From the title screen, it was clear that Prototype 2 was designed to cater to series newcomers like myself. Having missed the first title, I was quickly brought up to speed by a recap video stylised as a classified debriefing produced by Blackwatch. This run of the mill covert military organisation was in charge of cleaning up a viral outbreak in New York City, a disaster it had conveniently blamed on the original Prototype’s main character Alex Mercer. This time around I was playing as James Heller and I was seeking revenge for the death of my family which was caused by this outbreak. Before long though, I was infected by Mercer, mutating into the very same monster I sought to destroy. It was at this point that the game proper began and I was soon unleashed upon a ravaged cityscape.
Prototype 2’s gameplay consisted of main story missions alongside an incredible number of side missions and other objectives designed to keep me exploring the city. This in itself was an exhilarating experience. My abilities saw me leaping from skyscraper to skyscraper, running up and across walls and roofs and gliding through the air to reach my destination. Even when my target happened to be associated with the next story mission, I often found myself diverted by side content, all of which provided opportunities to upgrade my combat abilities or expand the overall story of the game. The health system was interesting, requiring me to ‘consume’ soldiers and citizens alike to replenish my health bar. The side effect of this was that I assumed the physical form of the last human I devoured. This element was used repeatedly to progress both story and side missions but the game completely ignored the ethical implications of my mass consumption of innocent bystanders.
One of my main complaints about Prototype 2 was that it had a limited range of mission objectives. Indeed, some missions were so similar I found myself worrying whether I hadn’t loaded an earlier save. If I wasn’t hunting and consuming a high ranking scientist or soldier in order to sneak into a Blackwatch base, I was destroying Blackwatch soldiers, Blackwatch vehicles, virus infected mutations or a combination of all three. There were bonus objectives sprinkled throughout. These rewarded using certain attacks or remaining unseen and this helped to make the recycled mission types more bearable. The overall storyline was rather generic and was the other main flaw of the title, despite side missions doing their best to enrich the game world. I often found my eyes rolling during the black and white cut scenes. Fortunately, the thoroughly enjoyable combat system kept the title from becoming overly bland and repetitive.
Combat was easily the game’s main strength. Unlike other open world titles, unleashing devastation and mayhem upon the streets of New York seemed entirely justified. It was, in fact, encouraged by developers Radical Entertainment. During the latter half of the game, helicopter led strike teams were sent in to defeat me after I had killed scores of Blackwatch soldiers. In other open world game series like Grand Theft Auto such a situation would be quite dire, but Prototype 2 had me begging for more adversaries to test my might against. By making me feel slightly overpowered, every battle became an incredible spectacle worthy of a blockbuster action film. I leapt through the air, my mutated appendages carving, slicing and crushing enemies while subtle slow motion effects ensured I was witness to every blood soaked, bone shattering strike. To make a bold statement, controlling Heller made me feel more like a superhero than any other similar game in recent memory.
As the game progressed, I increased my arsenal with more powerful attacks and brutal abilities. Whenever I gained these new skills, the game proceeded to throw increased numbers of difficult enemies my way. One downside to this was that newer abilities often left those unlocked earlier in the game feeling underpowered and obsolete, even after upgrading them. In an effort to alleviate this problem, the developers ensured that certain attacks and abilities worked better against some foes than others. Prototype 2 was the only open world game that has managed to entice me into completing side missions purely because of the additions they provided to the combat.
In the continued fight against the evils of used game sales, publisher Activision has bundled every new copy of the game sold with a Radnet code, an online component which provides more objectives throughout the world, even allowing for high score competition between you and your Prototype 2 playing friends. Unlike similar online-pass initiatives, these codes are not purchasable, meaning that if you wish to get the most out of this title, it’s absolutely necessary to buy the game brand spanking new.
To summarise, Prototype 2 is a good game which shines in a few areas and could have used some more polish in others. Even if you missed the first game in the series, by getting past the B movie storyline and repetitive missions, you’ll find an exhilarating combat system and open world landscape that would feel right at home in any AAA superhero game.