Prototype 2s hypocritical protagonist almost gets in the way of our bloody, murderous fun

We take James Heller out for an hour of mayhem

Though Prototype 2 explains why its main character gains the ability to shoot tendrils from his arms, it never touches on why the virus that gives him super powers also turns him into an unrelatable hypocrite, while removing all semblance of morality. All of it. Just wrings it on out. Every drop.

It made more sense in the original game. Beyond being the scapegoat for a massive chemical weapon cover-up, Alex Mercer was also sort of a jerk. He amorally killed thousands of civilians on his rampaging quest for the truth, becoming the monster the government made him out to be. It made sense and happened somewhat organically, as he felt like the entire world had turned against him. It also makes sense that, at least for the opening minutes of Prototype 2, he would be the villain – he sort of already was.

Above: Flying between buildings is always fun

James Heller, the protagonist of the sequel, starts off with the best of intentions: to kill Alex Mercer. He believes Mercer responsible for the virus that destroyed New York City (now called New York Zero for some reason), among the casualties being his daughter and wife.

But it didn’t take long for the new hero to find out the truth about the virus and its origins, and within a few minutes of the game’s opening, he’d already tried to kill Mercer, failed, been injected with the virus, transformed into a powerful super-mutant, and dropped his vendetta almost entirely. In under an hour, Heller had gone from trying to kill Mercer to joining him in an uneasy alliance against the mercenary group responsible for the outbreak.

Above: He could cut Wolverine clean in half with those

And when we say he was given powers, boy do we mean it. Your character in Prototype 2 starts off 10 times stronger than your character ends up in nearly any other game. Right away, we were running up walls, throwing dumpsters at helicopters and slashing apart waves of enemies. Seriously. Spider-Man? Hulk? They’ve got nothing on Heller. Even Infamous's Cole MacGrath looks weak next to Heller an hour into the game.

In fact, we were so powerful right out of the gate that we had problems picking out which skills were new and which ones Mercer flaunted around in the original. Some stood out – like being able to infect an enemy with the virus and throw him like a grenade (called the bio bomb), and the addition of deadly tendrils, which work like Spider-Man’s webs to let us zip to locations – but it’s hard to figure out what is and isn’t new when you’re so damn powerful. Could we flying kick a helicopter to death in the original game? Could Alex Mercer slam the ground and destroy everything around him with powerful spikes? We just couldn't remember.

Above: We could turn him into a bio-bomb and throw him for hilarious effect

While that might sound negative, it’s actually a compliment to how well the developers weaved the new powers and abilities into the already successful Prototype mold. Controlling Heller is an absolute blast. The sense of power is damn near unparalleled, and the abilities the game threw our way made for a tremendously fun time. He might not feel all that different from Mercer right away, but he feels different enough to make things feel fresh. It even makes sense within the game’s canon. Both characters are infected with the same virus, and viruses mutate. That explains why Mercer’s powers manifested the way they did, while Heller’s gave him tendrils and “viral sonar,” which… well, lets him send out a sonar pulse that points him in the direction of guys he needs to kill.

One thing that confuses us, however, is that shortly after the game began, we felt like Heller had become an insane killer. In Mercer’s case we bought it, as he was sort of an enemy of the state, so we didn’t mind when we were able to slaughter civilians. With Heller… we just don’t get it. He’s a father, a husband, and once he finds out who is responsible for the death of his loved ones ,he sets off on a quest to avenge his wife and daughter by… killing thousands of wives, daughters, sons, and husbands?

Above: If you don't feel like using powers you can just punch dudes in the jaw

Sure, the game doesn’t “make” you do it, but it’s impossible to fight a battle in Prototype 2 without insane collateral damage. Throwing a car at a helicopter will usually end with that helicopter landing on a pile of meaty humans. In the hour we played we really couldn’t identify with him because his actions didn’t make much sense to us. Maybe the finished product will fix this by providing additional context, or explaining why he doesn't see this as being an issue.

Or maybe the Prototype formula dictates that the hero needs to be a jerk. We don't know. We didn't really think we'd end up liking Mercer all that much, and here we are pining over him.

Then again, as long as we’re still playing a super-human mutant with the ability to slaughter thousands of people at a time ,we doubt we’ll be complaining. Not so long as we’re having fun, at least.

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