“We go between three styles,” Radical Entertainment explain as they demonstrate Prototype 2’s intro movie. “We have the live action then there the CGI which kind of looks like Sin City in style, and then the in game graphics.”
“What is interesting is that in using human forms (the live action sequences), you gain an emotional engagement.”
The game’s out this Friday, but I got a sneaky look at it a little while back. “We found you don’t get as emotionally attached to a CG image as you do to a film of a real people,” they explain. “We flick through the different styles and the idea is to not make people not notice it.”
The cut scene we are watching shows the new protagonist, James Heller and his first meeting with Alex Mercer, the ‘hero’ from the first game. Heller blames Mercer for the death of his family, so it’s not all hugs and puppies when they meet.
The next scene we see finds Heller in a military facility being poked and prodded by various military doctors. “Ah. Red barrels. Any chance they might explode?” I ask. “Always to good to have those around,” was the reply. “We have to be consistent!”
“What is the thinking behind changing the main character? Was it because of the fans?” is my next question.
“When we started looking at doing the sequel we did start with Mercer but the problem was he already had all these god like powers and we had to design these ‘fantasy’ levels to try and give him even more power,” Radical explain.
“We always contended the game to be about ‘reality plus one’ – the plus one being the virus – so the fantasy levels did not work within that idea. We then tried storylines where we took his powers away but other games have taken that path and to be honest it felt like a disservice to those who had played the original.”[drop2]”We kept thinking ‘What is Prototype really about?’ and the answer is ‘it’s about the virus.’ So we realised that the protagonist is the vessel for telling the story of the virus. We started thinking about other characters but we realised we didn’t want to get rid of Mercer, as he is still alive from the first game. From that asked ‘why would someone want his powers?’ and the answer was ‘to kill someone’ so it was obvious, why not go after Mercer?”
“There were a certain number of people and fans who did not like the character in the original game so it works rather well by making him the ‘bad guy’ in this game. He still has his own story, but he doesn’t know everything but the idea of him ‘creating’ the next prototype was great.”
My playthrough continues and Heller invades the mind of a Blackwatch operative to discover more of the plot. He also swears – a lot. “You may encounter some swearing and gore in this game! We have new writers so the dialogue is pretty good,” Radical comment.
Then, Mercer is back for some more plot exposition and it’s nice to note that it’s not all f-bombs and virus talk, there is a nice line of black humour in the game. At this point Heller is not wearing much and Mercer leaves him with the line ‘And for God’s sake man, put some f**king clothes on.’
Handily that rather gorgeous black leather jacket is laying about, the one you may of seen Heller wearing in the trailers. It’s a very nice leather jacket, and apparently only one hundred are being made to promote the game.
“I want that jacket!” I say. “I’ve GOT that jacket!” taunts a member of team.
And indeed he has, he is wearing it. I shall edit the comments out of this write up but let’s assume for the rest of the interview I was trying to persuade them to give me the jacket. It is lush, I want one.
“Did you ever consider taking the game outside the confines of the city?” I ask.
“We did,” we’re told, “we strongly considered it as we worried people would say ‘Oh you’re back in New York again’ and they had seen it all before. However, what we ended up using is what used to be New York, its not recognisable as New York, you may identify a few buildings but this is fourteen months after the last outbreak.”
The game continues and Heller is running up and down the city, quite literally as he scampers up the vertical sides of a skyscrapers. I also get to consume a couple of soldiers (steady!) and disguise myself as them.
“What’s the best new feature in the game?” I enquire, as we’re told we’re running out of time.
“The tendrils,” is the quick answer from Radical. “They are awesome, you can grab hold of things and smash them together. One of the influences for the game is the movie ‘The Thing’, the idea that you can consume and disguise you character. That film has lost of tendrils! We also like 28 days later, that was an influence, I’m a huge horror fan!”
I have now used one of Hellers’ powers and have digested and disguised myself as an officer from Blackwatch.
“Here’s something cool, you’re disguised an officer, try walking up to that soldier,” Radical suggest. I guide Heller over to a group of grunts and, rather amusingly, they salute me. Very cool.
“Actually it seems we’ve got an extra half hour,” says the PR rep, “these guys have to leave to get their flight then but up until then.”
“Shall we stay?” asks the developer. “You seem to be enjoying the game.”
“Absolutely. Can I have your jacket?”
By now Heller is running up and down buildings and squishing Blackwatch soldiers with gay abandon and conversation wanders slightly. Actually it wanders out of the building, down the street, catches a train to Dover before setting sail for a week around the Med.
“I used to work on My Little Pony cartoons,” says one of the team.
“Really?” I reply. “That would be such a good look for Heller! Stardust blowing out his bum and skipping between skyscrapers on rainbows!”
“We should have done that!”
The conversation (currently touring the Med) now takes a detour across the Atlantic as it is revealed the designer of Prototype also worked on the TV shows Reboot and Transformers Beast Wars. I apologise for geeking out and wasting interview time talking about Transformers but technically this part of the interview should not have ever existed so I was wasting time that was not supposed to happen. That’s OK, right?[drop]Skipping forward in the game and Heller has a number of new powers including gliding and a rather neat air dash, handy as I am currently being pursued by two helicopters. Heller goes a bit hulk like and starts sprouting all sorts of tentacles and blades and the crowd nearby run in terror – or at least some of them do.
“We used to have everyone run but we’ve changed that,” explain Radical, “this is New York so some people will stop and look and try and work what the hell is going on. The panic is localised so if the people didn’t see what was going on then they will not be scared and run away.”
“There’s a lot of people on screen,” I comment, mildly impressed.
“Yes, there is a lot, we wanted to make the zone feel crowded. There is a lot of incidental dialogue as well, the public will shout at Heller as he goes past.”
“Is there anything you wanted to put in the game but could not?”
“Let me think. I have to be careful just in case we want to put it in the next game.”
“A ha! So there will be a Prototype 3?”
“Now you’re twisting my words! We have to sell this one first! Back to your question, there were a couple of enemies we had to cut but that was mainly because they were not that much different to what we had in the game in terms of how their combat worked.
“In the original Prototype one of the ideas we cut was that you could consume animals like rats and then you could move through sewer systems and I still remember thinking ‘this is mad’ and that idea never even made it to the prototype stage. So no, no consuming dogs, rats or rabbits. And no purple dildo bats.”
A quick fiddle with the game and Heller is now in the Red Zone with all his powers boosted up and this is an awful lot of fun. Tendrils fly everywhere, I throw a helciopter at a tank and there is an awful lot of blood.
“It’s great watching someone else play the game as they come up with all sorts of new ways to play,” says the developer watching over me. “One guy we had was infecting people and making them in to bio-bombs and throwing them at helicopters to take them out – we had never thought of doing that.”
For the final five minutes of my audio recording all that can be heard is guns, screaming, things exploding and screams as a fully powered Heller goes a bit mentalist in the red zone, suffice to say I enjoyed it an awful lot.
Thanks to the chaps at Radical and Activision for the interview and I suggest they – and you dear reader – keep an eye on TSA in the very near future. Let’s just say the world is full of strange coincidences.