In the distant year of 2009, the sandbox genre was brought to the forefront of gaming with the near-simultaneous releases of inFamous and Prototype, two games both centred on free-roaming, superhero style gameplay. However, with the release of inFamous 2 last year, and the current release of Prototype 2, we have a better chance of examining them as individual products, without the problem of one overshadowing the other.
Prototype 2 was built to provide a world for the player to cause as much carnage as they felt like, and it’s worth looking at whether this is just as much fun as it was three years ago.
PLATFORM: PS3, Xbox 360, Windows (Reviewed on PS3)
AGE RESTRICTION: PEGI: 18
RELEASE DATE: April 24, 2012
At the end of Prototype, the protagonist of that story, Alex Mercer, had saved New York City from total destruction at the hands of a pathogen called the Blacklight Virus that turned people into monsters. However, 18 months later, he re-emerged, seemingly releasing another wave of the Blacklight virus for reasons unknown, which caused the deaths and transformations of thousands of people, among them the wife and daughter of Sgt. James Heller. Heller swore vengeance on Mercer, and while on patrol, took his chance to try and finish Alex once and for all. However, he was no match for the super-powered figure, and awaited death. But instead of killing him, Mercer transformed him into a being much like himself. You play as Heller, as he begins his quest to find out exactly what Mercer wants, and whether he must stop him, or join him.
Since the first game, New York has been repurposed as the NYZ, which is divided into three zones, Green, Yellow and Red, named for how badly infected they are. The Red Zone is the larger part of Manhattan, and the other zones are composite parts of the other New York boroughs, such as Queens and Brooklyn. Each area is large enough to be fully enjoyable on their own, and travel between them is allowed after reaching the appropriate points in the story. Despite large portions of it being the ruins, the city nearly always feels alive, with either monsters, military or civilian groups filling the streets and roofs with activity.
Gameplay is usually the meat of any game, but in Prototype 2, it comes across as the meat, bones and organs. It is with this portion of the game that any consideration of getting it must be placed, so there are several areas worth looking at.
Firstly, what is it like getting around the world? Heller can leap, run, jump and glide like a pro, as well as hijack tanks and helicopters later on. If there is one part of Prototype 2 that never gets old, it is definitely flying and leaping from building to building as you make your way towards an objective. From the first point in the game where this became available, I spent at least 5 minutes just gliding and running before even considering where to go. The areas are small enough that it never feels like a chore crossing the map where you are at that point.
Next, how about that combat? Killing people and things in Prototype is just as visceral and fun as always, and Heller brings much of the same arsenal as Mercer did, with the added ability of equipping two weapons at once for extra combo fun. The weapons all feel distinct, with each having a different role to play: to cut, stab, slice, crush, or grab and so on. The special attacks also have some nice additions, such as the ability to control groups of monsters, or place bio-bombs in targets.
What about the extras? Prototype 2 has done something very smart in a sandbox title, which is that it has made all of its collectables and side-missions relevant to the main activities, specifically; completing a set of activities or such provides an upgrade for Heller from a certain set. They are also varied enough that they don’t feel like a chore to do, and the upgrades are very useful to enhancing the gameplay experience.
Prototype 2 already has some DLC packs released, but the main thrusts of the online functions are the events marketed about the game. From the time of its release until some point in the future, the developers will released special events weekly for players to enjoy trying out against each other in the game world. They have advertised at least 55 of these events, which is a great way to prolong the launch of a title, so if you are interested in such a feature, be sure to pick up Prototype 2 sooner rather than later.
Prototype 2 astounded me with how enjoyable it was, but after a few hours, I released that this was mostly because I had not played Prototype 1 since it came out almost three years ago. This does not make this sequel worse by any means, it is still a marvellous game, but it mostly provides a slightly altered, more advanced and prettier environment to do much the same as you did before. If this is enough for you, or you have never played one of these games before, then it is highly recommended to buy. If you are any other person, then feel free to check it out for yourself, but just keep this in mind. It is a fun game, but the measure of that will be up to you to decide as a consumer.
[Note: For anyone feeling that the plot development of Alex Mercer from the first game until the second left something to be desired, be aware that there are several issues of a comic out now detailing the events during that time.]