Prototype 2 Review

By James Dewitt on February 28, 2013

There are two schools of thought on what makes for a memorable sandbox experience. The first defines the genre by having a variety of things to do in a compelling environment, while the other measures its success by how grand its scale of wanton destruction can aspire to. Prototype 2 clearly has the latter design philosophy in mind, as the powers its protagonist wield create more city destruction than every Godzilla movie combined.

Since the first game, New York has once again been bombarded by the Mercer Virus and its populace is kept under the tight control of both GenTek and Blackwater, both respective organizations being unabashedly evil. James Heller is a soldier returning from war only to find his family dead in the aftermath and swears vengeance on the super-powered Alex Mercer, who has now moved from being a questionable anti-hero to full-blown villain.

Mercer infects Heller for his own nefarious reasons, granting him the same god-like powers. Armed with these new abilities, he sets out for answers and revenge. Despite the game's serious tone, black-and-white cutscenes, and Heller's grief over his family, Prototype 2 is unabashedly aware of just how silly it is and manages to squeeze in some black comedy now and then. Heller himself, constantly exuding seething anger, is at his heart a man who clearly enjoys his job.

Gameplay itself is reminiscent of the first with significant tweaks for the better and some mechanics that needed some tinkering. Progression is much less complicated than the first game, allowing players to choose which abilities they want to upgrade once Heller has leveled up accordingly, rather than micromanaging every tiny aspect. If you want Heller to focus on one particular area of expertise, you can. Leveling up occurs whenever Heller consumes or otherwise dispatches an enemy"”mutated and human alike.

There are plenty of bad guys to go through when just grinding through the standard story campaign, so there's really no need to go out of your way to acquire points. Although, you're welcome to dive into a fight with Blackwatch at anytime or amuse yourself with some of the extracurricular activities scattered around the three zones. Gone are the tedious time trials and other banal side quests of Prototype. Instead, Heller can run after scattered Blackwatch packages, infiltrate bases and hives, hunt down key figures, and find hidden recordings that reinforce just how evil all the bad guys are. As before, the city landscape is as huge as it is bland, but it's really what players can do in it that makes things interesting. Once sufficient progress is made, Heller gains new abilities like changing his arms into claws, blades, whips, hammers, and tentacles capable of tearing apart everyone in the most gruesomely entertaining way imaginable. Other fun little things like being able to throw cars and hurl pedestrians across the cityscape go hand-in-hand with new perks like being able to destroy tanks and helicopters in one blow or using their weapons against them.

Traveling never gets boring, and despite being on foot it's never an issue to cover great distances. Heller can leap, run up buildings, and fly with the best of them. Controlling all of Heller's actions is relatively easy, although there are issues when it comes to aiming. One drawback to the original was that it was far too easy to target the wrong person, and it's a problem here as well. When in direct combat with enemies firing bazookas at you, you do not want to be leaping at the guy across the street instead.

Another criticism is that many of the missions blur into each other, conforming to the mold of go here, consume this guy, pose as him, or to take on a group of enemies. The scale of destruction means every engagement is fun to watch no matter how mundane it might be, but some variety would be nice and there's a point to where Heller is simply to much for mutant and man to handle.

Boss fights feel like a missed opportunity, even against massive enemies. The majority of them are won by using your shield ability at the right time and doing a little quick-time event, essentially rendering them harmless. Even the final boss fight doesn't feel like the epic confrontation that it could've been. There are also only a handful of variants that repeat much too often and they all serve as little more than ways for Heller to gain new abilities as the story moves forward.

Final Thoughts

An improvement in some areas, Prototype 2 is just as much fun in delivering awesome powers and a population waiting for them to be unleashed on. Its mission structure becomes a bit formulaic and it does riff a little much on the original's strengths (and weaknesses), but overall it remains an entertaining sandbox title with enough content and spectacle to satisfy any would-be destroyer of cities.

Heller's abilities
The freedom you have in the city.
Being able to fling pedestrians miles.
Too formulaic.
It doesn't build enough upon the original.
The end boss fight is a huge anti-climax.
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