Prototype 2 is an open-world game about a super-powered guy that tears through enemies with mutant abilities like blade arms, arm tentacles, and giant hand claws. If that sounds familiar its because it is. Prototype 2 doesn’t bring much new to what was presented in the first Prototype game. The first game was good, so by default the similarities the sequel has make it a decent game, but P2′s lack of innovation makes it feel like a stop gap, late generation, snoozer.
You play as James Heller, a character who is only marginally less annoying than Alex Mercer (the protagonist from the first game), as he becomes infected by the same virus from in Prototype. Alex Mercer returns and is responsible for the infection of Heller. Very little is done to bridge the gaps between games. For the most part its just assumed that the player knows what happened in Prototype 1. The plot weaves Mercer in and out of the action throughout and major revelations make Mercer a major player in the endgame (I’m trying to avoid spoilers).
The plot is what you would expect. There’s a certain amount of mystery regarding the 2nd outbreak of the virus and how it ties to Mercer is in question. The piecing together of the back story is not nearly as intriguing as it was in the first game, but alot of that comes from the story not being that interesting. Its kind of a “law of diminishing returns” sort of thing. At no point during my playthrough was a I really invested in the story, and the way it plays out in the end is predictable in an X-men sort of way. The only story thread that carries weight is the discovery that Heller’s daughter is alive. While it may be a stereotypical contrivance to make the 3rd act carry some emotional weight, the solid cutscenes showing Heller’s emotional reactions were the most resonant thing the game’s story had to offer.
Gameplay, oh the gameplay. Like the first game, Prototype 2 thrives on chaos. The longer your security alerts last the more firepower gets thrown at you. Everything from tanks, to helicopters, to giant car-flinging mutants, to squads of super-soldiers, there isn’t a shortage of enemy types to tear apart. Things can be pretty hairy if you are unable to hide from the authorities. The only downside is that alerts are much easier to escape from this time around. I have terrible memories of repeatedly failing missions in Prototype because I could not flee without having to take out 4 helicopters. In Prototype 2, I cannot recall a time when I died because I couldn’t escape an alert. So, the difficulty has been scaled back this time around, and that has effectively taken the teeth out of the tension normally found in frantic open-world environments.
The difficulty doesn’t come from stressful situations, or powerful enemies (hell Heller becomes so strong during the game he can one hit kill tanks and helicopters), the difficulty comes more from clumsy controls and an erratic lock-on function. Most of the times I died, it was because of I was attacking something accidentally. Once I got a handle on the lock-on mechanic it wasn’t nearly as hard, but even up until the final boss, the combat never felt 100% comfortable.
The real highlights of the game are the visual style and rendered cutscenes. Alot of care was put into getting the cutscenes to match the setting. Everything from the visual filters to the editing, Prototype 2 has a grit that rivals Gears of War. There’s even a bit of a Sin-city vibe to the style that is quite endearing. That is carried over to the broken portrayal of New York City. I don’t remember being impressed by the city in the original Prototype, so clearly more work has been put into melding the styles of the cutscenes and the over-world into a more cohesive experience. However, most of the charm of the dark setting is destroyed by the script, most specifically the dialog given to Heller.
Nearly every casual piece of dialog Heller has drops an F-bomb or an S-Bomb. Think Bulletstorm times two, minus the sporadic humor. I’ve decided that Radical Entertainment is completely incapable of creating a main character that is not a complete douche. Mercer still stands tall, next to War from Darksiders, and the entire cast of Gears of War, as the most juvenilely designed characters in recent video game history. Heller, while better than Mercer, is bad for completely different reasons. He speaks like an offensive caricature of Dr. Dre, or Ice Cube circa 1989. I love the idea of completely replacing your protagonist in a sequel, and Heller could have been interesting, but strange design choices make Prototype 2′s characters fall flat.
In the end, Prototype 2 is just another Prototype game. It feels like its predecessor in nearly everyway and nothing is included to push the series forward meaningfully. It checks most of the boxes needed in an openworld game to be a competent and fulfilling experience, but anyone who has played excessive open-world games in this generation will not get much from Prototype 2. On the other hand, it’s wickedly violent, brutal, and many might actually call it “badass”. Maybe I’m too cynical to just enjoy ripping a dude in half, who knows.
Verdict – Its competent, its familiar and its violent. If that’s enough for you, you’ll love Prototype 2.