The original Prototype had the unfortunate destiny of being released alongside another game that sparked comparisons. While similar in nature, both games were really radically different enough to warrant their success, and therefore, sequels. Prototype 2 doesn’t shy away from what it is; a big, dumb gore-fest that focuses on making you feel overpowered and extremely violent. Sometimes we need games like Prototype 2, especially when they are this much fun.
I like games that give newcomers a chance to jump right in. If you never played the original Prototype, don’t worry. There is a recap of the first game right on the main menu. Hell, even if you don’t watch it, you will get the gist fairly quickly. It isn’t like the original game was some deep, involved narrative. Probably the most radical (yeah, not intentional) change to the sequel is that you are playing as an entirely new character, who happens to get his powers from the original game’s protagonist.
You assume the role of James Heller, a foul-mouthed soldier who lost his family due to the virus, which he blames on the original protagonist, Mercer. Ironically, it is Mercer who infects Heller with the virus, thus giving him these ridiculous powers. Heller then sets out on a quest for revenge against Mercer and anyone responsible for the virus. The story actually weaves an interesting tale that is hard to take seriously due to the copious amounts of vulgarity spewed out in almost every line of dialogue. There is a decent tale hidden beneath it. If you can look past the cursing, there is actually a reason to watch the cut scenes in between the violence.
Speaking of violence, Heller will feel familiar to anyone who played the original. Being infected with the virus makes him feel like a killing machine, and with each upgrade you become more and more powerful. This is what made Prototype 2 really keep clicking for me. You start off strong, but each evolution really opens up combat. You will obtain five main powers over the course of the game, starting off with some Wolverine-inspired claws before moving on to a a blade, some nasty tendrils and two forms of devastating fist attacks. Each one is gradually more destructive, and all of them are fun. You can map two at a time to your power wheel and level them up by consuming certain enemies.
This leads us to another core aspect of the game: consumption. Like the first game, you can consume enemies, civilians and infected in the game. Sometimes, it is just for health regeneration, other times it is for information and skill boosts. Certain enemies and infected can give you specific upgrades, such as improving rifle skills, while others enhance certain powers. Information is collected by reliving memories stored in the body you ingested. It is a cool mechanic that actually plays a larger role. You can transform into people you ingest, allowing you access to military bases without raising alarm.
This mechanic seems to be the focus of a lot of the main missions in the game. You consume a commander, move into the base unnoticed and then escape the alarm that ensues once you complete the mission. Rinse and repeat is the name of the game, but even with repetition, it still manages to entertain; likely because the actual combat and feeling of power are really well represented. Once Heller gets into a combat situation, it is hard not to keep a smile on your face as he quickly wipes out anything and everything in his path. The first time you uppercut a helicopter it will stick with you for quite some time.
Being an open-world game means that side missions are also littered around the city. The main story missions are always clearly marked, and you can breeze through them fairly quickly. If you want to max out Heller’s powers, though, you have to take on the side missions. Thankfully, these are not boring, even if they might sound that way. There are collectibles in the form of Black Boxes scattered around the world. When you get close to one it lets you know and shows a distance meter. There are also teams to kill that are studying infected and the lairs of infected that need purged. Each mission is quick and fairly straightforward, but the rewards are what make it worthwhile. Upgrading Heller is an addiction, and each time he grows more powerful, the game becomes more enjoyable. It is that type of progression that really keeps you playing.
That doesn’t mean it comes without faults. Probably the biggest issue comes from the stiff animations in the game. Heller is dynamic, moving through the environment, but it still looks like a nearly decade old Hulk towering the streets. Radical has always had a knack for open-world navigation, but some of the weird things Heller does when moving are jarring. There are also glitches that oftentimes are more hilarious than game breaking. I literally saw a civilian magically start floating up as if aliens were abducting him. As I mentioned earlier, the dialogue is hard to swallow at times. Hearing people call you “brah” constantly and abusing the “F” word every other sentence really kills most of the seriousness of the game.
Visually, the game is fairly similar to the original with some better designs and less fog. I never really had an issue with the city itself. The design is well done, and I personally love some of the aesthetic details. I like that your ammo counter for weapons is actually displayed above the enemy you are locked onto. I also love the title screen and the way it jumps directly into the game. There are some really neat touches. I still think the animations are a huge problem, and the glitches are abundant- hilarious, but abundant. The sound is a mixed bag, with some truly great voice performances mixed with terrible dialogue. I have no problem with profanity, but even this game made me cringe at its abuse of adult language.
Prototype 2 is just what the doctor ordered for a lot of gamers, myself included. It is big, dumb and tons of fun. Think of it as one of those Summer Hollywood movies that you go see simply for the special effects and you’ll get the idea. There is nothing overly special, but I had a blast while playing the game. I could jump right back into new game plus without any hesitation, and that speaks volumes about the game. Sometimes, we are just meant to have fun, and Prototype 2 achieves this elementary principle well. If you love violence, gore and just destroying things, I definitely recommend giving this infected romp a try.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.