Prototype 2 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is, like it's lead character Sgt James Heller, an interesting beast. It picks up the action following the events of the first Prototype game, flinging you into a New York that has been sectioned off, quarantined and put under rather dubious surveillance following the outbreak of the Blacklight Virus seen in the original Prototype three years ago.
Setting the Scene
Seems like a long explanation to begin, yes? Well, get used to it - Prototype 2 opens with a long cinematic opening-credits sequence that sets the scene and the atmosphere for the game. Focussing as much on Heller as it does on the events that take place between the two games, there's certainly enough information here to catch you up, and you really don't feel like you've missed anything if you haven't played the original. In fact, the manner in which you're told about the background info really works well - Heller wasn't there for it, and his knowledge and emotions is reflected to really get you going.
Except with all this introduction it does take a little while to actually get going. What you're being told is very important - heck, it sets up you, your powers and your mission - so just be patient, because once you get going there's very little stopping you.
I've Got The Power
After Heller is exposed to the Blacklight Virus (and given the very strong suggestion of who the real enemy might be) you set off into the city to piece together exactly what is going on, and never has the phrase "having the run of the place" been so apt than in Prototype 2. Like in the original game, you can effortlessly run all over the streets and buildings with very few limits, which is very handy once the bad guys get you in their sights.
Awesome parkour skills aren't the only powers to be carried over from the first Prototype game - consuming others and taking their form is another key ability for you. Not only is it a way for you to rebuild your energy - and a very useful way at that, especially in battle! - and to help you get around without suspicion, but now you can absorb memories as well. This latter power is used with some degree of inconsistency, as you only absorb the right memories and information you need at that point in the game.
When it comes to taking on other mutated monstrosities, rather than taking their form when you consume them, you can take on some of their own abilities. You want massive claws? Just consume the monster with massive claws - and then go on to use them against the next enemy. This consumption and shape-shifting really is the gift that keeps on giving.
There's also the new sonar power, another handy tool that helps you locate your enemy. It can take a while to get used to, especially when tracking someone who is much further away. It's another super-convenient super power and Heller's own reflection that "I don't know how this works, but it's real useful" seems to be the game's only attempt to 'explain' it, a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to just relax and enjoy the ride!
I (Heart) NYZ
This convenience is easily forgiven. The gameplay is smooth and somewhat effortless, with combat and movement seemingly designed for both the "button-mashers" and those with a bit more refined skills. It's quick and easy to pick up how your powers work, and you soon learn not to make silly mistakes (like shifting at just the wrong time) more than once! Each step reveals a little more about what's actually going on, revealing that events, and, more tellingly, people, are not quite what they seem. It's a handy metaphor for someone who spends half the time shifting into the appearance of others.
Prototype 2 has a really strong visual style, too. The large open world environment that is the newly sectioned-off "New York Zone" does a good job to make the familiar seem new. The grey-hued palette keeps the atmosphere from the opening sequences throughout, with the visceral red and black colours of those mutated by the Blacklight Virus almost bursting out of the screen; unlike elsewhere in the game, there's no doubting what these beasties are!
For a game that starts with the main character's family being killed, it's very easy to get carried away with the effortlessness and fearlessness that your powers give you. Some of the details might get lost in the ruckus and exploration, but there's a decent story here too and plenty to keep gamers of all abilities busy.
- Almost effortless gameplay
- Compelling and revealing story
- Expanding powers are fun to play with
- Opening cut-scenes are not for the impatient
- Powers can be inconsistent
- NYZ can be a bit too big at times