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PlayStation 3 Review: Prototype 2

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Activision is in the news again, reportedly asking a Los Angeles Superior Court judge for an extension in their ongoing lawsuit with the former heads and even some employees of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series developers, Infinity Ward.  The L.A. based publisher may also have issues with the recently announced Black Ops 2 due to language in previous contracts.  Though these problems could spell trouble as the franchise is a huge portion of Activision’s sales, there is more to their portfolio than Call of Duty including, the just released dungeon-crawler, Diablo III and the action-adventure romp, Prototype 2.

Prototype 2 is the sequel to three-yea- old open-world Prototype game, not surprisingly developed by the same group that that brought us the mayhem-filled The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate DestructionPrototype 2 definitely wears that same superhero outfit and while you play it, you’re bound to wonder why playing Spider-Man games never feel like this.  Though, neither James Heller, the protagonist of this story nor the original anti-hero, Alex Mercer, is much like Peter Parker.

James Heller was a soldier, deployed at the time of the outbreak of the Blacklight virus that Alex Mercer spent much of the original Prototype game trying to eradicate.  Now, James makes it home to New York in time to find the city overrun with infected causing him to join back up with the military in order to get revenge on the apparent mastermind of the disease, Alex Mercer.  Those who finished the first Prototype game will wonder how all of this got pinned on Alex and the story does weave a complex web of motivations and strange alliances.  Strangely, if you’re new to the story, you’re probably at a slight advantage.

If you’ve ever played a sandbox game like Grand Theft Auto, you should be right at home with Prototype 2.  The main difference is, of course, you don’t need to steal and drive cars to get around although; there are some opportunities to grab some vehicles.  Here, James Heller and his team, on his first mission in New York, are attacked by Alex Mercer.  Strangely, Alex infects James in a way that ends up giving James amazing powers like the ability to run up walls and fly or glide in addition to being able to consume victims and then morph into them.

The basic controls are your standard action/adventure fare with the left stick controlling movement and the right stick, the camera.  The X button jumps, square and triangle attack–holding those buttons executes a related stronger attack–and the circle button grabs and throws.  The left bumper brings up a Mass Effect-type power wheel to select your two equipped abilities and the corresponding trigger is somewhat non-intuitively the lock-on.  The right bumper blocks and pulling the trigger allows James to sprint.   The left and right on the D-pad controls James’ shape shifting which is essential for evasion from the military or Blackwatch.

Controlling James always feels fairly organic and the game does a great job of making you feel powerful, even more so as you upgrade James to be able to run faster, jump higher, and increase his mass for devastating area attacks.  I personally love the black hole tendril attack.  While the main story isn’t terribly long, 15 hours or so, there are plenty of side missions and collectibles even before the included extra Radnet content.  All of the extras barely impact the story but they do give you the opportunity to make James much stronger, more Hulk-like.

All of the twist and turns in the plot of Prototype 2 don’t do much to make the story terribly compelling.  The problem isn’t the story as much as James, the angry super soldier.  This is often the problem with videogame characters, balancing escapism and sense of power with a compelling and complex protagonist.  Don’t get me wrong it’s a lot of fun to tear up the town and mete brutal justice down on your foes but, maybe it’s because I’ve played games for so long I want more.  I expect more for my time investment than a one dimensional killing machine, something a little more believable.

Prototype 2 far exceeds the original Prototype in almost every way, the graphics though not top-tier at a max resolution of 720p are good and the gameplay is much more fluid and balanced.  If you liked the first game, you will probably love this one.  If you’re looking for a mature Rampage, this is definitely the game for you, but, in comparison to the character depth of games like L.A. Noire and even, yes, Grand Theft Auto, Prototype 2 doesn’t measure up.  Those that enjoy the effort and do finish the game are treated to new game difficulty level for their efforts (on hard) and can unlock the Alex Mercer skin.

 
Prototype 2 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language. This game can also be found on: PC and Xbox 360.


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About Lance Roth

Lance Roth has over 10 years experience in the video game industry. He has worked in a number of capacities within the industry and currently provides development and strategy consulting. He participated in all of the major console launches since the Dreamcast. This videogame resume goes all of the way back to when they were written in DOS. You can contact Lance at RPGameX.com or rpgamex@gmail.com.