What a difference a virus makes
1,331SRP: £39.99Not many people recall the original Prototype, developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Activision back in 2009. It was rather unceremoniously dumped upon an unsuspecting audience with little marketing and unfortunate timing as Santa Monica’s similar PlayStation exclusive inFamous was released at the same time.
Still Prototype had a lot to offer, these days superhero movies lead the way at the box office and comics continue to be mined for inspiration on both the big and small screen. A game which offers the player increasingly powerful abilities and enables them to display such powers in as gory a method as possible sounds like a reasonable formula for success.
While the first game had its issues with jarring difficulty spikes, repetitive mission structure and predictable enemies; it was a success when it came to traversing the world and making the player feel very powerful.
This immediately presents a problem when considering a sequel to Prototype, by the end of the first game the term superhero doesn’t really do your protagonist Alex Mercer justice, fully powered up he is unstoppable, something they struggled to balance leading to those boss fight difficulty spikes we all love.
It’s clear Alex couldn’t be the focus of the sequel unless they either followed convention and "Metroided" him, removing his powers leaving the player to spend the rest of the game regaining lost ground or escalating the action to Azura's Wrath levels of planet punching craziness.
In the end they introduce a new character James Heller who returns back from a generic middle eastern country to find his wife and child have been killed due to Mr Mercer re-releasing the virus. Which for reasons which aren’t made completely clear turns some into zombies, others into strange creatures and a few into super powered humans. After some exposition Heller ends up being infected by Mercer and transformed into the latter super human. Heller then begins a rather similar path to Mercer in the first game attempting to unravel the mystery to find out who is ultimately responsible for his loss and introduce them to his new shiny claws.
The primary mechanic in Prototype is consuming people. The virus allows Heller to consume people to obtain new abilities, recover health, and assume identities and most crucially access memories. The story progresses as you consume key members of both the shady Gentek and Blackwatch corporations responsible for the outbreak in the staple open world environment of New York City (retouched and renamed to New York Zero in this case).
If this is sounding familiar to those who completed the first Prototype that’s because it is exactly the same. Radical Entertainment have in fact taken the Metroid route while we weren't looking. Removing your powers and expecting you to happily retrace your steps, hoping James' motivation of a dead family is enough to pull you through another 8 hours of predictable carnage.
There are some improvements, hunting a target now has its own mechanic which is essentially a radar system; a pulse is sent out with a click of the stick and depending on the direction of the return pulse you can use it to home in on your next target.
Consuming targets stealthily while infiltrating enemy bases has been made inexplicably easier, it is in fact impossible to get caught trying to stealth consume someone as the game will inform you the person is being watched. As if that wasn’t fool proof enough another click of the stick will outright define who is available for stealth consumption.
This has the effect of removing any challenge from the game and turns the mechanic of assuming enemy forms and infiltrating bases into nothing more than a ridiculous formality, let me demonstrate.
Upon finding a target in a base crawling with enemies and detection machines designed to alert when an infected is near, I switch to a soldier form and land like superman in the middle of the base, the detection machine goes wild and everyone seems a little suspicious that a normal squaddie has managed to land some sort of high velocity orbital re-entry with zero damage. Still as long as I get out of the range of the detector and don’t start doing my Incredible Hulk thing i'm not deemed a threat. Next I go about stealth consuming every person in the forecourt till it’s just me and the beeping detector which i can now Hulk smash unchallenged.
All that’s left is to enter the base and either hack a computer, consume a target or destroy everything that moves before receiving a new piece of intel and doing it all again. There are some new enemy types which require slightly more thought than pressing buttons till everything on the screen is in pieces, with dodge mechanics used to whittle health bars down till a quicktime prompt presents the opportunity for a gory finishing move.
The powers endowed by the virus do still offer genuine fun, especially the traversal which allows the player to run up buildings and glide between skyscrapers. There are side mission challenges which take advantage of this by enticing you race across the city collecting packages or killing as many enemies as possible in a twisted game of dive bomb bowling. The activities provide some welcome variety before returning to the predictable story missions.
James Heller is a terrible person, he quickly transforms from a grieving father into a blood thirsty maniac who is equally a bad as those he hunts. It’s almost like Radical didn’t want to define either a true villain or hero with Mercer and Heller both landing in the grey part of the good vs evil colour wheel.
Prototype 2 falls firmly on the game play side of the mechanics versus story debate, mainly because the story is little more than a string of flash backs and stolen memories leading to gameplay that is thankfully buoyed by the movement mechanics and serviceable combat. Still that only applies if you are new to the franchise, if you played the original Prototype there is very little to warrant dragging yourself through the sequel.
- Excellent dynamic movement
- Competent sandbox destruction
- Retreads alot of the same ground as the original
- Repetitive missions and combat
- Extremely low difficulty level
Prototype 2 Xbox 360 Review
The definition of a prototype is "an original type, form, or instance serving as a basis or standard for later stages". Radical have unfortunatly failed to evolve this title beyond its flawed inception, instead streamlining side missions, reskinning the protagonist and attaching a price tag. Prototype 2 isn’t necessarily a bad game. For those who missed the original and fancy some Ultimate Destruction (Bonus star for those get the reference) in an open world for no apparent reason there is fun to be had here. However for Prototype alumni and those that require more than the occasional flashback and terrible dialogue to construct a compelling story, there is not much to see here.
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