“Welcome to the top of the food chain.” – Alex Mercer
Prototype 2 was released for consoles in April 2012 as a sequel to the mostly successful Prototype adding to the long list of titles published by Activision. Prototype 2 follows the story arc of Prototype and is set in the same universe, with the game remaining an open-world action adventure full of infected, special powers, biological weapons and shady government agencies. One of the main differences, and arguably a disappointing one at first, is the protagonist is no longer Alex Mercer. Instead, James Heller takes his place as the next anti-hero whose intentions are good but methods could be ethically questionable.
14 months after the events of the first game, US Marine Sergeant James Heller begins his journey on an all-out revenge mission to kill Alex Mercer after the death of his wife and daughter due to the second outbreak of the original Blacklight virus, now known as the ‘Mercer Virus’. Of course being a mere human and Mercer an all-powerful, immortal, infected-weaponized machine; there could surely only be one outcome for Heller – imminent death. Fortunately for Heller, Mercer sees his potential and lets him in on the secrets of Blackwatch and Gentek; before leaving with promises of returning when he is ready. A more powerful Heller begins to emerge and with the help of Father Guerra and various others, Heller sets off on his journey to destroy all evil that crosses his path.
Prototype 2 gameplay is extremely similar to the first in the series, with moments in the beginning of the game that literally feel as if Mercer has just been replaced by Heller. This does change though, as the game progresses Heller begins to make his own story, and missions eventually begin to differ in content and design. The controls are mostly fluid however there is a sluggish feel to Heller, one that was not present with Mercer; though this may be deliberate as movement, including speed and air dash, can again be further improved through upgrades and you can really feel this in the gameplay. Once the full upgrades have been acquired, the speed and mobility work well together, along with 4 air dashes which allow for travel faster and further than before – there is something so empowering about free running, jumping and gliding up, on top and over of city buildings.
The city is now split into 3 zones; Green Zone, Yellow Zone and Red Zone. There doesn’t seem to be any notable differences between Green and Yellow Zone, infected are in contained in small areas and spawn around the same rate, with most of the general population leading relatively normal lives; or as normal as they could lead in Prototype. Red Zone is where you see the most changes, the safe streets and beautiful city landscape is gone only to be replaced with broken and collapsed skyscrapers, fire everywhere and infected mutants running amok on the streets below.
There is a red glow to this zone which can be seen from the other islands and from within the zone itself, graphically this works well in helping to create that desolate, creepy atmosphere that inhibits the Red Zone island. Go as far north as you can in this zone and eventually a despairing place called the Dead Zone is reached, this area seems completely devoid of life and if Heller ventures too far in, he also succumbs to death himself. Although the Dead Zone is a great area for the atmospheric feel of the game, it does not seem to serve much other purpose; it would have been good to have a mission set here or allow Heller to venture in and come across unknown special infected who have evolved bigger and weirder than seen in any of the Red, Yellow and Green zones.
Special powers are back and remain one of the most enjoyable parts of the game, with Musclemass being replaced by Tendrils and a new Bio-Bomb that causes large scale destruction to the surrounding area; 2 powers can now also be equipped at once for quick access during battles. Even though it is relatively easy and fast to assign new powers, the new quick access feature certainly improves the ability to inflict damage onto enemies; for example you can now grab and pull yourself towards someone, before slashing them to pieces – this also works with vehicles. Heller has now evolved sonar ability; a specialised pulse that goes from him to the target, allowing him to hunt them down and consume them with ease; this has a real predatory feel and would have been a good feature to have in the first game. Devastators are back and available for Heller to use once his mass bar has been filled, disappointingly there only seems to be 2 types throughout the whole game.
The first is taken from Prototype and is essentially the Tendril Barrage Devastator with a variation on the way it is deployed, no doubt designed that way to be Heller’s signature devastator – a better idea would have been to completely change it instead of modifying a move partly ripped off from Mercer. The Pack Leader trait allows Heller to summon forth Brawler Hunters to engage and fight for him in combat; Heller can take aim on a target and send them towards it, culminating in a lot of death and destruction. Further in the game there is also a variation on this with Juggernauts, however this is only available for a short time, surely an oversight on the developer’s behalf. The Pack Leader trait is a good addition to Prototype 2 when you need it but it is easy to forget that it is even there, plus the upgrade gets boring quickly; give Heller control over pack of Goliaths… Now that would be exciting!
Speaking of Goliaths; that is a creature that needs mention, a giant mutated special infected with a small head and a massive armoured arm; a horrifying thing with the creepiest roar in the whole game. Goliaths are far a few between which again is another oversight by the developers, they are harder to kill than other infected, but once a technique has been established they can be disposed of with relative ease. Hunters reappear in Prototype 2 as Brawler Hunters and Hydras also make a comeback, along with a few other new special infected such as Spiked Brawlers and Juggernauts. Side missions, Infected Lairs (Hives) and collectables reappear in the game which can be done alongside the main campaign and upon completion of each set of tasks Heller is given an upgrade. These features of the game are enjoyable and with each upgrade making Heller more powerful it is easy to get wrapped up in the power you feel from Heller smashing his way through hordes of infected and the special infected, Blackwatch officers and super soldiers, or 3-on-1 battles with virally enhanced individuals known as the Evolved.
Prototype 2 has some downsides; Mercer is no longer the protagonist and being a huge fan of him in the first game, this was extremely disappointing. Just down to this factor alone, I put off getting Prototype 2 for 2 years, despite thoroughly enjoying the first game. Due to this I began the game with low expectations (no-one can replace Alex Mercer!) and this was met with a disappointing start. The controls felt weak, the graphics were not much better and Heller was after Mercer; then encountering a slight bug where I could not physically run through an open area, I was met with an invisible wall which meant Heller could not progress – irritated and already disappointed for 2 years previous, the thought crossed whether to even bother with this game.
After restarting to correct the bug I persevered and decided to give the game a second chance; a choice I could have regretted if it had gone the other way! Although a shaky start, once you progress a little further into the game and begin to acquire upgrades, it instantly becomes so much more enjoyable. Other things then start to happen, the story picks up and you listen and want more, you get involved in it, characters start to make you angry and what’s more Heller becomes likeable. That’s something I never thought I’d write! As you progress and learn more and more, Heller’s plight begins to mean something and you want him to succeed; although his success comes at a price. No matter how much Heller has grown on me, I am still hugely disappointed with the way Mercer is portrayed and feel the game was really let down in this area; Mercer in the 2nd game just did not match up to Mercer in the 1st.
If you can look past this point though, the game is still fun and entertaining, and worth checking out. Re-playability of the story line may be limited but open world free roam could be played for as long as you want to continue being all-powerful – there is something so beautiful about being able to run and smash your way over cars and tanks, or pick them up and throw them down the street, fly from building to building slashing and pounding your enemies to death or shoot out tendrils from your body destroying anyone and everything around you; in turn making yourself more powerful than anything in existence, able to consume all the evil from the world. It’s safe to say if there is ever a Prototype 3, I will definitely be picking it up on release. The Prototype games may not be game of the century, or even the year; but they sure as hell are fun, even without the story line.