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Prototype 2 review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • Cutting bloody swaths through mobs is hugely fun
  • So is freely tearing ass through the ruined city
  • You can still jump-kick helicopters out of the sky
  • Heller acts like Kratos without the damaged complexity
  • Missions are repetitive and simple
  • Looks ugly, and not just because of the monsters

Before jumping into Prototype 2, there’s something you need to know: its opening moments are kind of awful. Where the first game started us off with a fully powered-up Alex Mercer wreaking havoc in Times Square, the second begins with Sgt. James Heller, a revenge-obsessed but otherwise unremarkable soldier on Mercer’s trail, slowly stalking the virus-powered force of mass destruction in an improbable attempt to kill him with a knife.

Acting as a glorified tutorial, the game’s first hour or so holds your hand to an embarrassing degree, forcing players through linear tasks designed to teach them about the new powers Mercer gives Heller. This while the starting area (possibly based on Jersey City) is socked in with thick fog. It’s a disappointing, cheap-looking opener, but it’s worth powering through for the freedom and immense potential for fun that comes when the game finally opens up.

Like the first game, Prototype 2 sets players loose in New York as a near-indestructible superhero/genetically altered horror, where you fight zombies, hulking mutants and a sinister private army called Blackwatch. Blackwatch patrols the city under orders from the even-more-sinister Gentek corporation, which Mercer identifies to Heller as the real bad guys, thereby redirecting Heller’s revenge mission toward them and making most of the game about dismantling their monster-creating operations.

Really, though, it’s all an excuse for tearing all around New York City – now expanded from Manhattan (which is now a monster-infested “red zone” and isn’t explored until the game’s final act) to two new, less interesting islands that geographically correspond to Jersey City and Brooklyn – and wreaking as much high-speed havoc as possible against pretty much everyone and everything you see. To make this more interesting, Heller evolves an assortment of powers over the course of the game, most of which involve transforming his arms into really gross-looking weapons.

These include a pair of giant claws; a huge, armor-piercing blade; a whiplike tentacle called the Whipfist; a pair of shields that can parry enemy blows and briefly stun them; the Hammerfist, which unleashes devastating blunt-force attacks and can raise spikes out of the ground; and the Tendrils, which – with a charged-up attack – will send tentacles shooting out of enemies in all directions, grab onto whatever’s nearby and then rapidly contract, smashing them with cars, chunks of rubble and other enemies. There’s a similar move called the “Bio-Bomb” that Heller earns later on, which turns humans into tendril grenades, sucking anything nearby into themselves before exploding messily. Throwing one of these into a civilian-crowded sidewalk and witnessing the resultant explosion is nothing short of hilarious, and as much as we’ve used it, it still hasn’t gotten old.

As wild and gory as the combat is, though, it comes with its share of problems, mostly related to the somewhat shaky lock-on system. The game can get pretty crowded and chaotic as the action heats up, and it’s sometimes hard to stay focused on the targets you want to hit, thanks to lock-on's tendency to prioritize bigger enemies. This makes it hard to aim at inanimate objects, or to consume humans when your health is dangerously low during boss fights. Heller himself is part of the problem, too, as his powers can be hard to control at high speeds, causing you to overshoot targets, run up walls when you meant to run around them, and tackle distant non-threats instead of, say, the tank you were trying to hijack.

There’s more to the game than combat, though, and Heller has a few new, less destructive powers that play a significant role in the sequel. In addition to getting some of Mercer’s best abilities (like gliding and throwing cars) almost right off the bat, he can send out a radar pulse to hunt down certain targets. Using it correctly means getting to high ground, sending out a pulse and watching for where it bounces back from. It’s clumsy at first, but with a little practice, it’s a much more interesting way to track your prey than just following a blip on your map.

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.

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Radical Entertainment
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language

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44 comments

  • onetimebuster - April 23, 2012 6:29 a.m.

    Heller reminds me of jax with the freaky arms.
  • Kyo - April 23, 2012 6:42 a.m.

    Nice review I can't wait to play this game but I can appreciate how people are honestly saying "it could be better." Stuff like "if you want a game that lets you run amok in creative, bloody ways, Prototype 2 is pretty incredible" is ALL I'm looking for dammit. Instant stress reliever :) Dumb fun just like the first game lol
  • A9entOfChaos - April 23, 2012 6:48 a.m.

    It looks like the stuff i will hate will not be enough to over come with the good. Oh well i guess i will pass on this craptastic game. May Payne in 3 weeks bithces!!!!
  • KidKatana - April 23, 2012 7:09 a.m.

    I'm currently playing the original, after picking it up about a year ago for a tenner. I was considering this if it improved on the original's issues, which are: a godawful lock-on system; uninteresting story & protagonist; fairly dull and repetitive missions; and controls that feel like they're working against you rather than for you. Hmmm.
  • Bloodstorm - April 23, 2012 7:26 a.m.

    So, basically, it suffers from the same things that Prototype 1 did. Prototype 1 was fun to run around in and kill stuff, but repetitive missions and lack of a character you actually liked made the game loose it's steam half way through and made the second half a real bog to get through. Will just wait and get it when it goes down in price.
  • inkyspot - April 23, 2012 8:09 a.m.

    Damn it I wish I didn't preorder this. I like the first one, but this sounds worst. I'll be optimistic, and if that doesn't work, I also preordered MAx Payne at the same time,
  • AfricanWoolf - April 23, 2012 8:40 a.m.

    I really enjoyed the video review. Might be a fun way to forget about varsity exams :P This is a glorious site.
  • 04whim - April 23, 2012 8:54 a.m.

    So, would you kindly tell me something? If I already have Prototype, is it worth buying Prototype 2? All I got in terms of differences from the first game was some new, less impressive areas to run around in, a scowlier protagonist and Bio Bombs. How much do you think the game's worth, really, when I've got both Prototype and Ultimate Destruction.
  • FOZ - April 23, 2012 9:23 a.m.

    I wish the reviews would point out whether you should bother if you played the first one. This doesn't really look or sound very different.
  • BladedFalcon - April 23, 2012 9:36 a.m.

    First of, kudos for the awesome video review, and it was cool to hear that it was done with C. Antista! ^^ And well.. Yeah, I'll pass. The first one was fun enough, but marred with annoying flaws which this game doesn't seem to be able to properly fix.
  • ObliqueZombie - April 23, 2012 10:13 a.m.

    Wow, fantastic written AND video review. Lovin' the Chris Antista surprise. Alas, looks like I'll be passing up on this game.
  • mbavalo - April 23, 2012 11:45 a.m.

    stupid game, i don't see why people even like it.. it all gets boring after an hours play but sure, there will be people all "I am ignorant, I am going to waste my money buying it" pity, prototype looks good in its trailers and box art but in my opinion, it is not a game i would really want to spend money on. and why is it called prototype? its not like he is a robot, just a disease that gives him dinosaur like arms
  • crsn891 - April 23, 2012 12:01 p.m.

    I would say the only thing ignorant here is your comment. If someone enjoys this game, what does it matter to you?
  • mbavalo - April 24, 2012 2:31 p.m.

    As I said below, the "ignorant people" part was accidental, and sorry about that. Now ending my polite words, prototype 2 looks like it is going to suck, i played 1 and i did not like it and as game trends go, they only improve a few things in the new one which still wont make it enough. Anyway that is my opinion so if you buy it to me it will look like your wasting your money.
  • Leroy_Jenkins - April 30, 2012 5:08 p.m.

    If you decide to comment, it looks like you're wasting your time on a game you care nothing for. Again; who are you to tell anyone they're wasting their money? In the 24 hours since I've bought it, I've managed to have a lot more fun than a lot of games I've played in a while. You might call it "ignorant". I call it "I sometimes don't want War and Peace in a game; I'm quite happy to indiscriminately murder people and do so in fun ways. Because I sometimes just want fun". I love me a good narrative in a game. But, I would rather gameplay any day of the year as, quite simply, that's why we buy them. To play it and have fun. Anyway...park your high horse outside and maybe you might actually enjoy yourself once in a while...
  • mbavalo - April 30, 2012 9:51 p.m.

    Wow, I said the "ignorant" part was accidental, and on the comment you replied to, reread my last statement, I said TO ME it will look like a waste of money, not to you, not to anyone else, okay? and fine if you enjoy mindlessly slashing through multitudes of people and nothing else, again, I (referring to me and no one else) find that monotonous. And I do enjoy myself with games I find entertaining, unfortunately prototype is not one of them
  • sutrebla15 - April 23, 2012 12:14 p.m.

    Obviously you don't know what a prototype is if you think it has to be a robot. You should think before being ignorant yourself.
  • mbavalo - April 24, 2012 2:23 p.m.

    ha ha, off course there is the meaning of the word but where mostly is it used? in machines!!!! and the game does not make sense to me at times, why is it that in !, you are the only infected guy and there are no others? and is the virus communicable? dude, this game fails to explain to you so many things at the beginning (Prototype 1 that is) I got to 5 hours of play and gave up, i am being given missions to do yet the plot is not being built effectively and with those powers at your disposal, you get bored! they should limit what you can do so that when you unlock something you have the sense of satisfaction!
  • Fetalspray - April 23, 2012 12:40 p.m.

    Another person who has an opinion on a game they haven't even played, they never realise that their opinion does't hold any weight if they haven't even played the game they're bitching about. In fact I don't even know why I wasted my time typing this.
  • Person5 - April 23, 2012 9:28 p.m.

    Thank you for informing me on this good sir, I wasn't aware I was ignorant because my opinion differed from yours, you are truly one of the greatest minds of this generation

Showing 1-20 of 44 comments

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