Radical Entertainment was dealt a difficult blow in 2009 when their open-world superhero title, Prototype, was released one week after Sony’s highly-anticipated first party project, inFamous – another comic book-like action sandbox game. Neither title came-across as a definitive “winner” (as if there isn’t room in the industry for two open-world superhero titles), Prototype offered over the top action set-pieces and inFamous presented a much more focused and polished experience, but the comparisons (at the very least) segmented potential consumers.
Both titles sold enough copies to warrant sequels, and when inFamous 2 released this past Tuesday to mostly positive reviews, Prototype 2 was once again put in the unenviable position of following Sony’s lead. At least this time, Radical Entertainment will enjoy a much larger buffer – giving gamers time to gear-up for another super power romp.
We got a chance to preview Prototype 2 at E3 2011 and, while there are certainly some fresh ideas in the upcoming sequel, surprisingly, the title doesn’t appear to do much in the way of differentiating itself from the inFamous franchise (not to mention Radical’s own The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction) and, if anything, similarities to Sony’s first party game appeared even more frequent.
Radical Entertainment appears to have put together a very competent, albeit familiar, title that seems less focused on innovation or bringing fresh mechanics to potential gamers – and, instead, seeks to present familiar experiences in bigger and more over-the-top set-pieces.
The team at Radical explicitly featured Penny Arcade‘s Prototype “Consumer Advocacy” comic strip (pictured below) as an example of the kind of experience they wanted to highlight in the Prototype franchise:
The developers described playing Prototype as a cathartic experience where, after a long day at work or school, gamers could break free of real-world cares and glide above New York City or beat enemies into a bloody soup on the pavement.
That said, the team is attempting to tell a more personal story this round – via Sergeant James Heller, who lost his wife and daughter in the New York City Blacklight outbreak. Utilizing Heller, instead of prior protagonist, Alex Mercer, not only allowed Radical to strip returning players of the mega-powered character they shaped by the end of the prior game, the new character is also set to lay the groundwork for a more emotional and character-driven Prototype franchise.
Unlike the main character, the core Prototype 2 gameplay is mostly unchanged – though the game includes a number of new features. Collecting “mutations” unleashes customizable powers that act as perk-like tweaks to the character – allowing for unique playstyles. Many of the perks can be discovered through two of the game’s new mission-based additions – “Hunting” and “Lairs.”
Hunting missions enable the player to send-out a sonar-like pulse that highlights specific enemies which, in some cases, can be consumed for new mutations – or utilized in a story mission. Similarly, “Lairs” are the Prototype equivalent of “dungeons” – heavily fortified enemy camps that contain new weapons or mutations. As with any sequel, and especially because the leading-man is new to the series, Heller has plenty of new moves for returning players to enjoy – including the bio-bomb (a mine-like object that, upon detonation, explodes into a writhing organic mass) as well as the ability to rip the canon from a tank (while firing the remaining shells).
While the general Prototype 2 mantra seems to be bigger and better over the top action, the title will undoubtedly be pleasing to fans of the franchise – though, time will tell if the “more of the same” approach will pay-off with the uninitiated.
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Prototype 2 will release some time in 2012 on the PS3, PC, and Xbox 360.