Has Prototype 2 fixed the flaws of the original? Find out in our review.
Published on Apr 26, 2012
For Alex Mercer, the ouroboros-esque superpowers that granted him the ability to turn his fingers into 10-inch blades and elbow-drop armoured tanks with nary a scratch to his person were both a mystery and a burden – something to moan about as he searched an infected New York landscape for the answers behind his mutation.
James Heller is less coy. Filled with an incandescent rage over the death of his wife and daughter – which he blames on Mercer – the powers are nothing but a means to an end.
He’s a shape-shifting, blade-swirling, tank-tearing torrent of white-hot fury and non-stop swearing; a one-man apocalypse that could give even Kratos a run for his money in his vengeful rampage across a newly-infected New York Zero.
He’s not trying to solve a mystery. He’s not trying to come to terms with what he’s become. He’s trying to stab anything that moves, and then stab it some more.
As laughably awful as Heller’s overly-aggressive, curseword-riddled dialogue is, he’s a far better centrepiece for Prototype 2’s anarchic approach to open-world destruction than Mercer.
After all, who cares about mystery or introspective soul-searching in a game where you also uppercut helicopters?
You don’t have to work hard to conjure up chaos. Thanks to a streamlined control scheme and a bevy of impressive-looking attacks, encounters with Blackwatch troops are gloriously anarchic affairs that feel like several superhero games all rolled into one.
If you manage to grab onto a vehicle you can "weaponise" it by tearing off a rocket launcher.
You’ve got Wolverine-style claws, ground shaking Hulk fists, and an arm blade that looks like the T-1000’s with a nasty case of gangrene.
Replacing some of the first game’s less useful powers are inventively enjoyable additions like the bio-bomb and tendrils – the latter of which secures sinewy strands of elastic goo to whatever’s in the environment, and then sends it snapping back to the foe in the middle in a messy splatter of red.
Thinking up your next crushing act of murderous violence is easily done on the fly. One second you might be tearing off a tank’s TOW launcher and turning it on itself; the next using tendrils to launch cars at an overhead helicopter; and the next slam-dunking an arm blade into an infected beast’s skull – all with very little effort on your part.
Darting around such battles comes with a healthy and gleeful dose of empowerment. You may be swatting down enemies as if they were flies, but it’s all done with a visceral, thumping sense of impact.
World navigation is similarly seamless. Little has changed from Prototype’s first outing – indeed, some of the animations look very similar to those of 2009 – but little needed to.
You can bolt up the sides of buildings, bound across entire blocks, and transition between rooftops with a glide move like some kind of maniacal flying squirrel.
It’s not a precise science and you’ll sometimes find you miss the rooftop you were aiming for, but the unabashed joy of careening free and easy across the landscape is impossible to deny.
You can control both attack helicopters and tanks.
In terms of progression, Prototype 2 is far better structured than its predecessor. You take on narrative missions from various characters across New York’s three separate zones, completion of which will reward Heller with new core mutations.
However, it’s wise to keep up with the supplementary Blacknet missions as well. Completing these side-quests grants extra mutations that work outside the standard levelling system, granting bonus range or damage to certain powers, greater locomotion abilities, upgraded defensive capabilities and more.
These can also be obtained by hunting down the black boxes hidden around the city or clearing out hidden Blackwatch squads and underground lairs teaming with infected – all of which can be easily located by using the map’s welcome hint system.
There’s plenty to distract you, and the constant doling out of new upgrades and mutations ensures you’ve always got a new toy to play with every couple of hours.
But still, Prototype 2’s intense action still manages to burn itself out before the game’s end. There’s only so many times you can be sent on a mission to wipe out the same platoon of forces before elbow-dropping a tank starts to feel about as exciting as flopping yourself down on a couch.
Radical does its best to mix up the formula with much improved stealth missions and time trial rooftop challenges, but by and large you’re fighting the same fight over and over and over again.
Blackwatch and Gentek are evil to the point of absurdity.
A compelling narrative might have helped matters, but the story feels like little more than a series of character names used to prod you towards the next waypoint marker.
There’s also the feeling throughout that you’ve played this game before – not just in less bloodthirsty titles like Crackdown 2, but in the far less-refined original game.
Prototype 2 isn’t a great deal different from its predecessor: it’s by and large the same experience with the bolts tightened and the kinks ironed out.
That makes it unoriginal, sure, but not necessarily undeserving of your attention. The refinements may not add anything particularly new or inventive to the formula, but they have nevertheless resulted in a sandbox as anarchically entertaining as any since Just Cause 2, and that’s high praise.
This sequel may not be a genuinely innovative product, but it’s more than a prototype: Radical Entertainment has moved on to proof of concept.
7.5 / 10
7.9 / 10
8.0 / 10
7.3 / 10
N/A / 10
7.8 / 10
Prototype 2 offers a great sandbox in which to toy with some truly devastating powers, but the repetition grows old a few hours before the game reaches its conclusion.