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Prototype 2

Score: 84%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Free-Roaming/ Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

The original Prototype put you in the role of an extraordinarily powerful mutant and stranded you in Manhattan in the middle of a viral outbreak and the resulting military occupation. It was a good game, but there were a few glaring flaws that kept it from reaching its true potential. Prototype 2 addresses enough of those flaws to establish itself as a superior sequel. It's far from perfect, and it won't win over anyone who didn't like the original, but if you're looking for an outlet for violent impulses, this is a game you should play.

Prototype 2's visual improvements over the original might not become apparent until you're a few hours into the game. If you don't remember, Prototype's vision of Manhattan looked decent, but relatively devoid of color. Browns and reds pervaded the entire game no matter where you went. Prototype 2 is more colorful. The greens are greener, the blues are bluer, and the reds are... well, brighter. I didn't think it possible, but Prototype 2 is more violent than the original. The first one saw thousands of civilians, troops, and mutants eviscerated in horrifying, disgusting ways. This one goes to eleven in that regard. It takes its time grossing you out; one finishing move has an enemy slowly split in two down the middle. Another results in an enemy's upper half stretching a few feet away from his/her lower half -- but the two halves remain connected by a disgustingly elastic bit of human tissue. The animation work is largely the same as it was in 2009; we may have a new protagonist, but his movements are identical to Alex Mercer's. The only drawback is that the framerate isn't as good this time around.

Prototype 2's voice acting is solid, though Barry Pepper does not return to reprise his role as Alex Mercer. The replacement voice sounds absolutely nothing like Pepper, but since Mercer isn't the focus of this game, it's okay. James Heller's voice is essentially the stereotypical vengeful black guy with an attitude, but he's still a lot of fun to listen to. Some of the insults he hurls are laugh out loud funny; one particular instance during the final boss fight made me spit out my coffee. Every Blackwatch soldier is a font of ignorance and trash talk, and you'll be more than happy to snack on them. The soundtrack doesn't borrow any of the motifs from the original Prototype, but it's still appropriate stuff for a power fantasy.


Prototype 2 casts you as Sergeant James Heller, a man who has nothing to lose. His wife and daughter were killed by individuals infected with the Blacklight Virus (known to the media and civilians as the Mercer Virus). So naturally, Heller isn't a big fan of Alex Mercer, and he repeatedly requests to be deployed in New York Zero, despite knowing that it's essentially a suicide mission. Eventually, he gets his wish. Of course, nothing goes according to plan, and after Heller's team is wiped out, our hero finds himself face to face with Mercer himself. However, Mercer has plans for Heller, and infects him with the Blacklight virus. Turns out, Mercer has been infecting certain individuals with the virus, turning them into "Evolved," in an attempt to build an army to destroy the sinister Gentek Corporation and the military organization known as Blackwatch.

The storytelling is better in Prototype 2, largely because the protagonist is much more likable than Alex Mercer. However, the lengthy campaign essentially sets Heller on a wild goose chase. Each mission sets Heller on the trail of some unknown character, only to find out that he should be looking for someone else. This goes on for hours, and it leads to the feeling that you really aren't getting anywhere, despite the ever-increasing percentage number on your save slot.

In terms of premise, Prototype 2 is pretty much identical to its predecessor. You are let loose in an open world to complete missions and events, hunt for collectibles, and basically do whatever you want. But a few key changes make this sequel better than the original. Firstly, the combat has been improved. I won't go into specifics until later in the review, but it's definitely more refined and rewarding. Second, some of the game's more superfluous aspects are fleshed out and given narrative context. For example, if Heller needs to consume a particular scientist, he might make an off-color remark about the scientist being part of the bowling team. Third, finding hidden items isn't as much of a chore as it was in the original. Gone are the randomly scattered landmark orbs. Instead, you'll locate Blackboxes (similar to the Dead Drops in inFAMOUS), eliminate Field Ops teams, and destroy Infected lairs.


Prototype 2 is easier than Prototype, but only because it is better balanced. Prototype's defensive maneuvers (particularly the dodge) were borderline broken, and the boss fights were absolutely terrible. Now that I've played this sequel, I realize that Alex Mercer simply moved too fast. Heller is slower, but enemies don't attack with as much ferocity (or force in numbers). It feels right.

The secondary events range from extraordinarily easy to very difficult. However, you might want to hold off on doing any of these until Heller has evolved (leveled up) and earned a nice collection of Mutations. Otherwise, you may find yourself wondering how in the hell you're supposed to complete them with the limited abilities you have.

Game Mechanics:

Prototype established itself as a fun sandbox experience, but it spread itself too thin and tried to do too much. Prototype 2 is a far more focused effort, and the result is an experience that stands up much better as a straightforward action game.

The signature parkour system is back; Heller can run extraordinarily fast, jump extraordinarily high, and glide for several hundreds of feet at a time. But the key improvements in Prototype 2 start with the combat. Heller can map a single power to each of the main two attack buttons. Once you've acquired the powers, you can unleash combinations of attacks from the different abilities. For example, you might launch into a Claw attack, only to end with a Tendril Black Hole. As mentioned, the defensive options have been cleaned up a great deal; you can counter attack using a single button, and the dodge move allows Heller to effortlessly vault over and behind his foes. There's far more method here than in the original game, which felt too fast and random.

Mission design is much improved, though the stealth is still not very well implemented. There are a few neat touches, however. For example, Heller can tell when a Stealth Consumption target is being watched. He can also create a diversion using the Bio Bomb, a move that infects an enemy and rigs him to explode -- and then implode.

Several missions require Heller to hunt down and consume targets. A key new mechanic is the Hunting Pulse. This is somewhat similar to Assassin's Creed's Eagle Vision in that it highlights key targets. However, this operates more like a sonar. You send out a pulse, and a pulse returns to you. Your job is to identify the origin of the return pulse and consume the target. It's neat.

Vehicles don't play quite as large a part here as they did in Prototype, but you have a new option: weaponizing. This mechanic won't surprise anyone who's played Radical Entertainment's Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Heller can rip weapons off of vehicles and then use them as he sees fit. This is a nice option for those who think the vehicles slow down the gameplay too much.

Heller doesn't upgrade himself like Mercer does. Evolution Points (EP) are now experience points instead of upgrade currency. Heller acquires his powers by consuming special targets; he doesn't buy them like Mercer did. It's a far less extensive upgrade system than the original's, but that's a small price to pay for a game that plays better. Mutations can also be unlocked by completing sets of Blacknet missions and special objectives. These ability boosters might be more passive in nature than you'd expect, but they're worth seeking out.

If you didn't like Prototype, this sequel won't change your mind. If you did, you'll have a blast with Prototype 2. It's not the best open world game out there, but it terms of sheer carnage, it's really unmatched.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:

Sony PlayStation 3 Ridge Racer Unbounded Sony PlayStation 3 Prototype 2

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