Developer: Radical Entertainment | Publisher: Activision | Release Date: 2012 | Genre: 3rd Person Action / Adventure | Website: N/A | Purchase: Amazon
The original Prototype was a game that almost felt like Grand Theft Auto with over the top cheat codes permanently enabled. Soaring through the air, running up the sides of large buildings, eating civilians to regain health and causing widespread destruction with a variety of over the top powers meant that there was never a dull moment. The action got a little repetitive and the protagonist, Alex Mercer, so powerful that dying was a rare occurrence, but the game was so much fun that this hardly mattered.
For this sequel, Alex Mercer switches to the role of antagonist as we are introduced to Sergeant James Heller. After his family is killed by the Blacklight virus, Heller heads to New York in order to exact revenge on Mercer. Of course, he is no match for Mercer when the two finally meet, but in a twist, instead of being killed, he is infected by Mercer and given the same super powers. What follows is more of the same that made the original such a hit, but with a slightly less likeable protagonist.
The story in Prototype 2 is rather shallow and once again involves Gentek scientists who are up to no good, Blackwatch soldiers causing havoc and the infected running rampant. Alex Mercer also has his own agenda and along the way Heller is assisted by a cast of characters who point him in the right direction or more often than not, simply use him for their own goals. Heller isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed but he’s got a temper to match his new powers and as the saying goes, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like nails.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, apart from being able to turn his hands into hammers, Heller can use employ claws, blades, flails and tendrils with some predictably messy results. Your fight is against Blackwatch soldiers, infected creatures and Alex Mercer’s “evolved” creations but there are also plenty of innocent civilians milling about. Summoning up empathy for Heller and his quest to avenge his poor family is a bit hard when you are running around wolfing down people to regain health.
Heller has some inventive new powers like the “Biobomb” which turns your target into a walking explosive. You can also employ a “Black Hole” attack which literally crushes your target by raining down nearby objects and even people on them. For those that prefer to sit back and watch the action there is the ability to summon Brawlers to do the dirty work for you or if you prefer to be in the thick of things, why not hijack a tank or helicopter for some fun. The game excels at making you feel like an action hero and it can be hard to show restraint when your character has so much potential for destruction.
Sometimes a bit of stealth is required to complete a mission, but these sections aren’t exactly subtle either. You can use your new sonar ability to see when a target is being watched and if not, consume them to assume their identity. Enemies are not too bright and react very casually to the sight of one of their former comrades suddenly running up walls or gliding over their heads. Once they do decide to attack, you simply need to run out of sight before changing form to make them forget all about you.
Apart from the story missions, you can also hack into Blacknet computers to initiate side missions. These usually involve chasing down dropped cargo while a clock is ticking down or using your sonar ability to hunt down important targets. The time based challenges are slightly annoying, especially when all hell breaks loose and you have to dodge rockets and helicopters, but Heller is so over-powered that few opponents stand much of a chance against him. You can increase your powers and abilities even further by undertaking option missions such as clearing out infected lairs, killing field ops teams and finding black boxes that are scattered over the map. These missions, along with the mayhem you can cause, make exploring the rather bland open world environments more fun. You can dodge enemies and block incoming attacks, but the controls feel very loose, which makes it a bit hard for precision attacks.
For a game that was released in 2012, Prototype 2 doesn’t exactly wow with its visuals. Everything looks good enough, but the city is rather bland and your enemies mostly look the same. There are some impressive moments such as uppercutting a helicopter, smashing in a tank with its own gun turret or unleashing a tendril attack that causes the screen to erupt in a shower of blood but for the most part the visuals are nothing special. The camera is also still a bit fiddly and in the middle of the chaotic battles it is easy to lose track of what is going on. There are some stylish cut-scenes to flesh out the plot, but these mostly involve Heller swearing at everyone and vowing to smash something so it is hard to stay interested.
If you are in the mood for a violent and gory game with plenty of swearing and a lead character that has a severely broken moral compass then Prototype 2 will keep you entertained for hours. The story isn’t going to leave a lasting impression but it does set the scene for some epic battles. Sprinting up the side of a building before hurling yourself at a helicopter is still as fun as it was in the first game and there are three huge areas to keep you busy. Despite its flaws, I had a blast playing Prototype 2 and it held my attention long enough to acquire most of the trophies that it has.
*Review originally published 2013.