E3 2011: Prototype 2 Preview

By Jordan Douglas on June 19, 2011, 4:25PM EDT

Released in the spring of 2009, Prototype came out in a cluster of open-world games with Infamous and Red Faction: Guerrilla. The game received a somewhat lukewarm reception, because of the disjointed narrative, lack of variety in the environments and missions, and the strength of its competitors. The folks over at Radical say they have listened to the feedback and reworked the world of Prototype with a more immediate, personal story and an expanded set of gameplay options.

The first noticeable change players will notice in Prototype 2 is the game's new protagonist, Sgt. James Heller. A veteran of Afghanistan, Heller returns to New York in time to watch his wife and child die from the virus that Prototype's original star Alex Mercer released into the city. He blames Mercer for their deaths and is determined to get revenge. Therefore, Mercer will still play a prominent role in the follow-up, acting as one of the forces Heller clashes with. By changing main characters, Radical wants to make the narrative more immediate and personal, fixing some of the flaws they saw in the way Mercer's story was told.

Heller will traverse a version of New York City changed drastically from the one we all know. After years of turmoil, the city has been separated into three distinct regions. The Red Zone is the most removed from civilization, consumed by infested plants and creatures that have transformed the urban infrastructure. The Yellow Zone is an overcrowded shanty city, acting as a quarantined area for citizens trying to escape the infestation. Finally, the Green Zone represents the closest form of civilized society. Although, it has come under strict military rule by Black Watch forces. These three zones were created to add both aesthetic and gameplay variety to Prototype 2.

Radical has placed a great deal of emphasis on expanding what players can do off the main story path, and trying to ensure it's all connected in a meaningful way. For example, the Web of Intrigue returns and has been incorporated into the new Black Net side mission mechanic. When Heller consumes someone's identity, he gains their memories and access to information on the Black Net database, which then unlocks new mission opportunities. Players can also venture into lairs scattered throughout the city. They are essentially combat arenas where Heller will face off against hordes of enemies and boss type creatures to gain further experience and information.

Many fan favourite powers return in Prototype 2, but Heller has also been outfitted with several new ones for good measure. The hunting mechanic allows Heller to essentially use echo location to pin down the whereabouts of important targets. In combat, enemy weapons can be seized and repurposed for use against their owners, and Heller can conjure large vortexes to eradicate entire groups in an instant. According to Radical, the aim is to "eliminate the barriers to fun" and make players feel powerful.

Prototype 2 appears to build on the solid foundations of the first game and add several doses of variety to keep things interesting. Look out for this one when it hit stores shelves sometime in 2012 on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

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