Back in 2009, Radical Entertainment released Prototype: an open-world action game dripping with schadenfreude potential which was more than willing to bathe in the blood of its own violent indulgence. As you mow down crowds full of pedestrians and literally eat people both to further the story and to restore your health/get stronger, Prototype 1 made no mistake about what it was: the world’s first supervillain sim. Despite a number of different flaws which kept it from being truly great, Prototype was a very fun game. Fast-forward to 2012, and Radical has released a sequel, Prototype 2, which, if it can be summed up in a single statement, it would be “more of the same”, with all of the good and bad that entails.
Prototype 2 returns to virus-stricken New York a year after the outbreak of the Mercer Virus from the first game. You play as Sgt. James Heller, a black ops soldier who lost his family during the outbreak, now seeking revenge against Alex Mercer, the man behind releasing the virus (and, spoiler, your protagonist from the first game). However, in a twist of fate, Mercer catches Heller, endowing him with the same powers he possesses as part of a plan to take down the pharmaceutical company Gentech, as well as Blackwatch, the paramilitary group associated with them.
From there, its the same wild, gory fun that Prototype fans know and love. Progressing through the game, you use the ability to transform your arms into giant claws, blades, tendrils, and hammers to bring new meaning to the term “viscerally satisfying” as you lay waste to your enemies, as well as taking the ability to both shape-shift into any human form, traversing the city using super-speed and Incredible Hulk-like jumps. It’s all very enjoyable until you begin to realize that you’ve done almost the exact same thing before. A good 70-80% of the powers, moves, and animations have been lifted part-and-parcel from Prototype 1. Some animations even push it farther, and are still a holdover from Radical’s Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction from back in 2005. That’s not to say that Radical haven’t added a couple new bells and whistles, though. The tendrils (and associated bio-bomb skill) are fun, and the ability to call a Posse of Infected Monsters to attack your enemies is a nice little addition. But in my opinion, the new features are not nearly enough of an advancement on the previous game to justify charging a full $60.00USD for it.
The story isn’t particularly strong to make up for it either. To start with, James Heller, beyond the whole “MY WIFE AND CHILD ARE DEEEEEEADDDDD” thing, isn’t a particularly well constructed or sympathetic character. In fact, he’s kind of an asshole.
Here’s something I suggest you do. For every time that Heller says any variant on the word “fuck”, “goddamn,” or “sonofabitch”, take a shot. And by the way? You’ll be wanting a pile of activated charcoal on hand for the alcohol poisoning you’re liable to get within the first ten minutes. Heller might as well have a decal on his jacket that says, “ANGRY BLACK STEREOTYPE #0675”. It also doesn’t help that he’s dumb as a post. No less than three times throughout the story, James tracks someone down to kill them, only to have some variant on these events occur:
Evil Scientist Dude/Lady: “No, you’ve got it all wrong! I can help you!
Heller: “Hurrr… okay! You better not be fuckin’ lying to me though!
*5 minutes of gameplay later*
Evil Scientist Dude/Lady: Haha, you fool! You’ve fallen right into my trap!
Heller: Aww, well shitfuckgoddamn! Ah nevah saw it comin’! :kills everyone: :kills scientist:
Lather, rinse, repeat. At least 3 times. These aren’t minor targets, either. These are MAJOR STORY EVENTS. Even if we took the hate off of Heller for a moment, it’s just lazy storytelling. Otherwise, the story is the same old “paramilitary and pharmaceutical company makes a bioweapon + underhanded civilian testing and puppy eating” conspiracy story we were given from the first game. Alex Mercer in particular is so laughably, over-the-top evil that I was shocked not to see him have a giant twirly moustache which ended in razor-tipped tentacles. The mission structure never varies enough to add any kind of interesting element to these stories, either. Go here. Destroy this. Protect this. Eat this person and steal their memories. That’s about the long-and-short of the level variety in Prototype 2.
In the end, if you’re looking for a game to kill some time and blow off some steam, Prototype 2 is worth playing. But its mediocre story and lazy mission design make it not nearly worth its ticket price, especially if you’ve played the first game already. However, if you’re new to the Prototype franchise, there is fun to be had, but due to the aforementioned flaws, I would caution against seeking this game out for purchase outside of a bargain bin.