Prototype 2 sees a return to New York but a new protagonist fighting the supposed good fight against the scientists, experimental weapons manufacturers and the overarching plaguing viral outbreak which has left the once bustling metropolis in a right old state. This time you play as disgruntled anti hero who rather than tackle his arch nemesis and hero from the first game Alex Mercer, becomes embroiled in the plot and is turned into a super-being by the man he first set out to kill. It’s an interesting turn of events for SGT James Heller, but then again, a great excuse to jump around NYC doing things that mutants do best.
To be frank, little has changed from the first game other than a bit more of New York is open for exploration rather than just being tied to Manhattan. With coloured zones to work through Heller begins his journey as an underling and eventually upgrades to become a real powerhouse of a character. The same gameplay mechanics are on offer whereby Heller can sprint, perform super jumps, run up buildings, glide through the air and of course rip any enemies to sheds whether they are in vehicles or otherwise. One of the more interesting aspects makes a return and is well used – the shapeshifting – which means there’s a pseudo stealth element on offer as well. Often Heller will be required to access control panels as a commanding officer to gain entry to the many hidden labs and areas; this all requiring the shapeshifting to avoid setting off any unnecessary alarms. That said, once objectives are complete the shit usually hits the fan leaving messy escapes on the cards.
All in all you do get to use Heller’s gripping and expanding powers…a lot. It’s not all sneaking around and avoiding the bad guys; and as you can imagine, the game throws plenty of varying scenarios your way to keep you on your toes. Sadly, there’s a fair bit of repetition though which only leaves the gripping story to keep you well hooked above and beyond what the gameplay really offers. Sure, you can level up Heller and gain extra moves or more power to existing moves, but the core essence of the gameplay remains largely a single minded experience – which isn’t a bad thing, just a little uninspiring at times.
Prototype 2’s graphics seem to have had a bit of a touch up compared to the original, offering some great views from high skycrapers and depictions of a city in turmoil from slums to more high profile areas. With it comes lots of destruction and a well created playground of New York City filled with civilians, Blackwatch security guards, scientists and troops to mess around with. There’s some neat interactions as you tear up checkpoints, get into scrapes or even toy with civilians, but a lack of real identity makes for some very samey moments as character models are well repeated in each area. That said, the game feels reasonably smooth even when things get a bit hairy despite some framerate problems during cutscenes using the game engine. Although there’s reasonable smoothness when Heller is unleashing his more graphically impressive moves. As far as the story, the game’s presentation is very good as Heller consumes souls and dives into the minds of his victims to piece together the plot. There are some black and white cutscenes splattered with a dash of red that help emphasise the plight more readily. But it’s the warping into memories that remain the most gripping.
The audio is of reasonable nature with Cornell Womack providing suitable tones for the leading man, with supporting roles doing their job as expected. The music is a bit uneventful and relies heavily on the ambience to carry things through – which in some ways is a good thing considering the game’s dark and gritty nature. Sound effects are also as expected, and you’ll hear lots of chatter from civilians and enemies alike.
The original game had a fairly long story and huge amounts of collectibles to hunt down, as expected from a sandbox game. Prototype 2 follows suit but instead offers side missions during free roaming and the collectibles being pointed to more readily than before. Whereas the original commanded using an online map to find its secrets, this game offers enough tools to help find everything without any need to look at external sources. In many ways, the game holds your hand wanting you to find these things rather than hide them too deeply. You’ll get above average playtime from the game but the sense of exploration is perhaps lost here.
Prototype 2 is an interesting follow up to the original but in some ways less impacting due to being an almost carbon copy. It’s still a solid excursion, but is lacking anything to make it stand out. The question that has to be asked is, do you prefer the haunting Alex Mercer of the original or the foul mouthed stereotypical black male that is SGT Heller? Either way, both stories afford lots of action, you get to play anti-superhero in the Big Apple (again), and there’s lots of character progression to work towards which is fun and rewarding. If you enjoyed the original, then familiarity aside, you’ll love this. If not, then a rental first might put you in the right mood or not depending on whether you’re a fan of repetitive gameplay.