Review: Prototype 2 (PS3)
Title: Prototype 2
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (7.57 GB)
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Just over 4 years ago, Sony Computer Entertainment released inFAMOUS, the open world super hero journey of Cole McGrath. Around the same time, Radical Entertainment released Prototype, the super powered story about Alex Mercer. At the time, many people agreed that inFAMOUS was the superior game. It had a more compelling protagonist, better story, and a better world. Prototype, though not as good as inFAMOUS, was still a decent game on it’s own. Rather than put a morality system in the player’s hands, Prototype gave the players a massively open sandbox to cause as much damage as they wanted. Prototype lacked in story and gameplay, but it still ended up selling a lot. This time around, Prototype 2 is better than it’s predecessor, even if some of the problems of the first game still plague it.
The game puts you in the shoes of Sgt. James Heller, an individual infected with the Mercer virus looking to seek revenge on Alex for the death of his wife. From the opening cutscene, the story is told through film noir cutscenes. These cutscenes, with their high production value and visual fidelity, intend to convey a deep emotional tale to draw the players in. What comes through in the end is nothing more than a swear-filled, shallow story that instantly vanishes the second the player is let loose in the city. Like the previous iteration, Prototype 2 falls short in terms of story with a rather unlikeable character. (For those of you who haven’t played the first game, Prototype 2 includes a movie recapping the events of Alex Mercer’s story.)
The game, even though dragged down by the story, is still a lot of fun. Exploration with Heller is smooth and fast. Heller moves with a speed that is rarely seen in a game, far outpacing both Cole and Batman from their respective superheroes game. Sprinting down a street, running up the side of a building, and jumping off the top never gets old, and with a world like this, that’s a very good thing. Traversal in open world games is one or the most important aspects; if it’s not fast and fun, the player feels no motivation to explore. As Heller travels across the city and destroys object, the suspicion meter rises and threatens to expose him to the Blackwatch troops. The meter provides an incentive to stay stealthy and unnoticed. Some of the best moments of the game come from the stealth aspects of the game as you sneak up and take over a person’s body while no one watches. These stealth objectives lend a unique twist to the gameplay, and allow you to tackle Prototype 2 in different ways.
As Heller, you’re tasked with all kinds of missions and objectives throughout the game. You’re initially locked to one of three islands in the city, but as you complete the story, the other islands open up for more exploration. Unlike inFAMOUS, the islands come off feeling mostly the same, without much differentiating them other than enemy type and strength. The story missions tend to stick to the standard go here, defeat enemies, retrieve item, and learn your next target. Some of them are memorable if you stick to how they’re designed. By keeping a low profile and infiltrating buildings through disguise, these missions become more exciting. The problem is that these guidelines can be easily ignored; Heller can merely go into most situations and use brute force to destroy everything. With a combat system like this, it’s not bad or hard, just more monotonous after an entire game’s worth. The most interesting missions in Prototype 2 come from the side missions: hunting down a particular pedestrian to gain a new power up, tracking down a nest and eradicating it, and picking up the various collectibles throughout the map. It’s just a shame that there aren’t more of these throughout the game.
The combat and upgrade system in Prototype 2 is one of its strongest points. Hunting down new powers and leveling up are some of the more enjoyable and addicting parts of the game. Without the desire to collect more EP to level up Heller, certain side missions (like the timed running/jumping trials) would be absolutely pointless. Many of Mercer’s powers return in the sequel, and they’re just as enjoyable to use here. Weapons like the claws and blades truly make combat feel visceral and bloody, separating it from other super hero weapons from other games. Heller’s new tendrils power does change the way that combat is handled from the first game, but its not a significant enough difference to truly be a game changer. The powers and upgrades truly make Heller feel powerful, but after a while, you’ll tire with the combat. If you’re the type of player that doesn’t experiment with different weapon types, this game will quickly become a chore instead of a fun time.
Prototype 2 is a game that feels like a mixed message. During my time with the game, I went through periods of utter addiction and happiness followed shortly by boredom and apathy. The game is a perfect case of mindless fun. When you start leveling up, becoming more powerful, and unlocking more land, it’s a blast to run around, complete side missions, and wreak havoc in the world. At the same time, there aren’t that many side missions to do for a world that’s this big and the tasks become repetitive after some time. The story missions soon blend in to the background, as some of the side missions are more fun than the main mission. Overall, Prototype 2 is a game that feels bare bones in a sense, yet still has moments of fantastic fun. It’s a game that feels fantastic, fun, and new up front, but after numerous hours, you’ll come away bored.
Nothing in this game is here to blow you away. Character models in game look average. Animation is up to par, but nothing spectacular. AI works fairly well, even if some of the line of sights are a bit wonky. It’s very easy to take down a target stealthily while another enemy stands feet away not noticing anything. After 3+ years of development on the sequel, the visual aspects of Prototype 2 leave a lot to be desired. With open world games, usually the performance of the game takes the biggest hit, but that’s not the case with Prototype 2. The developers should be commended for creating a large enough world to have fun in. The game rarely stutters or slows down when things get intense, and as you get later in the game, it can get quite intense. It is obvious that some compromises had to be made with the engine, as there is a weird fog that flows over the ground in the distance when Heller is on top of a building. Even though most of Prototype 2 seems average on the surface, there is one part of the game that stands out graphically. The pre-rendered cutscenes come across with a fantastic tone. Character models are significantly improved from the engine, audio is of a higher quality, and the sense of desperation comes across much stronger than in game. You may see small camps of refugees in the game, but overall, the true feeling of lockdown and panic comes across in the visceral cutscenes. This disparity in tone between the cutscenes and the actual gameplay does nothing to help connect the story to the gameplay. In fact, it just widens the gap.
Nothing from Prototype 2 surprises in the audio department. The usual post-apocalyptic sound effects are here: gun shots, screams, panicked people, and it all comes across as very average. Nothing in terms of atmospheric audio stands out, causing the player to focus heavily on the voice acting and Heller’s sound effects. Heller’s voice, while grating and annoying after the repeated swears, is consistent and well done. The performance of the actor should be commended, as he does bring the personality of Heller to life. It’s nothing that’ll blow the player away, but its better than voice acting in a lot of other games. It’s the pre-rendered cutscenes that shine again here. The sounds of Blackwatch radio transmissions, screams, voice over, and character voices make the cutscenes much more powerful. Overall, the audio in Prototype 2 parallels the visuals: average in the game, great in the cinematics.
Though there is no online multiplayer to speak of, all new copies of Prototype 2 come with a RADNET access code, giving players access to over 8 weeks of free content. This content varies from extra side missions, skins, and power unlocks. This is a nice addition to the game, but players who buy this game used or borrow it from a friend won’t be missing much.
Overall, Prototype 2 comes off as a game that struggles to find its identity. It’s a game that approaches the superhero genre with a great story, but fails to execute it. What starts off as a deep and emotional tale of a man who has lost his loved ones turns into a sarcastic tale where story means little to nothing. This is a great game to hop in to and play around in the sandbox. The story is weak, the graphics are average, and nothing is particularly memorable about this game, but while you’re playing, this can be one of the most enjoyable sandbox games in a while.
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