Prototype 2
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: One, online Radnet Challenge leaderboards
Words By:

During a lengthy interactive intro you're introduced to Prototype 2’s hero, former Marine Sgt. James Heller. You discover that Heller's wife and daughter were killed by a new outbreak of the mutating Blacklight virus supposedly released in New York City by Alex Mercer, the anti-hero from the first Prototype game, who developed mutated superhuman powers because of exposure to the virus. So understandably Heller has a blistering hatred for Mercer and wants him dead. When out on patrol in NYZ (New York Zero), a near-future New York City that has inexplicably developed two new islands to the south of Manhattan. Heller's Black Hawk transport helicopter is brought down by Mercer and he confronts the superhuman with just his combat knife. Understandably Heller's attacks draw copious amounts of blood but don't do any serious damage to Alex Mercer, who easily overpowers Heller but for some reason doesn't kill him.

The reason for this is that Alex wants James as an ally in his fight against Gentek (the biological and genetic research company that released the original virus) and Blackwatch (the black ops military force sent to NYZ to contain the biohazard/viral outbreaks). Alex explains that, contrary to what the media has been reporting, he didn’t release the virus and cause all the death, mutations and destruction and that he isn’t the ‘bad guy’. Alex then infects James with his version of the virus, endowing James with superhuman strength, the ability to run up walls and even glide through the air. Amazing gifts indeed, but is Alex Mercer all he seems?

With a lengthy playable intro/tutorial you learn how to traverse the vast city swiftly; huge building-height jumps and a combination of wall running, gliding and an air dash move (eventually you get three air dashes) mean you can stay airborne for a long time, and then come slamming down to the ground to create a shockwave not unlike the Incredible Hulk. You soon discover some of James's more sinister powers as well, including the ability to grab victims and ‘consume’ them to recover health and to transform to your victim’s physical appearance. The on-screen action is comic book ultraviolent, with blood, guts and explosions everywhere, and while playing on the hard difficulty setting demands some skill and a tactical approach in places, Heller is soon so powerful that it’s actually hard to die on the default setting.

The game uses the same flawed but workable lock-on system to target enemies as the original Prototype, but it frequently locks on to a different target to the one you wanted. The lock-on problems are improved slightly by the fact that locking on puts everything into slo-mo for a while, and you can flick through potential targets with the right stick. Like I said, this system is workable and makes for fast and frenzied gameplay but I’d much rather just aim attacks and weapons myself, thanks all the same. The combat works well and the more you play the better you get at it, and the more satisfying it becomes, as your timing of blocks and avoids makes you an elusive and dangerous foe to even the biggest and ugliest of mutants. Eventually Heller can destroy a tank by ripping its turret off and beating the body to smithereens with it!

Certain mutants can be defeated in battle and then consumed to gain their physical attributes, and some humans can be consumed to gain their memories and/or weapon skills. Different mutations can be chosen to upgrade Heller’s abilities to suit your own play style, or maybe buff up an attribute you’re weak on. Some weapons and abilities will be familiar to Prototype veterans, and some have been significantly upgraded, and the new ones, like Pack Leader (hold X & A), which allows you to summon up to 4 Brawler mutants to help you in battle, and Bio Bomb (B to grab then X) which turns a living target into a soon-to-be-dead bomb that attracts things to it for maximum gore, are a real bonus and great fun to use.

Vehicles in the city tend to be a samey lot, a selection of civilian traffic and a mixture of a few wrecked and burned-out civilian vehicles, Gentek vans and Blackwatch's military vehicles; Humvee–like jeeps, military trucks, infantry fighting vehicles and tanks. Like in the first game you can’t drive cars or trucks but you learn to use the IFVs and tanks, and can also fly the helicopters eventually. The Blackwatch soldiers only come in about four varieties but the civilian population are pleasingly varied, there must be hundreds of different character models.

Heller is helped out and guided by Father Guerra and a mysterious female contact known as Athena, who turns out to be none other than Alex Mercer’s sister, Dana. They send you on missions that further the plot and lead you to new secrets and upgrades. You search for hidden mutant lairs and other collectibles (Blackboxes and Field Ops) that unlock extra mutations (enhancements). The gameplay falls into a familiar cycle; find a Blacknet truck, log on, then hunt down the identified Gentek scientist or a Blackwatch officer - you do this over and over again and it does become repetitive. There’s no multiplayer mode and sadly no co-op either, but in a similar way to EA’s Autolog or Gamernet the optional Radnet challenges keep you updated with your friends latest scores and will keep you coming back to the unlockable series of races, survival and destruction mini- games time and time again.

In a vast city so full of action and mayhem I was amazed to see such little details as birds flying in the sky, litter blowing around, moving wheels and suspension on the tanks and APCs, and there's even a day/night cycle with extremely variable weather. It's a shame that the 3 islands aren't all streamed in as one location, and instead require an “air bridge” helicopter ride to hide the loading in between island zones, but I presume the more compact play areas explain how they sustain the impressive amount of on-screen action at all times.

One flaw in the otherwise insanely fast and instinctive combat is the way that it’s quite hard to target helicopters and enemies above you, for some reason the camera seems to struggle to get them in sight and locked on, and often keeping your aim on a target you want to kill is harder than it should be because of the game’s confused target acquisition protocol.

Prototype 2 is simply the closest thing yet to my idea of the perfect Super-anti-hero game, and has edged last year’s PS3 exclusive inFamous 2 out as my favourite game in the over-the–top sandbox subgenre that also includes the 2 Crackdowns, 2 inFamouses and even Just Cause 2 and Saints Row 3. Prototype 2’s story is more engaging the first game, and although Heller isn't particularly likeable and a bit of an American cliché, and despite the fact that you’ll mercilessly slaughter hundreds of innocent civilians during the game, his cause seems a bit more heroic than the dark loner Alex Mercer’s did.

If over-the-top comic book action is your thing you need look no further, and if you’ve ever wanted to be the big dog in a dog-eat-dog world then Prototype 2 is the game for you.

Best Bits

- Amazing amounts of OTT gory on-screen action.
- Tighter control and more fluid movement than the original.
- Improved combat system.
- Spectacular weapon effects.
- Three huge areas to explore and kick ass in.
Worst Bits

- Dodgy targeting
- The camera is loose and gets very confused sometimes.
- The action gets a bit repetitive.

by: Masonic Dragicoot

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