Developer: Radical Entertainment
Platforms: PC/PS3/Xbox 360
Estimated Date of Game Release: April 2012
So Prototype 2 is almost upon us. The sequel to a game released in 2009, at the height of current gen consoles. When the first game in the series released, it did so to generally positive reviews and decent sales, shifting over 2 million units.
Still it left many gamers underwhelmed, even if nobody could really explain why. The concept was sound, the implementation ok. It did a lot of things ok, but nothing really well.
It sounds like a great idea to be able to jump and fly around a sandbox open world, wreaking havoc as you go, not only wielding devastating weapons, but actually becoming one. But a repetitive mission structure and, well, not much to do in the world made the game feel shallow. Add to that an extremely rudimentary story, again some missed opportunities here, and it starts to make sense why gamers were left wanting more.
More than 3 years later Radical and Activision promise to deliver just that. The question is: have they?
In a nutshell: no, not really. The slightly longer explanation follows below.
In the new Prototype game the player slips into the body of James Heller, a veteran of the war in the Middle East, who returns to find his family dead, thanks to the blacklight virus. Heller, predictably enough listens to what the media tells him and swears death and revenge to Alex Mercer, who he blames for spreading the virus. Even more true to stereotype form Heller volunteers for a suicide mission. He wants to die and join his family in the afterlife.
Surprise, surprise, Heller survives. It would have been quite a short game otherwise (not necessarily a bad thing). Mercer actually saves Heller and in doing so imparts some of his blacklight powers on him. This is when the game really starts.
Heller, now equipped with the awesome super powers bestowed on him by the American version of mad cow disease, proceeds to rip through New York, which is conveniently divided in color coded zones, so even the thickest of gamers know where they are (Hint: red is bad, green is good!).
And this is where things get interesting, at first, before they get incredibly dull and repetitive. Just like in the first game, the A story plot follows your main protagonist in the search of his antagonist. You as the gamer are constantly on the hunt for Mercer, but of course this plot would be far too short and boring to warrant a full 60 USD price tag, so the inevitable side missions and an entire B plot are at your disposal.
Instead of getting your missions from a human, you will need to hack blacknet this time around. These side missions will give you at least some sort of reason to try out the multitude of new ways to kill enemies in the game. Radical has promised that powers and skills will be more meaningful in the second installment, leaving it up to the player to decide which mutations and upgrades to pick.
There are obviously a host of new gameplay elements as well. From tendrils which, in a spiderman fashion, allow you to string up people or objects in the world to an all new pulse ability of the sonar, allowing you to quickly locate targets in a crowd.
This is all well and good, and there certainly has been a considerable amount of innovation. It feels like the same game, and if you have played the first you will right at home with the controls and you will quickly master any new features. However all this innovation did not manage to address the core problems which plague the series.
Prototype 2, like it’s predecessor, will wow you for a (very) brief amount of time. You will play it for 30 or 60 minutes and enjoy it. You will fly around, spot your targets and land with an explosion of your hammer fists, sending cars and people flying. You will use your tendrils to string up bodies and lay a trap for enemies. You will possess an unsuspecting soldier and use him to blow up his comrades. And you will have a blast.
Once that precious hour of fun is over though, once routine settles in, the drudge sets in. Because as fun as some of the mechanics are to begin with, as boring do they become over time. The story and the missions are simply not thought out well enough to really drive you forward, and every mission you have to do in order to get closer to your goal becomes a chore.
Repetition and boredom is a big issue for all sandbox games, but many manage to combat it by introducing a wide array of gameplay mechanics during the actual missions. Saints Row is an example of this. Unfortunately Prototype 2 has learnt nothing from Prototype 1 in this respect and it is this repetitiveness and gameplay fatigue which really drags down the quality of an otherwise decent game.
If you enjoyed the first one, at least to some degree, you’ll probably get some decent entertainment out of the second game. Prototype 2 is a step forward in many ways. Likewise, if you just enjoy smashing the shit out of things from time to time in a sandbox game, it probably is a game you’d play from time to time and have fun with.
But if you want something that really grips you, that grabs you by the neck and pulls you through, if you want something that you simply can’t put down, Prototype 2 is not for you. It is not the game you pick up to play for 15 minutes only to realise 8 hours later that you have not eaten or had a pee since switching on your console. It really is the type of game you pick up for 15 minutes, get bored of and pick up for another 15 minutes a week later.
And that’s not really a bad thing at all. But neither is it a great thing.