Review: Prototype 2
Prototype 2 is the sequel to 2009's Prototype, a massively hyped and pretty awesome chaotic action game. Now, the series is back with a new lead character and new ambition, even if some of the flare has subsided. Can Prototype 2 revive the series, or does it fall short of leaving an impact?
- Worth The Time?Yes, it's a thrill ride that is satisfying to those who only want to have fun and don't want to take things too seriously.
- Things LovedThe addictive and thrilling action, the fluidity of the gameplay is much improved compared to the original, it's very rewarding to get to the later stages of the game where you're a real powerhouse, the awesome upgrade system, the powers are dynamic, the graphics have gotten a welcome upgrade since the original, there's a new game+ option.
- Things HatedThe repetitiveness, the uninteresting story and flat main character, the graphics can look ugly in certain places, the game starts out extremely slow with tutorial galore and it takes a while to get to what makes this game so fun, the experience isn't a lasting one, the missions lack variety.
- RecommendationThis is the game to go for if you want to spend a weekend enjoying mindless, chaotic fun without having to put in much effort or take things too seriously. While it's not really a memorable, deep or meaningful experience, it is a great amount of fun when you get into it and it's a noteworthy distraction from the boring real world. Be wary of paying full price for it unless you're a fan of the original or a completionist, because there's plenty of great game time to get here. Otherwise, try it before you buy it.
- Name: Prototype 2
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Radical Entertainment
- Publisher: Activision
- Price: R329 (PC), R540-599 (PS3, 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
It seems like a lifetime ago since I was fifteen years old and foaming at the mouth in anticipation for the original Prototype, which is a game from 2009 that I still absolutely love. It had its fair share of flaws, but it was a great game with an amazing and pretty insane story that faltered only because of convoluted presentation. Yet, it’s still one of my personal favourite sandbox games. Despite that, however, I was skeptical of Prototype 2 matching the overall experience of the original. But if I have to be honest, I must say that I walked away from Prototype 2 quite pleased, with the only disappointment being that it was rather forgettable. Sure, it has a lot wrong with it, but it also does a lot right, and in the end if you’re going into this game for some mindless chaotic action, then you’ll get all the thrill you need. But if you want something more meaningful or outstanding, you probably won’t find it here.
Prototype 2 made quite a bold move with its story, as the basic idea of the plot is that you’ll need to kill the protagonist from the first game, Alex Mercer. As a whole the game is pretty much a straight up revenge story, which is exactly what the developers had in mind for the game. In the game you take on the role of Sergeant James Heller, who is out on duty when he gets various calls from his wife who is fearing for their daughter’s safety. When Heller eventually returns home, he finds them both dead which causes him to rejoin the military and its fight for New York City against the deadly Mercer virus. Heller, however, only has one thing on his mind, and that’s revenge against Mercer, who he blames for the death of his family. But destiny has a different plan for Heller, as his early encounter with Mercer goes south, with him ending up being infected by the original game’s protagonist. Mercer’s infection causes Heller to develop the same powers as his adversary, and from there the hunt begins.
The story was strange to form an opinion about for me, because for the most part I wasn’t entirely sure whether it wanted to be taken seriously or not. It’s hardly interesting or exciting, the dialogue is overflowing with F-bombs and is often really juvenile, at times it approached some more mature or darker themes only to revert back to total absurdity and, in general, it’s a plot where you’ll just go with the flow rather than pay much attention, which is a pity. However, I feel the main problem with the story is actually the character of Heller. In the original game, Alex Mercer presented a very interesting dynamic as he was a victim but also an anti-hero who did horrific things. At times you could sympathise with him, and others you’d probably think he was wildly bonkers but with a strong motivation for his insanity. Heller, by contrast, is supposed to be more human because he’s a man who lost his family and driven to the edge of his sanity, but for most of the game he just comes across as an unsympathetic asshole who can be even worse than Alex Mercer himself. While he often is portrayed as a mindless brute who can be just as hilarious as he can be badass, he isn’t much of a victim and you definitely can’t relate to him. Many gamers probably won’t care as long as they get to be badass and break things, but for me Alex Mercer was just a much more deep and interesting character to follow.
Another thing that was rather upsetting was that Alex Mercer has been completely changed from the original game. With a new voice actor and seemingly new personality, he just lost all depth which makes his encounters with Heller significantly less interesting than they should be. I get that I’m going on about the story for quite a bit, but it’s only really to come to the point that you shouldn’t be taking this sequel seriously at all. It was clearly designed to be a fun ride more than anything else, despite how ambiguous the story is when it comes to how it wants players to perceive it. And that’s what I ended up doing really, as long as I could have more reasons to uppercut helicopters or turn people into lethal bio-bombs. And after all is said and done, when it comes to gameplay Prototype 2 continues the series’ desire to make players feel like the most powerful being in the world, and pulls it off excellently.
Prototype 2 is nearly identical to the original with its gameplay, but many improvements have been made that definitely make things feel better, if not new. The parkour is still as awesome and addictive as ever as you’ll charge at breakneck speeds, run up walls like a boss, scale buildings with a simple jump or glide through the air. And it feels like Heller is easier to maneuver than Mercer was in the first game, but that’s mainly because Heller starts out a lot slower and weaker and it’s only in the later stages of the game and after acquiring many upgrades that he shows his true colours. The mission structure and upgrade system have both also undergone a considerable improvement, and have become far easier to work with. Now they both work together. Rather than grinding out thousands and thousands of experience points like in the first game, Prototype 2 lets players improve Heller’s stats such as health, regeneration or shape shifting using skill points gained after levelling up, as well as acquire mutations through completing side missions, which provide a permanent boost and are presented in categories such as offensive, defensive, locomotion and power specialist. For example getting enough experience will level you up and allow you to maybe boost Heller’s maximum health, while acquiring a mutation could do anything from vamping up Heller’s top speed to making him immune to bullets. Lastly, players can level up their main powers and firearm skills by consuming special targets in the world.
It’s a fantastic system because it allows players to gradually become more powerful and constantly progress, but the problem comes in that this unfortunately makes the pacing really slow, as it requires a sizable amount of work to earn upgrades. But hey, at least it’s a bit better than acquiring a million experience points like you needed to do towards the end of the original game. However, it does bring me to one of the worst things about the game, which is that practically a third, or dare I say half of the entire game feels like a tutorial. For most of the early hours of the game your hand will be held, you’ll be told what to do and overall you’ll progress really slowly. It even takes forever just to be able to allowed to start hijacking helicopters and tanks. You get the five main weapons, namely claw, blade, hammerfist, whipfist and tendrils with shield now being a built-in block ability, at set points in the game, and they’re spaced quite far apart so you don’t really get free reign to play with all of your toys until much later on in the game. It takes quite a long while before the game opens up and allows you to run wild, which is a real pity for those who played the original and want to immediately get more of that, but fortunately the best of rewards comes in later when you finally become a powerhouse and have acquired most of the upgrades. It really ends up being worth it, and delivers the game’s best moments.
On the matter of the powers and the combat system, there’s a lot different. Firstly, you’re able to equip two powers at once and use them together without having to access the radial menu. While you can’t really combo them together, it’s cool to have access to two rather than having to keep swapping. The powers seem to be a lot more balanced this time around, with equal amounts of fun spread across them, and it’s more enjoyable to pick a favourite now that all powers remain useful throughout the game. However, it’s unfortunate that a number of Heller’s attack animations have been rehashed from the previous game, and despite that some great moves have been completely omitted. For example, the barehanded fighting moves are mostly gone, and Heller doesn’t have bullet dive drop, hammerfist toss or the ability to use whipfist in the air to latch onto helicopters. But while he’s lost those, he has gained some other badass moves, such as the ability to instantly destroy tanks and helicopters or rip their weapons off and use them to cause mayhem. Not to mention bio-bomb, where you turn someone into a lethal tendril bomb either stealthily or blatantly and watch the priceless chaos unfold. Using Heller’s abilities is simply an amazing feeling, because few games can capture the level of power that Prototype 2 manages to give you in its later stages, and it’s just a thrill to experience it.
But despite how enjoyable these elements of the game are, another one of the worst problems with Prototype 2 is that it’s very repetitive, and a big part of the reason for this are the missions, which seriously lack variety and cause the game to feel quite shallow at times. Most missions involve simply killing something or infiltrating a base, consuming targets of interest and exiting alerts. I recall a few deviations, but without any interesting story to drive the game forward the lackluster missions really become a lot more noticeable. Let me put it into perspective. A family member of mine, who has no interest in or knowledge about modern video games, was watching me play the game and commented that it was crazy and obscenely violent, which is a good thing, but then went on to ask me what the idea was of it all, because I didn’t seem to be doing anything important other than just killing stuff. And that’s perhaps the gist of it really. Enjoying this game isn’t about the story or doing anything meaningful, it’s simply about complete carnage and finding ways to jack around, misbehave and cause chaos. Is that enough? Well it certainly is if you want mindless entertainment, but there’s not a lot more in it for you.
Prototype 2 will take you over ten hours to finish, depending on your tendency to mess around or chase after collectibles. On top of that, there’s always a new game+ mode, which is great to have, and an Insane difficulty mode, for all those craving a challenge or achievement. Even if most of the early hours are consumed by tutorials and slow pacing, there’s a great amount of gameplay time on offer here to make it worth the run. Graphically, Prototype 2 is quite an impressive step over its predecessor. It won’t really amaze you, and in a number of areas the visuals can look ugly or lacking in detail, but it looks pretty decent overall and the best thing about it is that no matter how much chaos happens on screen, the game will never show any signs of slowing down. It’s fantastic when considering just how much chaos Prototype 2 can stuff your screen with, even if the game cheats a little bit by cutting down on the draw distance. The game uses sound well to convey the absolute mayhem that gives it its name, and surprisingly the voice acting is of a good standard despite the absurdity of the dialogue. I never had any technical issues with the game, and it really was a very comfortable experience to have.
Prototype 2 succeeds at providing players with a game that they don’t really need to take all that seriously and can simply enjoy without much effort. Unfortunately, it’s not really a lasting or meaningful experience, and as such you should be wary of paying full price for it unless you’re a fan of the original or a completionist, because there’s plenty of satisfying content here. Prototype 2 is a great deal of fun and a noteworthy distraction from the boring real world, but sadly it’s pretty forgettable in the end.