Developer Radical Entertainment gives us the first super-fun game of spring/summer with Prototype 2
The original Prototype had almost all the right ingredients: research scientist in ethical quandary accidentally unleashes horrific virus on New York City, dies, comes back to life with super-human powers and wrecks fools. For almost everything that Radical Games did right with the story of Alex Mercer, there was a technical hiccup, graphics problem of mechanics issue to counterbalance it. With Prototype 2, players reenter NYC (now called New York Zero or NYZ) two years later in the shoes of Sgt. James Heller, an utter maniac in search of revenge for the death of his wife and child. Turns out Heller blames Alex Mercer for his new widower status, and will stop at nothing to kill the human WMD—even if that includes killing, maiming and consuming any sucker unfortunate enough to get in his way. Pick up that semi-truck, dash up that skyscraper and glide across the virus-ridden street of NYZ—you are now the ultimate anti-hero.
If Prototype 2 is anything, it's fun. As James Heller, players become a super-human within the first few minutes of play, and it's not long before you can leap over buildings in a single bound or knock helicopters out of the sky with a mere uppercut. During your search for Alex Mercer (and the answers to a number of mysterious events), you'll tear through humans, infected, monsters, soldiers, tanks, etc. all the while upgrading and mutating Heller into the ultimate badass. Having trouble with a certain enemy? No problem! Simply weaken and eat it, absorb its strength and repeat until you're kicking monster ass with ease. Upgrading also takes the form of seek-and-consume side missions and one of three "collectibles" side quests. These ulterior missions go a long way to adding gameplay hours, are more fun than they should be and always result in a new power or enhancement for Heller. Gliding around NYZ and growing so strong that tanks explode in your wake is a complete blast, and that dangling carrot of more power is an ever-present reason to explore and engage the many streets, rooftops and bases scattered throughout the city. Before long, you'll be jumping so far and running so fast that you won't be able to contain your giggles, especially if you've ever been a fan of superhero comics and/or movies. The addition of Radnet (basically an ever-changing series of challenges) will do a whole lot to add more hours, even if it does seem like a cop-out add-on in place of any kind of multiplayer suite.
Prototype 2 certainly won't win any awards for varied gameplay, as most missions result in repeating a few simple directives. By the time you've consumed enough dudes to upgrade your abilities, it has become more of a chore than a delight. Yes, it's cool to watch soldiers melt into a bloody mess, but it gets old before you know it. Heller looks weird as hell in gameplay and cut-scenes, and the developer's choice to attempt an artsy, black and white with a few primary colors strewn in for said cinematics seems pointless. The point of this game is to gain power and fly around destroying everything, not to weep over your dead wife who you never actually meet. It's not the most original story, and it certainly isn't fleshed-out well when you find yourself more interested in gaining the ability to summon a horde of infected monsters than the death of that priest who was helping you out (it was cool to hear a priest call everybody a bunch of "putos," though). Backgrounds are passable, but similar games like Infamous are more detailed and provide more colorful city life. Oh, and sometimes the gliding/air dash totally mess you up when you're trying to land in a specific spot...drag.
The Bottom Line
This game is like Infamous meets Crackdown only it's better looking than Crackdown (but then again, so is everything) and allows for more powerful upgrades than Infamous. Sgt. Heller is no Cole McGrath, hell, he's no Alex Mercer, but the point remains that those looking for a brainless action title that borders on the outrageous while staying pretty damned serious and incredibly/brutally violent need look no further. Perhaps you've got your eye on some other game release down the road, but we could certainly do a lot worse while we wait for the next big thing. Have fun, nerds.
Platforms: PS3, 360, PC (but that's got a later release date)
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Rating: M (that means mature, moms and dads)
Cost: $59.99 MSRP