If you were to mix the viciousness and elasticity of Spiderman’s symbiotic foe, Carnage, with the revenge driven mind-set of Frank Castle, you would be on your way to a model replica of Prototype 2’s less than conventional protagonist, Sergeant James Heller. After an unfortunate series of events sees his family murdered and himself infected by Prototype’s conflicted hero, Alex Mercer, Heller finds himself thrown into the corrupted and corroded world of New York Zero. Heller’s newfound demons wind up pitting him against the military unit Blackwatch, the organization responsible for the creation of the initial virus, and what’s left of Heller’s own humanity.
The story that revs up the action in Prototype 2 is far from anything special. Throwing in a new protagonist and some new foes does little to separate the plot of the original game from that of its action-packed sequel. If anything, Prototype 2 follows the typical downfalls of most continuations – more action, less substance. Throughout his journey, Heller infiltrates Blackwatch, takes down some seriously uninspired infected, and finds out that not everything is as it seems – typical action game fare. Like many open world games these days, the player controls Heller through a mission-structured plot. With each completed mission, Heller will typically find himself in possession of a new dangerous mutation that will help against a new enemy-type.
Each kill and every completely mission will also grant the player DNA, which acts as the game’s experience points. Once leveled up, skill points can be tacked on to Heller’s health bar to modify length and regeneration speed, his agility, and several other attributes that will turn him into the perfect killing machine.
Anybody familiar with the original Prototype will find that its sequel’s gameplay, while altered slightly in all the right ways, comes across as mildly familiar. The core elements that make Prototype 2 so entertaining revolve around the player’s choice between partaking in chaotic bloodbaths or going the stealth route. Throughout the events of Prototype 2, Heller will find the need to “consume” certain member’s of Blackwatch’s ranks to assume their identity. While falling out of the sky and tackling your target gave the desired results in most situations, more low-key gamers may enjoy sneaking through the militarized zone disguised as a soldier, picking off guards one by one before the main target is left sans protection.
The core mechanic that makes the stealthier route doable and somewhat entertaining is within Heller’s built in “radar”. The click of the joystick sends out a sonar pulse that highlights enemies and specific targets. Those that stand out as red are visible to others while those in white are safe for consumption. The newly turned Heller may be a loose canon in most scenarios, but he keeps his cool enough to not allow the gamer to consume someone that is being watched. Heller will also use his sonar pulse to hunt down specific targets whose locations would otherwise be unknown, giving the player the true sense that they are the ultimate, unavoidable predator. As with any stealth game, though, the player will need to deal with machinery that can detect the infection within Heller. When in range of these Viral Detectors, even when assuming the identity of a Blackwatch soldier or scientist, Heller is vulnerable to detection.
Prototype 2 is far from a stealth game, so what truly stands out is Heller’s assortment of limb severing self-mutations. With the ability to transform his limbs into demon-like claws, tendrils that will turn enemies into a gooey mess, and hard hitting hammer-fists, Heller literally comes off as unstoppable. From slicing foes vertically in half to turning them into explosive bio-bombs, each attack is completely overpowering, even against some of the games heftier or more agile enemies. It is entertaining to be able to slice and dice your way through a military installation without having to break a sweat, but when the game turns into a flurry of effortless limb severing, all challenge is thrown to the wind. On numerous occasions, Heller will find himself amidst several of the dangerous Evolved (humans infected with the virus, just like Heller and Mercer) who, due to their matching agility and strength, should pose a threat to the gamer. Rather, each fight breaks down into simply learning patterns, making it possible to win a fight against multiple Evolved with just Heller’s bare hands.
What winds up being the most difficult part of combat is the game’s camera, which has a hard time deciding which of the numerous enemies on screen it wants to lock onto. Even the use of the games “lock-on” trigger did little to rectify the camera issue during the more hectic battles.
If there’s one thing that stands out as the “most annoying feature” in Prototype 2, it would be the constant pause in action to watch a broken reel of memories from an individual that the player consumes. While these memories play a pivotal role of furthering the plot and creating an internal structure to the military unit, in the end they come off as simply out of place as they break up the action surrounding them. It may seem like a trivial complaint, but with the amount of memories that the game holds, it can turn into a simple nuisance.
Prototype 2’s main storyline can be completed in about 15 hours, which makes the presence of side missions a welcomed addition. Playing off of the main plot are an assortment of side quests that range from hunting down individuals to gain access to laboratories to racing against a clock to snatch up intel documents dropped from a downed chopper. There isn’t much substance to them after the first few are completed, but at the close of each set of missions, Heller is warranted with “mutators” that add specific perks to his offensive and defensive attributes. Players may also find themselves coming across enemies labeled with a yellow tag. If these enemies are consumed, Heller may gain an additional boost of DNA (experience points) or an upgrade to his basic attacks.
While not the perfect addition to the realm of open world games, Prototype 2 offers a more than enjoyable experience for fans of absurd action. The bloody mess that is Prototype 2’s twist-filled plot is driven by the game’s hefty action scenarios rather than the other way around, making Heller’s deadly mutations the highlight of this satisfactory sequel to Alex Mercer’s ill-fated introduction to the world.