The original Prototype was infamous in its comparison to other games. So much so that it barely got to stand on its own personal merits. A few years have passed from the original’s release and in that time, a sequel has come out. Prototype 2 has less to be equated to this year and has time to shine on what it does by itself. However, the question stands on whether it deserves this attention or not. Besides some niggling issues, Prototype 2 is an enjoyable open world game.
One game’s protagonist is another game’s antagonist (that’s how that saying goes, right?) and that is exactly true here in Prototype 2. Alex Mercer, who was the first Prototype‘s antihero, has now switched sides and became one of the main villains here in the sequel. But a villain to whom? James Heller, our new tragedy-stricken main character, is out for Alex Mercer’s blood after the killing of Heller’s family in the infected NYZ. A failed assassination attempt leaves Heller infected with the Mercer virus, along with cryptic clues on Mercer’s real motives. This begins the journey of unraveling the mysteries of Alex Mercer, stopping the virus, and putting an end to the Blackwatch mercenary presence.
Prototype 2 almost sets itself up to have a weak narrative, but it evolves into a little more than that. Alex Mercer makes for a great bad guy because of his determination to see his goal come to fruition and in the fact that his plan doesn’t seem too insane. He isn’t a typical villain with a curly mustache, hell bent on destroying the world, but more of a guy who has a specific, passionate vision. The fact that you can almost sympathize with him makes him stand out as someone you almost don’t want to take down.
James Heller may seem like the most one-dimensional character in the pantheon of gaming, but this might (strangely) work to his benefit. Heller utters some of the best swearing this side of Samuel L. Jackson, with the inappropriately appropriate “motherfuckers” and “dipshits” peppered in at all the most hilarious times. If more than five minutes have passed without a curse word (even the coveted “c-word” is dropped), you must have the game on pause. He almost seems like a modern day Kratos in his angry, yet endearing ways. Efforts are made to humanize him by some of the events that strike him, but I honestly just loved him for his sarcastic, filthy remarks.
It isn’t all cherries though. Not only are objective plain and unimaginative (“Kill X,” “Destroy Five Y”), the game relies far too heavily on consuming individuals to gain their memories. A mechanic such as this is inventive, but it is used as a crutch to stitch together story threads. If it was used more sparingly, the impact would be greater but it becomes all too predictable. Deceiving other officers by the new skin is cool, but more creative uses of James’ powers would have made for a better story. Still, I was compelled to see the end and was mostly satisfied as a whole even if some of the ending required a small jump in logic.
An open world game can crumble at its foundation if it isn’t fun to traverse, but this is Prototype 2‘s strongest selling point. Heller can jump great distances, sprint up walls, glide, and air dash which all in conjunction make movement a breeze. Upgrades streamline this process even more by making these techniques faster, thus making it even more fun. Getting to places is quick, efficient, and satisfying. The best times I had in Prototype 2 were just traversing the city dropping in on the game’s many collectibles.
These collectibles make for a fun excuse just to go mess around and experiment with the movement powers. Monster-infested lairs, small scientist groups, Black Boxes (think Dead Drops from inFamous), and consumable humans are all situated throughout the world ready to be found or killed. In almost every other game, collectibles are just padding for trophies and achievements, but they add to the game here. Besides netting experience and small dialogue options, it gives an interesting side objectives that take advantage of the speedy movement. Aimlessly gliding around will eventually show you something worth finding, thanks to the overly helpful collectible finder.
Your quickness in traversal will be dependent on your level, an aspect the game does quite well. Like many other titles, leveling up is core to the experience along with finding new violent powers. Upgrading is fairly straightforward, with some getting rewarded from finding a set of collectibles and others done by hitting a new level. New powers are obtained by story missions and spread well throughout. A shield, whip, tendrils, claws, and more are all part of his repertoire and give a healthy sense of progression along with just giving new violent ways of killing. This sense of progression is strong as evidenced by the drastic change in power seen from the bookends of the game. A New Game+ is available upon completing the game, which a simple, yet brilliant idea.
Although, all of these powers don’t make the combat exponentially better. Two face buttons are dedicated to any of the powers so the choice is always there, but sometimes fighting can feel sluggish. Slicing and dismembering enemies was always a highlight in a mindless, gory sort of way, but the sometimes necessary precision can show the holes within the combat. Blocking and dodging can be stiff in most situations by not being instantly responsive and the lock-on isn’t always smart enough to find the desired target. Prepare to get stun locked frequently because almost every blow causes Heller to flip and tumble uncontrollably. Consequentially, every received attack feels heavy but it isn’t worth the loss of control. I don’t want to compare it the combat titans like God of War, but that is the golden standard and anything short is noticeable.
Almost every aspect of Prototype 2 is rough around the edges. The graphics can seem a little blah (complete with Silent Hill-esque fog), the music is forgettable, the combat isn’t necessarily deep or smooth, and the missions don’t do much out of the ordinary but it all comes together in a way that helps you look past those parts. Between Heller’s potty mouth, traversal skills, and menagerie of upgrades and powers, Prototype 2 does just enough to transform in a game that is worth playing. A game so focused on taking identities does well at capturing its own spirit.
+Interesting world and main character
+Fantastic traversal with plenty of collectibles
+Extensive upgrade path and power retrieval
-Hit stunning is all too frequent in the combat
-Locking on, dodge rolling, and blocking can be troublesome
-Bland, repetitive mission structure
Final Score: 7.5/10