I seem to be in the minority when I say that I really enjoyed Prototype. What it lacked in looks and depth it more than made up for by giving me lots of over the top ways to kill things and a lot of things on which to test said maiming abilities. It should have felt repetitive after a while, but I just had so much fun playing it I didn’t even notice and was actually a little sad when it was all over.
The reason I bring this up is because Prototype 2 is more of the same but with a different storyline and a few relatively small changes. Depending on your stance on the first Prototype you’ll either see this as entirely forgiveable, or a deep flaw with the game.
This time around you play as James Heller, a Sergeant touring Iraq who returns home to discover his wife and daughter have been declared dead. He rejoins the military and, on learning of virus outbreaks highlighted in the original game, seeks to avenge their deaths by killing the first game’s protagonist; Alex Mercer.
As you might expect, Heller is immediately infected with the virus and captured by Gentek, who decide to run experiments after reading the ‘Mad Scientist’s Guide to Evil and Bad Decisions’. Even more expectedly, if such a thing is possible, Heller escapes and continues to seek revenge on various people, all whilst shouting loudly and blowing things up.
It’s actually a reasonably good storyline – it’s full of small twists and a few curve balls that can actually take you a little by surprise. The sudden 180 Mercer has apparently made between the two games is a bit strange, but it’s not without merit.[drop]It’s worth noting that there were moments I found it hard to care for the seemingly sociopathic Heller, who is so obnoxious at times that it’s detrimental to his cause. At least he’s funny, though, with plenty of cheesy one-liners and a joke early on about computers that really left me smiling.
None of this is why we’re playing, though; just like the previous instalment in the series, Prototype 2 is packed to the brim with over-the-top action and more explosions than you can shake a whipfist at. This is where it really shines.
There are 6 main powers and you can equip two at a time (one on square/X and another on triangle/Y). You unlock them at specific points in the storyline by absorbing them from a new enemy and they’re all effective at destroying things, though some have more unique aspects than others. Tendrils, for example, will immobilise enemies you hit with them – hit a hunter and tendrils of…something will tie it up for a few seconds, enabling you to use your claws to cut off its arm.
All of the powers have their own charged attack, too; charging your claws enables you to pounce on an enemy from a considerable distance, whilst doing the same with the hammerfist will cause a shockwave in front of you when you’re on the ground or, if you’re in the air, slams into the ground, eviscerating everything around you.
Perhaps the most entertaining charged attack belongs to the tendrils, however – called the black hole, it will pull objects around your target towards them at speed, including people, cars and explosives, resulting in a lot of fun.
Similar to the black hole attack, another useful ability is the biobomb, which you unlock a little further into the game. The biobomb is the same as black hole, except it’s used stealthily. Sneak up on someone nobody’s watching and biobomb them to create a distraction, or even cause an explosion to damage a sensor.
You can also grab someone, biobomb them, then throw them at something you want to destroy to cause considerable damage. It’s a useful tool, especially when you need to take a commander’s shape to access a base but there are just too many guards around to do it discreetly.
Not that those guards are particularly intelligent; you can happily stealth consume a group of guards one by one and the last one won’t find it at all suspicious that all of his mates have disappeared, leaving their guns behind. Guards find it a little suspicious when you drop from an 8 storey building and land next to them (though not that much, as it only fills a third of the suspicion meter), but apparently it’s completely fine when you jump back up a few seconds later, or even run up the wall, jump, and glide away.
Escaping them isn’t difficult either, just make sure nobody can see you and transform into a body you consumed earlier. They don’t find it at all strange when the man with claws for arms goes behind a truck, yet when they investigate all they find is an unarmed soldier whistling discreetly.
Naturally, this is all necessary – if you were discovered every time you were spotted running too fast or jumping too high you’d spend an awful lot of time being chased by helicopters and tanks, but it certainly breaks immersion when nobody is suspicious as you walk briskly away from an exploding soldier.