There’s always something special about a sequel to a game. It picks up where cliffhangers leave off, adds new and exciting characters and addresses a lot of questions that were left previously unanswered in the original title. Prototype 2 follows in the footsteps of sequels when it comes to answering the question, “So, what happens next?”
The opening introduces the main character, Sergeant James Heller, as he takes several phone calls from his wife and child who are back home while he’s in Iraq. The warm calls turn frantic as Heller’s wife starts to fear the sudden intrusion of Blackwatch. As a military man himself, Heller assures his wife that everything will be okay and that Blackwatch aren’t the bad guys. He advises her to trust in them and that he’ll be home soon.
Soon isn’t soon enough, as Heller comes home only to find his wife slaughtered and his child gone. His rage is natural as he comes to find out why his entire family has been reduced to bloodstains on the floor. It’s all due to a sudden outbreak dubbed the ‘Mercer Virus.’ With nothing left, there’s only one thing to do. Take out all of his anger on the one man that’s responsible: Alex Mercer.
Of course, things don’t go as planned. Things never seem to go as planned, for if they did, there wouldn’t be much of a game. This failed plan leaves Heller infected with his own hell. Just like the original Prototype game, this game receives and deserves the M-rating. There are more meaty chucks in this game than in a dog food factory and the F-bomb is used as every other word. Sometimes, even as almost every word since I heard one doctor scream, “What in the &#*&ing *&#$ is going on?!”
If you have something against slicing people, zombies, and mutated puppy creatures alike into kibble before absorbing them through your skin and tendrils, then this game isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you have absolutely no problem with that at all, you’ll have a blast.
While the Blackwatch side missions can be a bit repetitive, they do add to the story a bit. It’s a pretty short and straightforward game, so you might want to juice out all the plot you can get. Clearing out an area or retrieving information fills an emotional gap between Heller and those who end up helping him in his time of need. Granted, it also feels pretty good to dish out some mutant mayhem justice to those jerks who don’t care who they hurt or kill while trying to improve on the virus.
If you grab the Radnet edition with bonus content before June, you’re in for a sad surprise. What was advertised as bonus missions and unlocking the famed ‘Mercer Skin’, is on a dated timer. As it stands, you can’t even play all of the timed runs and challenges required to unlock the bonus content that includes behind the scenes videos, mutations, and the skins.
The idea of timed release dates on bonus content left a bad taste in my mouth. If I was willing to complete the entire set of bonus missions required to walk around with Mercer’s face, then why couldn’t I do it on release? The assumption then came that maybe that was the thought of most players who wanted to be Mercer again, instead of giving Heller a chance to shine as a character on his own.
Still, if you must have some extra goodies, there is already a pay-for DLC pack of weapons. Unfortunately, the PC version of the game has also been delayed until July, which leaves PC gamers like me dusting off their consoles in order to slaughter people with tendrils. Yes, I actually had to dust off my Xbox, which gets used mostly a glorified Netflix player.
The world of Prototype 2 is broken down into several pieces. New York, now dubbed New York Zero or NYZ, has three areas that are color-coded based on the spread of infection. The Green Zone is considered the ‘safe zone’, Yellow is full of sickly people and minor outbreaks, while Red is full of squishy, blood-thirsty, zombie-like mutants who are running around like there’s a giant sale at Macy’s.
Each zone has an air bridge to allow back and forth travel when the player is in Free-Mode, in case you want to go back to finish up events, collectables, or side-missions. Completing these or collecting sets unlock points for power-ups. Power-ups unlock by category, such as offensive or defensive. Absorbing marked enemies can also increase your combat efficiency. With god-like powers, fighting is the main focus of the game. Progression through the story unlocks various weapons and abilities. Along with a few favorite choices from the original game comes a few more great surprises when it comes to what your new-found abilities are capable of.
Fighting has much improved from the original game as well. The reflex-action button mashing is pretty fun and is the key to winning most of the battles, whether you’re dodging getting punched in the face or blocking just in time to send a missile flying back to its original owner.
One of the biggest flaws is that the camera is extremely hard to control, which will sometimes leave the player dodging blindly. Also, being cornered by enemies who use knockbacks or require the reflex button strategy only makes trying to see what you’re doing worse.
If and when you manage to overlook that you’re not going to be able to see your actions as well as you’d like, the rest is sheer wicked fun. There’s definitely a sense of feeling all-powerful when gaining new weapons and tossing points into your passive abilities. Enemies that caused you problems earlier in the game suddenly become squishy little jerks that you can rip in half like a phone book.
I’m not going to admit how much time I spent ignoring the story to just run around and kill whoever I wanted. The thrill of being chased and outwitting Blackwatch as I morph into an unassuming character right under their noses made me laugh along with Heller. We shared virtual brofists and continued to do everything in our power to stick it to the man.
Despite all the fun killing bad guys and fighting your way through gradually more and more ridiculous monsters, there are plenty of moments when you’ll feel for Heller on an emotional level. Despite his constant rage, he never seems to lose that spark of humanity that sets him apart from both Blackwatch and Mercer. The desperate searches to find out what happened to his family and attempting to save at least a few innocent lives weigh heavily on both the player and the character.
Visually, the game bounces between amazing cutscenes using a mix of real actors and computer-generated characters with basic in-game footage. Playing on the Xbox 360, the in-game graphics are a bit on the blurry side with most of the thought put into defining Heller’s weapons and not into the actual characters running around. There are only a handful of Blackwatch and civilian models, but that can also be the point. Absorbing anyone means you’re meant to look like everyone else.
The zones are massive with their familiar, tall, and battle-worn buildings. A native New Yorker should be impressed with the details used to lay out the city. Like most open world games, the buildings aren’t meant to be explored from the inside, which is fine for this sort of title. Doors are locked and boarded up for good reasons and the profane graffiti about Blackwatch fit the feel of city perfectly.
While there’s definitely not a lot going on with the music, the voice acting is suitable. There are changes through which I found hard to sit through. The angry but endearing voice of Heller, Cornell Womack, seems to channel his inner Mr. T about halfway through the game before coming back down to Earth. Darryl Kurylo replaces Barry Pepper as Alex Mercer, successfully giving him a much more arrogant tone.
Overall, Prototype 2 is a solid game. The story is very straight-forward, but there is enough blood and gore to keep someone entertained for the long run. The combat is what will keep you engaged, finding challenages in completing the side-missions, clearing out lairs, and fighting groups of monsters that want to eat you for breakfast. Fans of the first title will enjoy the much improved gameplay, but might not like the new direction the plot takes, especially when it comes to what happened to Mercer.
Still, if you enjoy a good bloodbath, picking up this title will fill your inner sociopathic needs.