Prototype 2 review
Say what you will about Prototype being a modified version of Radical Entertainment’s previously released The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction; we still thoroughly enjoyed it. The story was a pretty original one, and the introduction of Alex Mercer — a human with super powered mutant abilities — paved the way for a possible new hero in Activision’s fold.
But then leave it to the developer and publisher to pull the rug out from under us, introducing Prototype 2 a couple of years later with a completely different hero to play around with. This time around, you’re Sergeant James Heller, a member of the Blackwatch squad that dwells within the infected NYZ area. He’s basically gone suicidal, chasing after Mercer like a relentless hunter after losing his wife and daughter to his maliciousness. But after encountering him, he becomes infected with the virus, transforming into a powerful machine of vengeance. However, not all is as it seems, as Mercer informs the newly transformed Heller that Blackwatch, not himself, is to blame for the loss of his family. And so the story twists, with some great moments that will keep you intrigued throughout.
Not that Prototype 2 had a shortage of stuff to do. Over the course of the game, you’ll run across several hours’ worth of story missions, including rooftop runs, enemy squad encounters and significant boss battle, one of those being a nasty hydra tendril that means business. There's also an abundance of bonus missions, with mini-games that introduce you to new abilities — such as the dive bomb — and online Radnet missions where you can compare your best times to fellow players. It requires a separate activation code but, thankfully, new copies of the game automatically come with one. (Otherwise, it’s a small $10 fee — a price worth paying for some true competition.) A co-op mode featuring Heller and Mercer controlled by different players would’ve been ideal, but it’s not really necessary when you can have all this fun on your own.
The gameplay, like the original, is magnificent, mainly because of all the ways you can make Heller expand his abilities throughout. He can become faster and use other abilities more efficiently, like “absorbing” targets, running up the sides of buildings, taking over their appearance and memories, and gliding through the air like an in-control kite. His combat abilities are impressive too, from flinging around cars like fireballs to utilizing organic weapons, such as razor sharp claws that can chop enemies to pieces. New moves open up over the course of the game, including the awesome dive bomb that knocks out a block of enemies rather effectively if you hit the “sweet spot." The only drawback is that targeting can be off if you don’t use the left trigger to really lock on. Also, some helicopters require you to move the camera around to track them as they’re wailing gunfire into you.
Even though there are times that the frame rate can be jumpy (especially if you’re standing in the middle of an explosion WHILE facing super soldiers and mutated stalkers), Radical Entertainment has refined its open world engine so that it’s better than ever. The NYZ areas look fantastic, populated with innocent folks who run through the streets in a panic and plenty of stuff to blow up. Though outer areas that you aren’t visiting can be a little fogged up, the game as a whole looks great. Plus, some of the animation is quite killer, especially when you introduce tendrils into the equation or unlock one of Heller’s more devastating attacks, which can wipe out an enemy stronghold in a single strike. Impressive indeed.
The audio is not bad either. Though the music doesn’t stay with you throughout the game, the little cues that kick in during events are well-timed and fitting for what’s happening in each particular moment. The sound effects are good too, with explosions that rock through your speakers and plenty of screaming amongst the populace. Some of the voice acting could use a little work — Mercer sounds too vicious for his own good, and Heller can be pretty snarky for a guy that just lost his family — but overall, it keeps the story moving along.
Prototype 2 is everything you could expect from a sequel, really. While there are certain elements that once again hunker back to the old days of Ultimate Destruction, Radical Entertainment has stepped up with a piece of sheer rollicking, do-whatever-you-want entertainment. The various elements of gameplay really mesh together to magnificent effect, and the presentation holds its own. Plus, the variety of things you can do, from challenging your friends in Radnet tasks to trashing enemy squads just for the sake of stress relief, is off the charts. This is one game where you shouldn’t be afraid to let your “freak flag fly," so to speak.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]