- Publisher: Activision
- Developer: Radical Entertainment
- ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Pros: Intense action, non-stop combat, variety of superpowers, strong storytelling
- Cons: Some repetition, awkward vehicle gameplay
Radical Entertainment released "Prototype" in the Summer of 2009, two weeks after Sony released the very similar and vastly superior "inFamous" (which has already has its own sequel in "inFamous 2," which is now available on the PlayStation Network). In both games, you stepped into the shoes of an everyman given incredible superpowers that grew with you over the course of a game built around a "story mission & side mission" structure. Sadly, "Protoype" fell victim to awkward gameplay, bad storytelling, and an obscene amount of repetition, leaving this critic to approach its unexpected sequel very cautiously. Without question, "Protoype 2" improves upon every element of the first game. A number of people have told me, "I never played the first one." Don't bother. This one is much better.
The menu screen even comes with a nifty "Previously On" option for players new to the series or those looking for a refresher. In "Prototype," New York City was overrun by a plague known as Blacklight. It mutates people, creates giant creatures, and causes general havoc. In that game, you played Alex Mercer, a man transformed by the plague into a superpowered shapeshifter. Not only can he use his body as a weapon or run up the side of buildings, he can grab people, consume them, and take on their form and memories.
In the sequel, Mercer becomes the villain as you take on the role of James Heller, someone who Mercer turned into a shapeshifter like himself. New York is still a mess after the outbreak from the first game turned out to be nothing more than the appetizer for a nasty main meal. As you progress through the game, Heller gets more and more powerful, drawing closer to Mercer and the truth about why he was transformed in the first place.
"Prototype 2" is a typical open-world game in that it's broken up into story missions, side missions, collectibles, and just general exploration. You can progress through the increasingly intense story or be a completist and try to find a number of items or complete side missions that will enhance different aspects of your super powers. Like a lot of superhero games, you only get stronger as the game goes on with an increasingly impressive arsenal of powers. At the start, you're hacking and slashing. By the end, you're turning people into bombs, grabbing helicopters from the sky, and hijacking tanks. The progression from normal guy to killing machine is one of the most impressive in the last few years. By constantly delivering new modes of destruction, the game keeps refreshing itself and never descends into boredom.
Almost never. There are times in the final act -- the game basically has a three-act structure as Heller is granted access to three portions of the city as it unfolds -- when I was pushing to the end, hoping it would come soon. Some of the vehicle combat -- you'll eventually get behind the wheel of a tank and a helicopter -- is a bit unrefined but it's not common enough to be a serious problem.
And it doesn't take away from how much of this game truly rocks. I found myself switching up my powers (you essentially have two out of five "equipped" at any time) just to see different ways that I could create carnage. And the fluidity of combat and gameplay is remarkable. The controls never feel clunky as you move from combatant to combatant with incredible ease.