Prototype 2

Prototype 2 Review for PS3

On: PS3Xbox 360PC

Sgt. James Heller has plans to destroy Prototype's original anti-hero, Alex Mercer in this open-city explosive action game from Radical Entertainment.

Review Verdict Read Review
6Out of 10
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Prototype 2 screenshot
Prototype 2 screenshot

The original Prototype was an open-world game attempting many things in its annihilated vision of New York, but for most people it has been symbolised by one solitary instance: a hooded man repeatedly launching into flying kicks at helicopters. This is the most striking image of Prototype, and it's persisted long after the forgotten narrative justification as to why these rotorcraft deserved such a thorough punting.

To the people who fondly remember the empowering feeling of boot slicing through steel, I bring you good news: you can still attack helicopters with flying kicks in Prototype 2. It is positively encouraged, even, though it does take a good few hours to unlock.

There are new things in developer Radical's revamped anti-hero template, of course, but it's the tried-and-tested moments that are still the game's finest, and when your super-powered repertoire neatly segues between slicing through a gaggle of foes, running up walls and leaping through the air like a Golden Age Superman, you occasionally stop and think, hey, this is pretty fun.

Which is nice, because the original game wasn't always that fun, especially when it was spamming you with a hundred burly enemies and dozens of nasty rockets. Thankfully hectic firefights are much easier to navigate now, and a cheeky dodge mixed with some powerful new tendril attacks ensures more efficient and graceful crowd control. Cottoning onto the fact that everyone likes that steady climb towards new bells and whistles, the game also ensures you're never far from unlocking some new trinket or whizzy biological upgrade for new protagonist James Heller.

Heller is your typical marine with superpowers that look like they're been yanked straight from H.R. Giger, and then thrown into a New York city that looks like it's been covered with tar. As you hit the game's second area, for instance, you'll unlock the Arm Blade and gain the ability to launch into a swirly-whirly carnage pirouette, one that cleans out an area quicker than playing the One Direction album in a heavy metal club. Even later than that you'll get the Whipfist, which allows you to yank helicopters out of the sky - just in case you fancy a change from all the flying kicks, you know?

The more observant will have already noticed that most upgrades seem to be about giving your appendages varying combinations of pointy blades, but for those with a sneakier inclination there's also the new Biobomb, which allows Heller to inject foes with a virus that forces them to rupture open in a nasty tentacle explosion. Prototype 2 can be a particularly grim game, especially when you're accidentally lopping through crowds of civilians or consuming them whole for a health bonus. As Heller puts it at one point: "now that's some motherf**king gratuitous violence right there."

Prototype 2 screenshot

Your mission objectives are mostly the same as in every other open-world game, and much of the game is spent scrapping with enemy mercenaries on the ground and then taking to the skies to ferret out your next confrontation. Movement in the air feels more vertical than horizontal, and gliding in Prototype 2 consists of 10 seconds of blissful soaring before a premature drop back to solid ground. There is some skill in perfecting your graceful ascents and falling-brick descents, and learning when to eke out the glide or hammer your in-air dash gives you a certain buzz.

Taken in the context of kicking helicopters into bits and ripping the turrets off tanks for a laugh, Prototype 2 performs admirably. There's an impressive array of gooey mutations and upgrades to discover, linked to a system of upgrades birthed from an overall experience bar alongside sniffing out hidden collectibles and completing side-missions, which more often than not requires you to kill a load of stuff and then bask in all the bits. Radical is happy for you to muck about in their infected city as much as you like, and by consuming the right enemies you get access to even more ludicrous upgrades. The upgrade menus are, without a doubt, the real star of the game.

Unfortunately, then, those upgrade menus play second fiddle to the game's unbearably boring protagonist. Heller never becomes anything more than a cipher, a virtually anonymous marine in a sea of unrecognisable tropes as indistinguishable as the masked NPCs he routinely gobbles. His gruff posturing, especially during the game's bevy of pre-rendered cutscenes, ensures he comes across as ridiculous, and the master plan he slowly unravels over the course of the game is as dense and indecipherable as Alex Mercer's original conspiracy plot. The Blackwatch virus is still roaming around, pretty much everyone has a nefarious plan, and that's about the point that my brain switch off and demanded not to hear any more.

To cut a long-winded story short, all you need to know about Prototype 2 is that James Heller has superpowers and fights nasty people with the assistance of an ex-gang banger priest who also happens to be a pretty decent computer hacker. Sometimes Heller eats people. It's all connected to some secret experiments that happened in Idaho in the past. Still, at least the evil scientists in this are more threatening than the mostly-impotent Umbrella Corporation.

People who played the original will probably be overjoyed to discover there are no orbs to hoover up, and instead Radical devotes more time than ever to focusing on entrails-splattering hyperviolence. That's all Prototype 2 wants to be, but unfortunately it traps its golden moments under a muddle-headed plot, arid characters and four times more cutscenes than anyone would ever want. In a post-Minecraft industry there's clearly enough scope for a game to relish in providing you with the tools and letting you enjoy them at your own pace without the trapping of dreary context, which is clearly the kind of thing Radical wants to make, and its rigid adherence to a traditional open-world format is a shame because it simply makes the game boring.

There have been plenty of advancements to the genre since we last saw Prototype, and this sequel offers some noticeable improvements to combat and a neatly-managed breadcrumb trails of unlocks and goodies. But that's just not enough. Heller might be able to absorb the minds and organic matter of anyone he touches, but Prototype 2 still lacks a heart.

Version Tested: Xbox 360

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11 Comments

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guyderman's Avatar

guyderman

Played it for about an hour or so and then sent it back to Lovefilm - wasn't very impressed by it at all. Not sure if it's because games have evolved or my tastes and what I want from a game now has changed!
Posted 14:37 on 26 April 2012
Batmamerc's Avatar

Batmamerc

Wasn't the score I was expecting. I think we need a game that isn't all serious story and plot, a game that just lets you do what ever you want, I loved the first one for the fact you could just go mental and tear everyone and everything to bits n the vehicle explosions were great, the story was terrible too so i didn't pay any attention to it after half way through n the side missions were tedious, but as shooting ppl in rage feels satisfying prototype 1 was just a satisfying killing ground, it don't last long though as even all that freedom does get boring so I won't be buying this at full retail price till its £20 but still look forward to it.
Posted 10:24 on 25 April 2012
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee@ Endless

What he means is that there is a LOT of killing in Prototype. Never in the field of entertainment has one person had so many tools of destruction.
Posted 09:23 on 25 April 2012
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ munkee

A: Yes. Pick any number of other games you kill ***** in. No: Why are you playing games again? ;)
Posted 08:24 on 25 April 2012
munkee's Avatar

munkee

The question you should ask yourself if you're thinking of buying Prototype is: Do you like killing things?
Posted 21:37 on 24 April 2012
Hooded's Avatar

Hooded

I've always had a feeling this game would be pretty poor, from reading previews and watching trailers it has never impressed. Good review Martin :)
Posted 21:07 on 24 April 2012
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister@ Pie_Cooper

Depends how much grease you like with your hamburger. It'll be £17.99 in 12 months' time, maybe sooner, if that's any help.
Posted 19:17 on 24 April 2012
Pie_Cooper's Avatar

Pie_Cooper

Is it worth £39.99 though?
Posted 19:12 on 24 April 2012
squidman's Avatar

squidman@ jeffyboy40

I can see it being a guilty pleasure for some, sure. It's that kind of game. It just wasn't a guilty pleasure for me.
Posted 18:40 on 24 April 2012
jeffyboy40's Avatar

jeffyboy40

oh dont listen to martin,this game is a pure guilty pleasure,a big greasy hamburger of a game and a welcome change of pace after the witcher 2 and mass effect 3
Posted 18:05 on 24 April 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

Hmmm... I lost what little hope I had that this game might be fun, when I saw that moves were being offered as exclusive preorder DLC. Coupled with the fact that one is called 'Butt Kicker'. The first was such a drudge to play - repetitive in ever way, uninspired story, confusing map (one of my biggest peeves in games - as evidenced by recent highlights as being one of The Witcher 2's shortcomings...), and a final boss that just beggars all belief.

Cheers for the review, Martin. Shall steer clear.
Posted 17:45 on 24 April 2012

Game Stats

Prototype 2
6
Out of 10
Prototype 2
  • Good upgrades
  • Dumb missions
  • Poor story
  • Heller is boring
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 24/04/2012
Platforms: PS3 , Xbox 360 , PC
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Action
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 5,584 15
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