Game play - 6
Presentation - 7
Story / Creativity - 4
Lifespan - 5
Prototype 2 is a true disappointment for what we hoped the series would evolve into. For a franchise that holds so much potential, it is a shame to see the developer’s original passion trip over itself and slam hard on its own face through a truly lackluster plot and boring fighting mechanics. They played it a little too safe with this sequel and it is painful to see little ambition to the follow up of an initially ambitious concept.
With superhero movies running rampant this year, it was no surprise that Activision wanted to take a piece of the pie with the sequel to their dark and brooding anti-hero series in the form of Prototype 2. With a new protagonist taking the lead role, can Prototype 2 take the concept of its predecessor and go one step further? Apparently not.
Welcome to the stage the new, angry lead character of Sgt. James Heller. Heller is a core man to the bone and with a family residing in the heart of the infected city of New York. He has a lot to fight for but as the intro shows, things obviously go a little south as he Heller comes home from his tour to find the lifeless bodies of his loved ones scattered around his studio apartment. Months pass and we now see a stone cold solider on the brink of insanity. He is taking on the most dangerous missions and this is all for one main personal goal, to dish out revenge on Alex Mercer; the cause of the outbreak.
What follows is a tiring revenge story where what was built up quite well in the original game is all thrown away in what can seem like a filler sequel. While the first Prototype actually had a story for you to work towards unravelling, Heller’s story has no such plot to speak of apart from wanting the already mentioned death of the man who apparently murdered his family. Radical Entertainment had a tough job on their hands here. Not only did they have to new protagonist to try and get their original fans to attach to but they also had to try and pump 6 – 8 hours of game into a paper thin story, while keeping the whole thing entertaining. This obviously falls flat on Radical’s face this time as not only do we get a character who is a real asshole, but we also get a story that doesn’t allow us to feel any kind of pity for the man on a one note revenge trip.
I mean, sure Alex Mercer was a bit of a jerk in the original Prototype as you ordered him to lop off the limbs of terrified civilians and unnamed mercenaries a like but it still had a kind of purpose to the whole thing. One example is the original ‘Web of Intrigue’ that allowed Mercer to unlock his lost memories through devouring key civilians and scientists. We wanted to know why Mercer was put in this situation and in a way we were right there on his wave length as he stopped at nothing to find the answers. This time though our leading man Heller decides that not only does he want to get pay back on Mercer, but he also seemingly wants to murder people along the way.
There is absolutely no justification for why Heller would want to take his anger out on the city of New York and it was even more weird that Mercer was forced into a pointless villain role just so that Radical could find some justification for having a new character. Not only that but Radical didn’t learn from their mistakes when it came to giving a solid supporting cast of characters for Heller to interact with. All the characters are pretty much uninteresting and you never care for Heller’s interaction with them in or out of combat.
Things improve a bit through the game’s slightly overhauled combat system. Unlike Mercer, Heller has the ability to dodge enemy attacks while in heavy fighting. It is a welcome addition to the already chaotic brawling that goes on within the urban battles and allows you to take a brief pause of invulnerability to assess your situation. Players can also take advantage of a dual wield system where Heller can switch between two powers at the same time.
I have to admit that it was a pretty cool feature and it allowed you to save time from going into the Power Wheel to select a new ability. Things start to take a nose dive into the disappointing once again though, especially with the in-game powers that Heller is given. For some reason the designers felt it would be a good idea to give you all of Mercer’s original powers from the original game. I think throughout my entire playthrough I counted one new actual power and maybe two rather disappointing support powers. I have always assumed that Alex and Mercer were kind of like an inspired hybrid of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. So why is it that Heller decides to make exact copies of all of the original protagonist’s powers? Is Heller so lazy that he can’t think up a couple of his own abilities to make things interesting?
It didn’t help that they removed the cool armour power that Mercer got from original game either. In a way you got less than what you originally had from the first game even though it borrowed so heavily from it in the first place. This comes to a surprising complaint that I never thought I would in my entire life as a gamer admit. The main character is too powerful. While Prototype gave you actual abilities to work towards and upgrade to the point of creating your own unique play style, Prototype 2 instead forces you into a type of linearity that a lot of games like RPGs are suffering from these days. While Mercer gets more powerful as the game progresses, Heller is just a mass of destruction from the get go. He shrugs off bullets, rockets, everything and it makes the game a little boring.
I give props to Cornell Womack for working with what little he had when portraying Heller though. For a character that is as stale as old bread, Cornell did a great job of expressing James’s lust for revenge even if the plot really didn’t support the weight of this character’s emotions.
Thankfully Prototype 2 is a lot prettier than its older brother. I remember when the original came out and it was obviously a really ugly game especially compared to Sucker Punch’s Infamous which released relatively close to its Prototype’s shelf date. Heller especially looks like a true beast of a man, but I still preferred Alex’s mysterious hooligan look from the first game. The enemies get a nice lick of paint too. While the original monsters you fought looked like mutant babies on steroids, Prototype 2’s look more like the animalistic, undead abominations that one would look for in this type of setting. New York City looks great this time around too and while you won’t take much notice for the Big Apple, it was pleasing to see Radical Entertainment gives us a little bit of variety in the urban environments through the presentation of their different island locations.