Review: Prototype 2
When you’re cutting through hordes of people like slices of cheese – albeit extremely messy and bloody cheese – you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you’re controlling a character that’s supposed to care about the fate of these people; or does he? It’s always a bit back and forth, but to go any further you need to know about who the hell I’m talking about.
In Prototype 2 you play as James Heller, a solider that’s managed to get posted to New York Zero – the nightmare version of New York that was royally messed up during the events of the last game – where the virus has returned with a vengeance and has claimed his wife and child as casualties. It isn’t long before Heller meets Mercer, the protagonist from the first game, and is seemingly ‘gifted’ with the same ‘superpower’ talents. Heller immediately blames Mercer for the death of his wife and child, and he has good reason to – and it’s not just because Mercer is a bit of an arsehole! Among all the profanities and pent-up rage that Heller spurts he’s also portrayed as having a bit of a heart, at least for a while. He does want to help the people of New York Zero, who are being subjugated by mercenary outfit Blackwatch and biological weapons research company GenTek, but doesn’t seem to have any qualms about slaughtering thousands of them at the same time. To be honest though no-one seems to care about killing innocent people in Prototype 2, and it’s a bit laughable that a corporation would exist where its thousands of staff would have no hesitation in experimenting on people just for the hell of it. We’re not here to talk moral codes though, and by the end of the game Heller will have chomped his way through his fair share of Gentek and Blackwatch personnel anyway. Plus, I very much doubt players are going to hold back on killing everything in sight just because it feels wrong, otherwise Grand Theft Auto and a slew of open world games wouldn’t be so popular.
Just like in the first game you can consume pretty much every living thing you come across. One mission may have you attempting to get access to a Blackwatch base, which is simply a case of consuming the commanding officer, taking his form, and walking into the base like you’ve just arrived for a day’s shift. Consuming other people will give you an insight into their memories, which provides information central to the main plot or can unlock a side mission somewhere in the hell hole of a city. Take on a giant beast that barrels towards you, knocking aside people as if they were ten-pin bowling pins, and you can eventually rip its arms off and suck out a new ability or upgrade. Eventually you consume so many memories that the names start to blur into one and mean little to you, so it’s easy to get lost with the plot and feel like you’re simply playing the game for more experience points and Heller’s next upgrade that will allow you to cause even more mayhem.
Stealthy scenes aside it’s the fighting where the real fun of the game lies, and you’ve got a lot of tools at your disposal. Firstly you can fly around the city like superman, although this is a superman that isn’t going to do a day job at a newspaper, and run up walls like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Your arms can transform into one of five weapons, depending on whether or not you’ve unlocked that weapon, which can range from Wolverine style claws to a whip that can pull a helicopter out of the sky or literally cut a crowd of people in half, with their remaining legs slowly dropping to the floor afterwards. The tentacles weapon allows you to target an enemy and suck everything in its immediate area towards it in an attempt to crush it, while the alternative attack will create a messy strand of tentacles stretching across the street with stretched and torn up body parts being its main feature. It’s an extremely gory game, with gouts of blood and guts seemingly exploding around you when you’ve levelled up to become even more powerful. It’s all fun and games picking up cars and launching them halfway across the city, but do the missions provide something different? The answer to that is not particularly; missions largely boil down to hunting someone, consuming them, killing a few more people or destroying some objects, before legging it and quickly adopting a disguise to exit an alert (upon which everyone immediately forgets that you existed, even if someone who looks like a Gentek scientist is currently scaling a skyscraper on foot). Driving a tank or piloting helicopters provide some break from the repetitiveness, but they also jar you out of the screaming fast carnage that takes place on foot and feel slow and underwhelming as a result.
The problem with being so powerful is that it provides less of a challenge, even if it does look cool as hell. I rarely died, and even when I did it was usually the fault of the games camera. When you’re zipping around at full speed the camera can find it hard to keep up, and can end up being all over the place when you’re in the thick of a large battle. It’s especially frustrating when you’re trying to lock on to something and the camera insists on swinging around to lock onto something behind you, or just gets stuck against a wall so you can’t even see Heller. Laughably you can often easily slaughter everyone in front of you, except the guy you’re trying to kill because the camera won’t play ball. Aside from the camera though even the biggest bosses don’t present much of a challenge when it’s so easy to dodge out of their way, and when you start facing off against enemies with similar powers you start to wonder just what the hell they’ve been using them for.
When you’re not splashing guts up the side of the Empire State Building there are plenty of collectibles lying around. Blackboxes are scattered on rooftops and in crannies of the cities three zones (NYZ is divided into green, yellow and red zones, in order of safest. Although in reality none of the streets are safe, at least for the average joe anyway), giving up snippets of story and another collectible to add to the kitty. Field Ops are little more than slaughtering a group of people, although there is some variety in side missions. While most side missions involve nothing different to what you do in the main plot a few involve collecting boxes dropped across a swathe of the city within a certain time limit, with each box collected giving you a few precious seconds. Yes it’s a checkpoint race at heart, but it’s heart-pounding when you’ve got helicopters, missiles and leaping super soldiers on your tail.
Prototype 2 largely feels like something you’ve played before, and of course you have if you picked up the first game. There are minor improvements, but aside from the story and some new abilities there’s not that much to distinguish it from the first game and it never really tries much to do anything different. That said you’ll probably have a blast with it, it’s incredibly fun to just dive in and be part of the slaughter despite its minor niggles, but it’s fun that you’ll probably forget when you move on to the next game. It’s not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but not every game has to be.
Review: Prototype 2 Results
What we liked:
The whole game is pure carnage from start to finish.
Inventive weapons and abilities, although not much we haven't seen before.
Hunting down collectibles is a fun side activity.
What we disliked:
Far too easy. Being all powerful is cool but it never feels like you're in much trouble.
The camera constantly gets in the way, and actually causes more deaths than your enemies.
The majority of the missions follow the same formula and become dull over time.