Here’s the thing about sequels; they need to take what came before and improve on it. We don’t expect that from movies. Most of the time cinematic sequels are generally worse than the first film, but there are a few times that the second movie is as good as, if not better than, the original. But when it comes to gaming, it’s a different matter. A sequel had better be an improvement, of we do not forgive it. It’s simply the way it is in the video game world. And rightly so, really, because the march of technology is inexorable; if game developers don’t keep up, they shouldn’t be doing what they are doing (or, at least, that’s what the average gamer seems to think.)
The improvements aren’t just technological, either. Other elements need to be worked on, too, including all the little niggles and bugs that may have occurred in the first game. It’s the way of the industry. But every now and then, even with improvements, a sequel comes along that somehow just doesn’t seem to make any sort of grade. Perhaps improvements to game dynamics allow previously unnoticed flaws to become apparent. Maybe seeing more of the same just isn’t enough. And it is into this category that Prototype 2 falls.
I wanted to love Prototype 2, I really did. To be honest, I did enjoy playing the game but, sadly, there are enough chinks in this title’s armour to take it from a level of potential brilliance and bring it down a few notches.
The story revolves around Sgt James Heller, who comes back to New York after a tour of Iraq, only to find his wife and young daughter murdered by those infected with the horrific Mercer virus. The virus, of course, is named after Alex Mercer, the protagonist of the first game. But the developers saw fit to put Mercer on the opposing team this time around, and Heller swears bloody revenge on the mutated anti-hero. And then, for some or other reason, Mercer infects Heller, giving him similar powers.
Yes, that’s right – the wall-running, high-jumping, fastgliding action is back, this time with Heller armed to the mutated teeth with biological enhancements that include claws, blades and shields. And, in that matter, it once again shows a crack. It might be personal opinion, but Heller, like Mercer, is just too powerful. There is very little that can stop this ‘superhero’, unlike the other great origin tale lead, inFamous’ Cole McGrath (in my opinion a much better, more believable character.) Instead of giving us a character that we can actually like, the developers once again have presented us with a near psychotic killing machine to try and identify with. Heller is brutal, foulmouthed and single-minded in his quest for vengeance against Mercer, making him a somewhat one dimensional character. Hating to bring the comparison up again, but the player had some modicum of control over McGrath’s personality in both infamous titles. Here, you get what you get.
So, let’s set aside the lead character for a bit – put it down to accepting him – and look at what the game has on offer. Prototype 2 tasks the player with careening around the city and causing mayhem, pretty much. The main missions follow a formula, for the most part, that gets a little old quite early into the game; take on a disguise by ‘consuming’ an enemy, infiltrate a base, and break stuff, before dashing out to make your escape. Nine out of ten, that’s what you will get.
To break the monotony of the main missions, a number of collectable and side quests have been included. Sadly, each group of them follows formulaic patterns too. Field Ops missions, for example, involve beating up bad guys in a specific location. Blackbox missions involve finding a recorded message. Hive missions… well, you have to destroy an infected hive. And //Blackwatch missions involve hunting down a character, getting information by absorbing them, and then undertaking one of a handful of different missions as a result. This all comes down to breaking a monotonous pattern with other monotonous patterns. Hardly variety… but at least the rewards are tangible, with each set of side quests and collectable missions rewarding Heller with a new mutation. Also, most collectables’ locations are hinted at on the map, so you can do a bit of power-gaming early on.
Control-wise, things have been trimmed up. The finger gymnastics and crazy button combos that needed to be memorised in the first game are a thing of the past, making the overall experience slicker. Blasting your way around the city feels a little more measured, a little less chaotic than in the original, which is great.
Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. It looks good, for the most part, until a bad texture or clipping snaps you out of the visual illusion every now and then. The voice acting, too, leaves a bit to be desired, with particularly Heller seeming capable of only angry exhortations liberally punctuated with the F-word. And then there’s the AI. It’s pretty smart, for the most part.
The player will feel that they are being hunted, and that nasty habit that people on the streets had in the previous game of not reacting when Mercer landed on the ground with a resounding thud after a long fall has been more or less taken care of. But they still don’t seem to be able to look up. You can go gliding right over the heads of soldiers without them noticing, and suddenly running up a vertical surface seems to draw little, if any attention. It just breaks the illusion that the game could have created, once again making it far too easy to play Heller. Running up the side of a building shouldn’t help you evade attention… it should draw even more attention. Oh, well.
As it starts out, Prototype 2 is filled with promise, but it never really delivers on that. It manages to flirt with awesomeness, without ever really taking itself in that direction. Instead, it grows repetitive and a little long winded, despite only offering around 14 hours of game play. The plot is a bit thin, too, so don’t go looking for depth there.
Basically, this game can be a lot of fun to play, with its over-the-top action and fast paced, free-roaming movement, but it won’t stick in your memory as a great gaming experience.
One play-through is probably all you’ll ever give it, which is a bit sad, considering that it could really have been awesome.
Prototype 2 is a lot of fun, but it missed being awesome because of a few chinks in its armour.