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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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