It is said that revenge is a dish best served cold. This is one school of thought which James Heller is not a subscriber of. He is one very angry man on a simple quest of vengeance against the one responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. It just so happens that the person in question is Alex Mercer, the ‘hero’ of the original Prototype. It also just so happens that the ‘Mercer Virus’ has once again spread throughout New York city causing a widespread pandemic the likes of which claimed the lives of many, Heller’s family included.
After his first encounter with Mercer, Heller becomes infected himself, but instead of killing him it only serves to transform him into a super powered, super angry mutant. Those familiar with the original will instantly recognise some of his starting powers, and also realise that he starts off a little stronger than Mercer did at the start of his adventure. As you progress through the story, new powers are gradually obtained, eventually turning him into a near unstoppable force. All this power is a hell of a lot of fun to wield, but it could be argued that Heller is too powerful as Prototype 2 is a pretty easy game. I would recommend all but the most casual of gamers to play it on the ‘Hard’ setting to get any challenge at all, and even then I only died half a dozen times during the entire story. That said, an ‘Insane’ mode does become available upon completion, so those seeking a better test of their skills can always explore this option.
Difficulty aside, Prototype 2 is fun while it lasts. It’s fairly short at roughly eight to twelve hours, but in that time you can do a considerable amount of damage in your quest to rid the world of Alex Mercer. The premise of the previous hero being this times villain is an appealing one, but in truth the story is fairly by the numbers and largely uninspiring. Whilst the story isn’t quite good enough to propel you forward, the prospect of upgrading Heller further and further is, and is more than enough incentive to keep playing on.
At the start you can run up buildings, fall from any height and consume people to regain your health. As you continue powers are unlocked, such as giant claws, power fists, a handy shield and much more. The shield is new to the sequel and not only protects from damage but can also be used to deflect rockets back towards its source. Bio Bombs are also new and allow any non-player character to be infected, turning them into a bomb which pulls enemies towards the epicentre before detonating in a gooey mess. A fully powered up Heller can sure be a lot of fun, and soon you’ll be able to take down tanks, helicopters and more with great ease and a touch of violent flair.
In fact, the best way to play Prototype 2 is to just enjoy the ride, experiment with the powers and see what works best against the various enemies the game throws your way. In the previous outing they became quite overwhelming and caused many gamers to ignore some powers over others. I’m pleased to report that the claws (essentially your go to weapon) are much more effective this time round and I had these equipped almost the entire game. Only two powers can be equipped at any one time but thankfully it is both quick and easy to change on the fly. The other impressive aspect is that no matter how much action is being displayed on the screen, the frame rate never drops even a tiny bit. It may not be the best looking game engine, but it’s solid and creates a fairly smooth experience overall.
I say overall because there are still some issues which hamper the experience somewhat. Firstly the targeting system isn’t perfect and often in the heat of battle the wrong target can be selected which can lead to some frustration. Similarly it can be quite easy to pick up objects instead of performing the action you wanted, or simply picking up the wrong thing all together. When indoors the camera can also become problematic and it can be hard to see what you are doing when it is stuck in the corner. Luckily the indoor sections aren’t that frequent and the camera is generally fine indoors so it’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things.
Missions are mostly fun and fairly diverse; new enemies get introduced regularly as do the powers. Stealth also plays a fairly large role as well with Heller able to replicate the exact form of the last human which he consumed, meaning sneaking into restricted zones and bypassing security is a synch. Missions are often broken up into smaller sequences and there seems to be an endless supply of hidden laboratories and bases to be infiltrated. The shape shifting mechanic is also very handy for escaping pursuers, just break line of sight and a quick change removes the alert.
Throughout the course of the story Heller is helped out by various supporting characters who explain what to do next and their motives are usually not only aiding Heller, but also helping the public. The fact that many missions involve destroying some form of research or monster to save the citizens of New York is in direct contradiction to how he interacts with them. Quite often when health is needed there is an infinite supply of pedestrians to consume, and this makes his motives and the story as a whole harder to invest in.
As I said earlier, the best way to play Prototype 2 is to just cause as much carnage as possible. On this front alone the game is a clear success. It is just let down slightly in several areas where its closest rival Infamous succeeds. If you have just been to the cinema to watch The Avengers and you need to indulge your super hero fantasies, Prototype 2 is well timed to meet that need.