Also On: PS3
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Prototype 2 isn’t exactly what I’d call a great game, but despite its repetitive missions, overly angry protagonist, and surprisingly low difficulty, I still found myself having some fun with it. That’s almost entirely due to the awesome mobility the powered up anti-hero James Heller has. Giving me the ability to jump 300 feet in the air across a landscape of ruined New York City skyscrapers is pretty awesome. Being able to run up and down those buildings as easy as if I were running down the street is equally awesome. And then being able to jump from the top of the Empire State Building and landing on the ground in a shattering explosion of debris and bodies is pretty much the highlight of the game for me.
But then I had to play the rest of the game, which ends up being unfortunately dull throughout. See, Prototype 2 shines when you’re not really worried about your current mission markers, whether it’s the main story progression or the optional BLACKNET side missions you can go on. The fun you’ll have here, like a lot of sandbox style giant city games, is in the destruction and mayhem you can cause, and how cool you can look while doing it. I will say that I think Prototype 2 lacks the sheer variety found in better titles, like Saints Row: The Third or even the original Crackdown. But your super-powered main character is capable of doing some amazing looking stuff if you take time to play around with the world.
The plot and story of Prototype 2 doesn’t do the game any favors either. It follows up from the original game, but ditches that titles protagonist, Alex Mercer, for the new guy James Heller. James is returning from a tour of duty overseas, but doesn’t make it home in time before his wife and daughter are killed by humans infected by the Mercer virus. The Mercer virus, for those of you that haven’t played the original one, has basically turned the populace of NYZ (that’s not a typo), into zombies and other mutant monsters.
Needless to say, Heller is pissed, and he’ll let you know that at just about every chance he gets. Heller is so angry that he ends up becoming pretty annoying, along with most of the cast in the game. Seriously, the game could be subtitled The Yelling, because that’s about what 90% of the characters do in this game when interacting with each other. I’m sure it’s meant to drive home the gravity of a dire situation, but its way overdone, and loses any kind of impact. That’s especially true when Heller goes on a handful of tirades that try to incorporate as many uses of the F-word as humanly possible.
Besides all the running, jumping, air dashing, and gliding stuff that Heller can do, you’ll have the option to unlock and upgrade a variety of offensive powers. This is actually dialed back from the original game, but in a good way. The original Prototype went a little overboard in its power selection, and that lack of focus hurt your ability to effectively upgrade your character over time. Here Heller gets about five main offensive abilities, which get doled out over the course of the main story.
Besides the actual powers, there are optional mutations you can uncover by completing various side quests or looking for the in-game collectibles. These mutations aren’t entirely necessary, and actually help to make the game even easier than it actually is. But they at least help to give you a reason to complete these tasks. And that’s a good thing, because you’ll quickly learn that the side missions consist of just doing a handful of things over and over again, which unfortunately reinforces that dull feeling that the game would constantly give me.
Another issue I had with Prototype 2 comes from its targeting system, which feels pretty clunky overall. Heller will do what’s essentially a soft target on things around him, which can be locked on to by holding down the left trigger. But there’s so much around you that can be targeted, especially later on in the game, that it’s nearly impossible to effectively lock on to what you actually want to hit. You’ll almost always be forced to lock on to whatever you can get, and then cycle through your targets with the right stick, which just takes up too much time.
But really, what kills any excitement I have for the game is slogging through the repetitive story and side mission content to propel a story line that I couldn’t care less about. If you’re a gamer that comes to video games for plot, characters, or story, Prototype 2 will be an immensely disappointing journey for you. Its gameplay really shines when you decide to not give a damn about what the game wants you to do, and instead try to seek out your own fun and mayhem. There’s definitely something to be said about a game that will allow you to hijack a helicopter in midair, eject from said helicopter, drop kick another one, and then snatch the rockets from a third to lay waste to a number of tanks and mutants below you. It’s just a shame about all the other stuff you have to do in between.