Grizzly Gaming


Friday, June 1, 2012

Review: Prototype 2 - If only this infection lasted a little longer


When the original “Prototype” was released, I found myself with a decision. Buy that or “Red Faction: Guerilla,” another open-world game released around the same time. I bought “Red Faction: Guerilla.” Eventually, I got around to playing “Prototype” and found it to be a great addition to the growing genre of “open-world superhero” games. Similar to Sony’s “Infamous” or “Crackdown,” the “Prototype” series grants players incredible powers of speed, strength, and numerous other inventive powers, eventually becoming one of the most overwhelmingly powerful and destructive characters ever appearing in a video game.

The original “Prototype” focused on Alex Mercer, a former scientist who gains superhuman abilities after coming into contact with the Blacklight virus and unwittingly releases the virus onto New York City. Mercer wasn’t your typical hero and his motives seemed to only concern himself. Over the course of the game, Mercer would gain new abilities as he battled Blackwatch, a military outfit that controls the infected zones of NYC to combat the outbreak. The sequel, while it is complete with updated visuals, new environments, enemies and powers, offers a very similar experience to the first title, only with a new protagonist (James Heller) and a new role for Mercer.

But while “Prototype 2,” again developed by Radical, is similar to its predecessor, fans of that game will find that everything they loved about it has been updated and with improved controls and a more even difficulty level throughout, even those unfamiliar with the series will quickly learn to love the unadulterated power that Heller possesses.

That “Prototype 2” offers a very similar experience to the first game is both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, the original game was incredibly fun to play, had smooth mechanics and slick, satisfyingly brutal visuals to boot and this sequel improves on literally every single aspect of the first title. It offers new enemies, new environments, new moves and powers and even manages to improve the stealth sections of the game with its new Hunting mode. The only problem is that, even though everything is improved, it’s basically everything that the first game did except with a fresh coat of paint and a handful of new toys. And, like the first game, “Prototype 2” is much too short. I easily beat this game twice in the span of a week and wasn’t even trying to.

Heller's new Tendrils power is as useful as the tendrils are disgusting looking

The story of “Prototype 2” picks up a few years after the first game. A new viral outbreak has prompted a second martial law takeover of NYC by Blackwatch, turning the city into a quarantine zone known as NYZ. The city is once again divided into a yellow, green and red zone, only now each zone encompasses its own island. Folks living in the yellow zone must try to cope with their ramshackle lives, living with the constant threat of infected attack or Blackwatch occupation. The green zone, once again, is heralded by Blackwatch as an infection-free zone but is arguably just as bad as the yellow zone, while the infection grows unchecked in the red zone, save for a handful of Blackwatch bases.

James Heller, an Iraq war veteran, is returning to the city to be with his wife and daughter only to find that the infection has claimed their lives as well. Heller, enraged and out for revenge, places the blame for this second outbreak squarely on Alex Mercer. Heller sets out to track Mercer down but it isn’t long before Heller is infected with the virus and turns into a being not unlike Mercer himself. From that point on, Heller makes it his goal to not only stop Blackwatch from devastating the city but also to destroy Mercer and get a sense of revenge for his family.

After a quick tutorial early on to familiarize you with the controls, you’re pretty much given free reign over Heller. As you play and earn experience points, Heller gains evolutions and mutations. Evolution is the standard leveling system for Heller and governs broad aspects like health and movement speed while mutations (upgrades earned by completing Blacknet missions) increase the power of his offensive and defensive abilities. Even though his abilities are already superhuman at the game’s outset, Heller will quickly be sprinting faster than a speeding train, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and uppercutting helicopters out of the sky (I don’t know if Superman ever did that last one but he should have).  

The Goliath (center) is a huge new enemy that Heller must contend with

As Heller, you’ll divide your times between completing story missions, Blacknet missions (sidemissions) and finding collectibles (collecting audio files, eliminating field ops and defeating infected lairs). Blacknet missions are new to the mix and are a welcome addition to the formula. For these missions, you’ll need to locate a Blacknet terminal and once you do, it’ll feed you the name of a GenTek scientist or Blackwatch soldier to track down, and finding them is accomplished through the use of the new Hunter mode. With a click of the left stick, Heller sends out a pulse of energy across the city and when it reaches its target, bounces back creating a sonar effect which you can use to track down people anywhere on your current island. It’s also used while trying to stealth consume soldiers or scientists by letting you know how many people can currently see the person you’re targeting. Hunting is a great addition to “Prototype 2” and I honestly wished it was used more than just in Blacknet missions and occasionally in the story. The only odd thing about it is that when using it to stealth consume, rather than just inform you of how many people are currently watching your target, the game literally won’t let you consume someone who is being watched - and only if it’s a soldier watching your target since I guess scientists are too busy doing science to care that everyone around them is being absorbed into another human.

Blacknet missions are marked on your map and you can discover more Blacknet operations by consuming specially marked targets around the city. Completing all these sidemissions and tracking down every collectible is no sweat since the game also gives you the approximate location of each collectible, ensuring that you can completely power up Heller in no time. However, some might not appreciate how easy it is to find these collectibles, lamenting the days when finding every collectible in a sandbox game (like GTA 4 or GTA: San Andreas) meant searching for hours, hell, days on end – even with the help of a guide.

“Prototype 2” is a tough game to quantify because even though it improves upon everything that made the original game fun, I can’t help but feel like Radical could’ve done a bit more to extend its replay value. The improved mechanics make Heller’s every action smoother and more fluid, allowing you to perform unbelievably violent combos and intense sequences of movements with astounding ease. You can now hot-key a power to the X and Y button, allowing you to chain powers together for devastating combos (my favorite being the claws and hammerfist – nothing like slicing up my opponent then leaping into the air and landing a crushing elbow drop on them in the same sequence of moves). But despite how much fun this game is (even compared to the original “Prototype”) causing chaos and destruction kinda wears thin after a while, especially since that’s all there is to do once you’ve completed every mission and found every collectible. Eventually you start wanting something with a bit more substance but outside of replaying the game (there is a New Game+ feature that lets you restart the story with all your powers), there isn’t much to be found. And even on the highest difficulty (Insanity), Heller is still nigh unstoppable and it’s a rarity that you’ll ever be in danger of dying. 

Blackwatch soldiers sport sleek new gear but are still mostly degenerate low-lifes

One solution Radical implemented to increase replay value was Radnet – a series of rotating activities that can only be accessed by purchasing a new copy of the game or buying the corresponding DLC. Completing sets of Radnet missions go toward unlocking new mutations and character skins but, being that they are just activities (such as foot races, chopper races, score-attack brawls and a slew of others), there isn’t much reason to replay them multiple times, save for trying to get a better score.

What I would’ve liked to see is some sort of arena/horde mode where Heller takes on an ever-increasingly difficult series of enemies until being overwhelmed. You could argue that you could make that same thing happen just by attacking Blackwatch bases but a horde mode, created and structured in development by Radical, would ultimately be much more fun that just causing trouble – especially since escaping alerts in “Prototype 2” is incredibly easy. Either Blackwatch troopers are incredibly lazy or incredibly stupid (or some combination of the two) but too often I’ve done things in front of Blackwatch soldiers that clearly a normal human can’t (racing up walls, gliding through the air, sprinting at Mach 5) and unless I kill one of their soldiers, they don’t seem to mind much.

I really, really want to praise “Prototype 2” more because, at its core, it’s a very well-made game and incredibly fun. Radical did a phenomenal job of improving upon everything that the original game did well and implemented new aspects of gameplay flawlessly. Unfortunately, it’s still a bit too short and lacks substantial replay value (or content to extend any particular playthrough). And even with the things that Radical has added and improved, Heller still performs and acts a bit too much like Mercer (all their powers are the same, save for Heller’s tendrils, and even the animations and finishers that Heller performs are the same that Mercer did). I understand that the infection is going to manifest similarly in both, granting similar powers, but Heller performing many of the same finishers as Mercer just feels like lazy design.

If you like sandbox games or the emerging superhero genre of games, then you’ll definitely like “Prototype 2.” Everything about the series has been upgraded from the first game and despite its short length, it offers plenty of opportunity to make your own fun. But, like I said, it’s a very short game and doesn’t have nearly as much substance or content as other similar games in the genre. If you can find a deal on it or a used version, “Prototype 2” is definitely worth a bit of your time and cash. Just don’t pay too much for it or you might feel like you got less than you paid for.

1 Comments:

Blogger Kirk Apolo said...

Prototype 1 and 2 are the only games on the planet Earth that have me sitting for hours on end with my mouth open, staring at the screen.

Some other good games I enjoy merely shut down my nervous system for outside information (Rage, Killzone 2, Deus Ex, Super Mario World 3D, Resident Evil: Revelations, Mortal Kombat,...), but Prototype does something else entirely.

The power of the game is that it is constantly moving in a fast pace. There is no resting point. It is also necessary to think about tactics while fighting the monsters, to determine the order in which to tackle your foes, and to think about which upgrades you want and need.

It baffles me how much criticism this game has reaped on the interwebs.

Games, for me, should be FUN, and this is an A+ game in that regard.

I don't care about the other points you raised while I play this exhilerating ride down adrenaline - lane through for the second time.

I rarely play games after I finished them once.

With my 20+ years of gaming experience in all possible genres, starting in the arcades as a little kid, it is strange that I mostly don't agree with the criteria put forward in modern gaming reviews for what supposedly makes a game a good game. Games Online

November 25, 2014 at 7:10 AM  

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