There is something so satisfying about running up the side of skyscrapers, gliding through the air, and landing on some helpless infected person before ripping them apart in a gory feast. If that’s the kind of thing you are looking for, Prototype 2 is the game for you. It’s easy to hop into the game, and spend a few hours absolutely raising a ruckus. If that’s all you are really looking for from this game, you should know you are in for a good time. But, if you are looking for some deep, and emotional connection with the characters, and any kind of care about a story, you should think of Prototype 2 as a summer blockbuster, something that is fun, but relatively thoughtless.
The game takes place in New York City. Well, it’s NYC under a horrific outbreak of the Blacklight virus. It takes place shortly after the events of the original Prototype, but this time you play as Sgt. James Heller. This man is pissed off throughout the game, and for good reason. Not only is the city an absolute disgusting waste, but also his wife and daughter were killed by mutant-like monsters. Heller is one angry dude, and he has a hard time speaking one complete sentence without a cursing. Then again, he’s a pretty violent dude and doesn’t think twice about putting his own life at risk to help control the city. Heller runs into Alex Mercer, the protagonist from Prototype. The pair square off, and Mercer infects Heller with the virus, thus giving him powers.
These powers are fairly varied. You can jump and leap through the air as if were shot out of a cannon, and you can run up walls of buildings like some sort of magician. Then there are combat powers, which are gained throughout the game, usually by killing bosses. For example, you’ll get hammerfists, blades and claws, and a whip, to name a few.
All of these abilities roll together to make a fairly strong combat system. There’s nothing complex here, and for the most part you can get by spamming your square and triangle buttons to alternate your attacks. More complex enemies will force you to properly time dodges and blocks, but Prototype 2 does a great job of making you feel in control of how you want to dispose of your enemies. It’s easy to alternate between your abilities on the fly. While some enemies have weaknesses you can exploit, barely any encounter requires you to use one specific power. To put it simply, combat is extremely fun, rewarding, gory, fast, and fairly personalized.
That’s not to say it’s perfect, however. One of the most frustrating elements of combat rests in the camera and targeting mechanics. It’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle of a battle. If you are out on the streets attempting to dispose of armored vehicles, helicopters, swarms of infected baddies, and even some more elite mini-boss enemies—this is a common battle in the second half of the game—then it’s extremely easy for Heller to end up lost in the crowd, changing targets too quickly, and sometimes the camera gets stuck on really annoying positions. Since combat is central to Prototype 2, and it’s so much fun, it’s easy to get frustrated by the camera and target system when you just want to blow away small armies of enemies.
Despite these issues, the game is not difficult. You are simply a powerful dude, completely capable of healing yourself throughout battles, ripping off guns from tanks, and taking down building-size mutant-infected enemies. Turn the difficulty to max—there is a new game+, which is more difficult but still not crazy—if you want to feel slightly challenged. Part of this lack of a challenge comes from repetitive boss battles. These encounters are essentially identical throughout the game. You typically fight bosses that are just like you—for the most part well-timed dodge or block is all you need to win. After you beat them, you gain their powers. That’s the basics of nearly every extended mission: go find a bad guy, kill him/her, gain the powers, and demonstrate you know how to use powers against a swarm of enemies.
Luckily the missions are not all the same, but the variety isn’t too crazy, either. Outside of the basic “go kill this guy” mission, you’ll have to consume scientists to discover more of the story. Consuming is your other primary power. With the tap of the button you can consume just about anyone in the game. You’ll take their identity and heal yourself a bit in the process. There’s a bit of a stealth element to consuming as you can’t perform it if the person is being watched. These stealth sections are a great break from the killing. There are even some vehicle combat missions to help keep the variety alive.
The story unfolds largely through stylized noir-style cut-scenes. Without giving much away—and, really, there isn’t much to give away—Mercer wants Heller’s help in destroying Gentek, the company that made the virus, and Blackwatch, a military group. The story is very predictable and never really brings you into Heller’s personal world. You can feel bad for him, but that’s about it. The story isn’t going to win any awards, but it also isn’t bad enough to make you not want to play. There is an RPG element that allows you to upgrade your abilities, so at the very least you’ll want to see how far you can take Heller’s abilities.
There’s a pretty glaring issue with the consuming someone’s identity in Prototype 2. While you get a glimpse of the victim’s memories—a nice touch to help tell the story—the A.I. ends up being, well, dumb. If you get caught in Heller form running around, Blackwatch will come after you. But, if you consume a scientist, pilot, or random citizen, that same Blackwatch security won’t blink if you run up a building in front of them. “Oh, that’s completely normal seeing an old woman running up an apartment building. I’m definitely not going to tell my supervisor about this one.” Unfortunately the A.I. as a whole is pretty poor.
While Prototype 2 has a ton of side missions, collectibles and challenges to keep you busy, there isn’t a whole lot of a reason to come back for a second helping. That is partially because the game lacks a morality system, like inFamous. It’s hard not to compare these two games, and it’s clear inFamous did a better job of morality. It’s not a huge miss for Prototype 2, but hopefully the third installment will not only have a stronger story, but also a system that is impacted by your decisions.
-The Final Word-
Prototype 2 is all about mindless combat, flying through the air, running up buildings, and cheesy dialogue. Don't expect a deep story, but get ready for a fun ride.
|Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3|