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May 22, 2012
Prototype 2 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
24/4/2012ActivisionActivisionRadical Ent.1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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The games hero, James Heller, looking cool.
If thereís one thing the tremendous success of the recently released Avengers movie has taught us, itís that people love superheroes. Watching them lay waste to whole cities as they battle against the forces of evil is a whole lot of fun. So itís a case of good timing that Prototype 2, which sees you take control of a character with superhero-esque powers, has arrived on store shelves around the same time as Avengers landed in cinemas. If the idea of running amok in New York, laying waste to everything in your path with an array of moves that would make even the Hulk nervous is your idea of a good time, then Prototype 2 may be just the game for you.

In Prototype 2 New York is suffering through a second outbreak of a deadly virus known as the Mercer virus, named after Alex Mercer, the man who released it on the world (in the first Prototype game). The military force known as Blackwatch has been called in to assist the army in containing the virus, but despite their combined effort the virus is spreading out of control. People infected by the virus turn into walking corpses if theyíre lucky, and savage beasts if theyíre not. It was one such walking corpse that killed Sergeant James Hellerís wife and daughter, a mere day before he was scheduled home from his deployment in Iraq.

Hellerís rage knows no bounds and he demands placement in the deadly Ďred zoneí, where Heller hopes to catch Alex Mercer and make him pay for what happened to his family. Hellerís meeting with Mercer happens earlier than expected (itís the first thing that happens in the game) and Heller gets more than he bargained for when Mercer infects him with the virus. The next thing Heller knows he awakens in a lab just seconds before the military unleash multiple infected people on him to Ďsee what Heller is capable ofí.

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Attacking the enemy with mutation!
As you may have surmised you play as James Heller, not Alex Mercer as in the first Prototype game. From the moment you take control of Heller in the lab you get to sample some of the epic moves you have at your disposal. By tapping square repeatedly Heller performs a combo, and if you hold square down Heller will unleash a massive kick that sends multiple attackers flying across the screen. Heller can also jump and dodge with the x button, and sprint with R2. Heller can also grab enemies, and when he does he can Ďconsumeí them, restoring some health in the process. By consuming someone, Heller can also shapeshift into them (DNA and all), making it that much easier to avoid unwanted attention.

These are far and away the simplest moves in Hellerís repertoire, and it wonít take long to earn deadly powers, skills and abilities as befits a character with superhuman qualities. At key times in the game Heller will absorb the powers of an enemy, which grant him claws and blades among others, resulting in much blood and limb loss to the members of Blackwatch. Heller also earns abilities such as being able to infuse enemies with a bomb (throwing them at their friends at this point is a wise move) and calling massive infected beasts to do his fighting for him. If that wasnít enough Heller can also acquire mutations that do things like adding an air-dash to his already epic gliding skills, speeding up his movements, recovering more health after absorbing someone and making him bulletproof. Heller becomes one badass dude in a very short space of time.

All of these moves wouldnít mean much if you didnít have people to fight, so itís lucky for us the game provides an almost limitless number of them. The Blackwatch militia are the most obvious targets, but the scientists from Gentek (the company responsible for the Mercer virus) are also in the firing line. As you progress through the game youíll come across plenty of infected victims, some of whom have mutated into deadly (and massive) creatures that take a fair bit of work to take down.

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Heller takes on the chopper, more incoming.
After your initial meeting with Alex Mercer itís not entirely clear who the real enemy is. Gentek, Blackwatch and Mercer himself remain the most likely culprits, but Heller is determined to get to the bottom of things. To this end Heller enlists the help of his lone friend, the priest, Father Guerra. Guerra has a network of contacts that can provide him information on Gentek and Blackwatch; their goings on and the key people within each company.

Tracking down these key people and infiltrating important Gentek or Blackwatch meetings is how youíll spend much of your time in Prototype 2. To find people Heller usually has to hunt them, which is done by pressing L3 to send out an Ďinfected sonarí, that bounces back from the targets location. While this ability doesnít make a whole lot of sense, itís definitely useful. Hunting works best from the top of tall buildings because this allows you the best view of where the sonar bounces back from.

Once youíve located the target youíll want to consume them so that you can shapeshift into their form. Another benefit of consuming your enemies is that you also gain access to their memories, a mechanic the game uses to advance the story in small chunks at a time. With the target found and consumed youíre now free to adopt their guise and infiltrate buildings, bypassing biometric security measures with their DNA and spoiling the best laid plans of Gentek and Blackwatch alike.

Moving around the quarantined area, referred to as New York Zero, is one of the most fun aspects of Prototype 2, much to my surprise and pleasure. By simply holding down R2 Heller can sprint along the ground or up the side of a building. Every jump can turn into an effortless glide through the sky, and the judicious use of air-dash will extend these glides even further. In this way youíll cover big distances in a short amount of time, and the freedom of movement will bring a smile to your face.

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Now that's one massive enemy in Prototype 2!
If running and gliding around isnít your cup of tea you can hijack vehicles instead. Tanks, APCs and helicopters are at your disposal, some freely given if youíve adopted a suitable disguise, or taken by force if not. There are three zones in New York Zero, and the helicopter gives you the quickest means of traveling between the three. You can go by foot, but the broken bridges that link the zones will slow you down a little. Of course you donít have to use the vehicles just for travel; you can also use them to unleash a good old fashioned ass whooping on your enemies as well. Laying waste to all and sundry with a tank or the homing missiles of a helicopter is a blast (pun intended).

Prototype 2ís biggest failings are three-fold Ė the story, character development and the repetition of objectives. The story appears well set up with Heller on a quest for vengeance, but there simply isnít any depth to it. The same goes for Heller himself, who is extremely one-dimensional and, to be honest, rather unlikable. Itís easy to understand his all-consuming rage considering his wife and daughter have been killed, but you rarely see any other side to him. Scenes where he swears at a computer or busts out lines like Ď*%@! this, what the *%@! is this *%@!?í do little to endear you to him.

Other characters are also transparent and under-developed. How any sane person could develop affection for Heller is beyond me, yet a couple of female characters do. Towards the end of the game the behavior of one character in particular changes significantly and inexplicably between scenes, which simply doesnít make sense. Itís all quite strange and a little off-putting.

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Go on, toss him off the building.
As for the repetition of objectives, you basically do the same thing over and over all through the game - hunt down key personnel, consume them, infiltrate their workplace and sabotage it. That and killing, lots and lots of killing. Most of the time I didnít mind the repetition; Hellerís moves make fighting a stack of fun, and as mentioned earlier traveling with him is fun too. What the game lacks is a few sidequests that change things up a bit (like rampages in GTA), or slightly more varied missions. At the end of the day this isnít a major complaint, but long-term it will start to be a factor.

Visually the game is solid, but not spectacular. Up close some of the texturing is a bit bland and characters look a little wooden. The plus side is that the size and scope of the city and the draw distance is impressive. At a distance you wonít see great detail but you do see the tall buildings of other zones. Some buildings in the red zone have sustained major damage which looks pretty cool, while others are on fire which looks just ok. Not sure if this is a plus or a minus, but there is a significant amount of blood in this game - weíre talking fountains of it.

Heller moves as fluidly as you could want and his wide array of moves all look great. There isnít much slowdown or screen-tear either, which is a fine effort considering how much goes on at times. There is a distinct visual flair to the cut-scenes, which play out mostly in black and white with the occasional vivid colour for things like blood. These scenes are among the best-looking in the game.

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Inflicting major damage from above.
The sound is about what youíd expect; there isnít much music but whatís there builds the tension nicely, the sound effects are all entirely suitable and beefy enough to give weight to your actions and the voice-acting is B-grade. Heller doesnít have a huge vocabulary but heís mastered most four-letter words and uses them often, so be prepared for a lot of cursing. There are some nice touches like the wind whistling as you glide or fall from height, and enough NPCs make comments that New York Zero feels populated with somewhat real people.

Prototype 2 is a game that prioritizes fun over in-depth story and character development, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand I quite enjoyed my time with the game Ė what male wouldnít enjoy taking control of an overpowered superhuman character and unleashing hell on everyone in sight? On the other hand though, the lack of character development in Heller, the unbelievable reactions of those around him, combined with a story that doesnít pack a punch and is occasionally at odds with the gameís action, stop it from reaching top tier status for me. If you want violence and fun and donít care about story Prototype 2 should be at the top of your list. If youíre more story-driven, or donít love extreme violence then you might want to look elsewhere.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSThe city looks great, Heller moves with grace and style and the cut-scenes have great flair. Meanwhile some textures looks bland and some effects are just ok.
SOUNDPerfectly serviceable for the most part; limited music, beefy sound effects and so-so voice acting.
GAMEPLAYReally entertaining in the short term, but repetition in mission objectives mean the novelty does wear off by the end. Still, Heller has an awesome suite of moves and getting around town great fun thanks to his glide.
VALUEThere are lots of collectibles that will bring you back for a second run-through Ė in new game+ no less.
OVERALLPrototype 2 is great if mindless fun. There isnít much story, but that wonít stop you enjoying it. For a while at least.

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