Like Mercer before him, Heller can “consume” any creatures he defeats, absorbing them for health and (in the case of humans) wearing their form as a disguise after gruesomely tearing them apart with a wide variety of increasingly horrific finishers. (The game doesn’t hold back on the gore, either, as enemies and civilians are routinely and instantly shredded by Heller’s attacks.) Absorbing military personnel lets him sneak into bases and other sensitive places undetected, and in fact Prototype 2 puts a pretty big emphasis on stealth and disguise. Many missions can only be started if you’re disguised as a soldier, and you’ll often need to slip into someone else’s shape when nobody’s looking in order to stop alerts at the end of missions.
A handful of missions even call on you to consume a target without being seen, which you can accomplish by sending out a radar pulse to see who’s being watched and who isn’t (and is therefore safe to eat). It’s oddly satisfying to eliminate the entire population of a military base this way, although maybe not quite as satisfying as smashing into your target, pulping him with your fist and then carving everyone else to ribbons while they plink away at you with their assault rifles and bazookas.
If close-quarters superpowers aren’t cutting it, you can also pick up and wield those assault rifles and bazookas, using a simple lock-on feature to methodically mow down anything in front of you. And once you’ve eaten the right soldiers at certain points in the game, you’ll also be able to jack their APCs, tanks and helicopters (although cars, strangely, can only ever be thrown), yank off their huge armaments to use yourself, or just smash them into scrap with a badass-looking finisher.
Once you’re in full command of Heller’s powers (which takes a while), the game becomes enormously fun, as you run up the sides of skyscrapers, glide through the city and treat the heavily populated streets as a huge, bloody, experimentation-friendly playground. Like Alex Mercer, Heller’s basically a murderous Incredible Hulk with knives for arms, and if you want to go on a crazy, gory, civilian-murdering power-trip rampage, no game does it better than this.
However, there are plenty of games that do other things better than Prototype 2. Story, for example, is among them. For all his cool powers, Heller isn’t a very likeable or fascinating protagonist, crashing through life with exactly one goal: get revenge for his murdered wife and daughter. And while other games (like God of War) found interesting ways to handle this premise, Prototype 2 handles it by making Heller relentlessly grumpy, scowling at his allies in distrust while still going off and doing everything they tell him to.
He is, however, a more noble protagonist than Mercer was; while Heller’s a remorseless killer (and there’s no penalty for killing indiscriminately), he does seem to care that the bad guys are hurting innocent people, and he goes out of his way to stop them. And there is a note of complexity to him, although it doesn’t surface until close to the end of the game.
The mission design isn’t great, either, usually revolving around simple, repetitive tasks that boil down to “eat those guys,” “destroy those things” or “go here before someone else does.” And while that stuff is fun, even relentless destruction can get tedious after a while. Especially in the earlier areas of the game, which – while we applaud the move away from Manhattan, which has been overused as an open-world setting – aren’t as much fun to explore as the borough that gives you a chance to swan-dive off the Empire State Building and leave an impact crater on the street below.
Prototype 2 starts out weak but ends much, much stronger, although its missions and storyline never really rise to a level beyond “enjoyable.” Even so, it’s enormously fun as an open-world playground, especially once all of Heller’s powers are at your disposal; there are always fun ways to experiment, to cause horrific violence and to watch the hapless pedestrians scatter. If you’re looking for an epic, hugely varied adventure, look elsewhere, but if you want a game that lets you run amok in creative, bloody ways, Prototype 2 is pretty incredible.
This game was reviewed on PlayStation 3 as the lead platform.