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Posted by Raine Hutchens on May 8, 2012

Review – Prototype 2 (Xbox 360)

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Product Information

MSRP: $59.99

Developer: Radical Entertainment

Publisher: Activision

Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3

ESRB Rating: M for Mature

Genre: Action

Blackwatch. I don’t know what you’ve heard, but they’re nothing but a sack full of lying paper-pushers. They claim to want to save humanity, to try and make this virus go away. Do they think we’re stupid? Alex Mercer got away with spreading this disease across the entirety of New York City. He took my wife and child. He’s the reason I can’t sleep at night. I’m heading back to the Red Zone. I’m headed back for Mercer. It’s time he pays for what he’s done.

A riveting story isn’t it? That’s Sergeant James Heller speaking, and he’s out on a vendetta. Prototype 2 follows this soldier on his path for revenge against Alex Mercer, the main character from the first Prototype game. Activision and Radical Entertainment have expanded upon the storyline filled with disease, death, and conspiracy for a second round at taking back New York City. As a fan of the first Prototype, when this sequel was announced I was a bit lost, though through playing it I’ve come to understand a bit better just how serious the plot really is in the series. There are some changes to the gameplay of the first title, and a new protagonist changes up the storyline we thought we knew.

Story and Visual Presentation

If you’ve kept up with any of the marketing campaign for Prototype 2 then you’ll know the basic plot of the game. Sergeant James Heller returns from his tour on duty to find both his wife and daughter killed by those infected with the Mercer virus. Following the media, Heller suspects that Mercer purposely spread the virus that swept the city, thus he is the one responsible for the death of his family. He becomes obsessed with the thought, begging the military to send him on any mission into the Red Zone, just so he can track down Mercer and exact his revenge. After some time his request is met and Heller leads the pack right into Mercer’s playground.

The company’s chopper takes damage and eventually crashes from the sky, leaving Heller the only survivor from the wreckage. Heller pulls himself to his feet as he spots Mercer walking away from the crash site. Though he finds himself in shambled condition, he chases Mercer through alleyways and run-down streets in a dilapidated New York. In his obsession Heller manages to sneak up on Mercer, cutting his throat. Of course, we know Mercer won’t go out like a punk, and Heller’s nightmare gets even worse. Mercer slams Heller against a brick wall, stabbing him with his mutated claws. Soon after, Heller fights consciousness as Mercer walks away in the distance.

The lights come on, revealing some sort of lab test chamber after Heller’s body is carried away by soldiers.  Heller has been placed on a slab, with pieces of bandage strewn all about him. Through some dialogue we find that he’s been experimented on, as Mercer has chosen to infect him directly with the virus. Before he can think, Heller finds himself surrounded by groups of the infected citizens who once lived in a happy New York City. He must fend them off as a test for the scientists above to watch.  This comes as a proving ground for Heller’s newly-found strength.

Soon the scientists believe Heller has become too powerful, and they throw the switch to “burn him,” or set the place on fire. Set ablaze, Heller falls to the ground in a scorched mess. Once soldiers enter to look upon their failed test subject, we learn that Heller has a way of absorbing creatures/people to regain health and take on their traits. Heller makes use of this immediately, and his anger boils over. He jumps through the testing window and then sets out to take his fury out on those scientists and soldiers involved in his testing. Outside, Heller runs into Mercer who is enjoying the night breeze. This is where things get really sketchy. Mercer explains to Heller that Blackwatch is behind the entire outbreak, and he didn’t have any choice in the matter. He persuades Heller to help him fight Blackwatch and take them down, pitting it as the only way to get revenge for his daughter and wife. Heller seems to obey Mercer’s command, but decides to stay in the dark until he gets things figured out. After this encounter, the real story begins.

When compared with the previous Prototype, the sequel doesn’t differ too much. The city looks pretty much the same, even with the mutations and virus spread throughout its streets. A few new enemies show their faces in the game, such as the Brawlers, Juggernauts, and tons of new soldiers you’ll face. The detail has been streamlined a bit, as for some of the animation detail and close-up features. There’s not really much more to say.

Heller receives calls in video format, so facial features are tightened, though they’re not exactly realistic. People still look like people, monsters look intimidating, and soldiers all look like soldiers. The city still exhibits detail when slamming on the concrete and climbing up walls, which is a nice detail that’s somewhat overlooked when it disappears after a few seconds.

The animations for Heller’s mutation powers look similar to those of Mercer’s, and other “Evolved” you come into contact with share those same attributes. Heller isn’t exactly set out from the pack by anything except for his jacket which holds a red accent mimicking Mercer’s. The lairs and mutation signs look the same as well. This is basically the same setting, with a new face.

Not saying there’s anything really wrong with that, though. I like being sent back into an old setting with a new look on it. After all, this is the same New York City, though 14 months later, still ravaged by a virus outbreak. If you liked the look of the first Prototype, you’ll like the sequel.

Gameplay and Progression

As an action game, Prototype 2 carries over the controls from the first. Players will have Heller running up buildings, jumping across city blocks, gliding across rooftops, and combating enemy creatures just like before. Prorotype 2 gives Heller five mutations for combat which can be set to two different face buttons. These powers are the claws, whip fist, blade fist, tendrils, and the good old power fists. One thing that the gameplay in Prototype 2 does well is let players wreak havoc across the city.

Players can switch powers on the fly, which makes tackling different types of enemies a bit easier and a whole lot more fun. Using a radial, players can assign two of the unlocked powers to two different buttons for quick use.  You’re able to jump into the air, leap down on an enemy, and either slice them to bits or devour them for personal gain. Simply put, you’re an extreme badass.

One thing that I felt was cool when starting the game was that Heller starts out with some of the powers that it took Mercer a while to obtain in the previous game. Powers like the air jump and glide are immediately available, which makes getting around much easier. It’s cool to think that Mercer is so evolved at this point that when he passes on the virus to create Evolved, some of the higher powers are already transmitted.

As you roll around town on your vendetta you’ll take on missions given to you by some sketchy people. Completing these missions helps Heller get stronger through evolution level-ups. Consuming DNA and defeating the infected creeps will result in XP that goes toward a higher evolution level. Once leveled you gain the ability to place a stat point into one of Heller’s attributes. These points can be used to gain extra health, move faster, gain extra health from consuming, or remain in stealth longer while shapeshifting.

Missions, though, while they help make Heller stronger they aid him in a different way. Completing missions allow you to choose a specific upgrade from a specific category. These categories are such as Predator, Movement, Power, and so forth. Skills in these categories either allow you to do more damage with certain attacks, widen the range of certain attacks, or take less damage while performing. Choosing wisely with these upgrades and completing more missions will make Heller become a definite force to be reckoned with.

You’re presented with a very open world in Prototype 2, much like with the first game. Collectables are scattered throughout the three zones of New York City, waiting for you to come along. There are lairs to clean out, Black Boxes to pick up, and a whole number of side missions to take on that lead you to knocking out the chain of command at Blackwatch. You’ll be consuming pilots, learning secrets from scientists, and murdering soldiers who all had a hand in what’s happening around you. There’s always something to do in Prototype 2.

There were a few hiccups with the game that got under my skin a bit. While there are plenty of missions to do, the 50th mission looks just like the 5th. Each mission has you running into a base, consuming an officer, running inside a facility, killing someone/stealing something/releasing subjects within, and escaping. They aren’t repetitive enough to make you tear your hair out, but they do have you wanting to do side quests for a break. In some cases Heller moves to slow, allowing him to be overwhelmed in battle. He’ll also have the tendency to jump when you try to evade, which has caught me clear out of range of attack when fighting. Another issue is that the collision detection is a bit off in the animation. Heller absorbs victims through him rather than into him, and in the beginning his knife doesn’t seem to really have an impact on Mercer at all. Finally, the language in the game is really rough. I mean, I’m no saint when it comes to speech, but throwing a curse between every other word that spews from Heller’s mouth is a bit much. It sort of detaches you as a player. When you look at it as a whole, Prototype 2 looks just like Prototype with a new skin.

Conclusion

I really got into leveling Heller and setting the streets red with blood in Prototype 2. I mean, ripping a helicopter’s payload off and sending it to the ground with it in flames of hulking metal is extremely fun. However, the game had little impact on what it was advertised for. I feel like the game could have been more, though it’s not a title that is robbed of fun. It’s worth picking up if you’re into the Prototype story, and it does deliver on the promise of making Heller a force that Mercer couldn’t have ever imagined. And if you’re looking for a senseless reason to create a living hell in New York City, this is a perfect game in which to do so. Just don’t expect it to stand out like it promised to do.

The Good

  • city exploration is fun and open
  • combat is interesting and fun
  • side quests add a lot of time to the game
  • you do feel powerful and it’s fun to tear apart the city
  • nice way to tie in the storyline from the first game
  • interesting and enjoyable leveling system

The Bad

  • language is a bit over the top
  • doesn’t really stand out as promised
  • missions can get really repetitive
  • visually hasn’t been upgraded

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