these mutation points is to complete optional side missions which are called //BLACKNET missions. These side missions involve Heller hunting down a key member of Blackwatch and consuming them to learn of Blackwatch’s plans. Hunting is controlled via clicking the left stick which sends out a “hunting pulse” which will resonate out and return in the direction of the target. The hunting pulse is also useful for seeing what enemies are being watched by others and which of them can be stealth consumed.
Once these plans are learned, the player will then be tasked with disrupting these plans either by collecting objects in a sort of checkpoint race, or destroying everything in sight. These tend to be repetitious in nature but are fun enough distractions from the main storyline and provide a small bit of background information as well.
Heller retains the ability to transform into the latest person he consumed and this is used for a variety of stealth based missions where the player must sneak into an area without alerting the base or remain undercover among other soldiers. This still remains an interesting feature and now players have a new weapon in their stealth arsenal… the bio bomb.
When the player uses the bio bomb they will “infect” their target with a virus which will cause that person to start acting sick. Their body will then burst with multiple tentacles latching onto nearby people and objects which will then be dragged at a fast pace into the infected person, killing everyone caught by the tentacles in a gruesome fashion. Obviously this is a great way to distract enemies and cause a panic which is the best time to sneak around of course.
Despite offering plenty of amazing combat and an intriguing storyline, there is one problem with Prototype 2’s gameplay and that is the fact we have seen nearly everything that the game has to offer already, with only a few minor improvements and new abilities added to the mix. While this is far from a bad thing, it also means that the game can become a bit stale as you continue slicing and consuming hundreds of enemies again and again.
Prototype 2 brings with it everything we loved from the last game and more. With a more refined combat system and more powers to unleash on enemies the destruction players can wreak in the world of Prototype 2 is more satisfying than ever. James Heller may not be the first prototype ever but the sheer power players will be able to unleash on the masses is unlike anything we’ve seen before.
Unfortunately there are still plenty of things we have seen before which return in Prototype 2 and the lock on system is still difficult to master, but those looking for a lengthy open world action game full of blood and mayhem with an interesting story packed in need look no further than Prototype 2.