Game Rant’s Anthony MolÃ© reviews Prototype 2
The original Prototype had the unfortunate luck of releasing close to Sony’s open world title InFamous. The game was quickly overshadowed by Sucker Punch’s super hero tale, as Prototype (comparatively) had a bland story, less-inspired presentation and a number of odd gameplay quirks.
In Prototype 2, Radical Entertainment brings players back to New York City, and the experience is improved in almost every way.
Right from the beginning it’s clear just how much work’s been put into the game. New black and white cutscenes give Prototype 2 a much more cinematic feel, and with it a level of quality that was missing from the original. It’s readily apparent that Radical has put a tremendous amount of work into making Prototype 2 the best it can be – and the effort shines through in the presentation.
This time around, Alex Mercer, the first game’s main character, isn’t the star of the show. Instead, players take control of a new anti-hero: ex-soldier James Heller. While it’s not always the best idea to change characters between two titles, the decision pays off heavily for Prototype 2. Heller is a much more dynamic and enjoyable character than Mercer, though some players may find his vulgarity to be a bit over the top. The story behind Prototype 2 is that New York has once again become infected by a mysterious virus, turning people into monstrosities (The Infected), and forcing the intervention of a military force known as Blackwatch. Amongst the confusion, Heller’s family is killed, and now he’s out for revenge.
Overall, the story is much more enjoyable than the original, though it’s not exactly top-tier. The game could have benefited from a bit more character development – specifically from Heller and Mercer – but overall it’s an improvement. Aside from the main path, there are side missions and hidden collectibles called Black Boxes that add to the back story - though they’re mostly used to showcase the destruction of New York City not build on the narrative.
Speaking of New York, the city itself has seen a tremendous makeover, and at first glance it’s hardly recognizable as the same setting from the first game. Instead of confining the action to one small area, New York is now divided into three different islands, giving the game a much more expansive feel. Players can run around the city collecting the aforementioned Black Boxes or completing other objectives, such as destroying Infected lairs or Blackwatch research teams. Those who purchased a copy of the game with a Radnet access code will also have access to Events, which are basically skill challenges. They don’t really take anything away from the game (or add too much either) – and players can easily complete the campaign without even touching them.
In addition, Prototype 2 has also seen plenty of welcomed improvements in the gameplay department. The original Prototype was infamous for its artificial difficulty, which included random difficulty spikes during boss fights. This time, everything’s much more dynamic, giving players a fighting chance, and with it, less frustration. That said, boss fights are still pretty boring – as they’re usually pretty redundant. With the exception of the final encounter, once the player’s fought the first boss, they’ve pretty much fought them all.
The power system has also seen some changes. In the first game, players would acquire Evolution Points (EP) which could be spent on various upgrades. This time, as player earn EP they will eventually level up, earning a point per level which can be spent on upgrades. Players earn EP from killing, completing missions and challenges, finding collectibles, etc. As well, not every power is mapped to the power wheel, with some being assigned to specific buttons. For instance, instead of selecting the shield power from the wheel, it’s now been mapped to the right shoulder button. The power wheel now only contains five powers, and any two can be equipped at a time. This makes it much easier to block attacks and switch powers on the fly.
A new power that makes its introduction to the game is the Bio-bomb. Replacing the ability to accuse others of being infected (useful for infiltrating Blackwatch bases), Heller can sneak up behind an enemy and infect them with the virus, causing them to explode in a fury of tendrils, grabbing nearby objects or enemies and pulling them in for one explosion. If this sounds satisfying, it’s even more fun in practice; there’s nothing more enjoyable than grabbing an Infected or Blackwatch soldier, sticking them with a Bio-bomb, tossing them into a crowd and watching the chaotic results.
Players will also be able to acquire Mass by consuming enemies, enabling them to unleash a Devastator attack. Sadly, only the Tendril Barrage returns this time around, which allows Heller to launch tendrils through his body and at all surrounding enemies. The ability is likely the one players used the most during the original title, and even though Tendril Barrage is still enjoyable, it’s an unfortunate step back – considering gamers had three Devastators at their disposal in Prototype.
There’s also a new element called “Mutators.” These are unlocked in similar ways to EP, mostly by finding collectibles or completing side missions – which are unlocked by hacking into Blacknet terminals. The Mutators each feature a cartoony image and description – think Fallout‘s perk system – and provide Heller with a small bonus (i.e. inflicting more damage when using a certain powers against a specific enemy, among other perks).
All these features – the powers, the Mutators and improved combat system – come together for a near-perfect blend of gameplay. There’s nothing more fun than jumping on an air born helicopter, ripping off its rocket launcher, using the rocket launcher to blow up the helicopter, meleeing ground forces, pulling helicopters out of the sky and more – all with great animation and a sense of fluidity.
In the end, Prototype 2 is a huge improvement over its predecessor. The gameplay has been tweaked just enough to give players a fair fight – yet just difficult enough to make sure there’s a challenge. Everything’s been revamped: from the improved presentation, gameplay fixes, to the enjoyable story. As a result, Prototype 2 is solid sophomore release in the franchise. Is it perfect? No, it could still use some tweaks but really, there’s no other game provides such satisfying superhero sandbox mayhem as Prototype 2.
Prototype 2 is available now for the PS3 and Xbox 360 with a PC version launching at a later date. Game Rant played the Xbox 360 version for this review.
Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyMole.