Prototype 2 preview [Xbox 360/PS3/PC]

James Haresign March 23, 2012 - 1:00 pm

News: PROTOTYPE 2 is a month away. The return of the Blacklight virus brings a new main character with a desire for a revenge, a few new moves and the familiar setting of New York. We head to the Big Apple to see what all the fuss is about…

The first Prototype came at an unfortunate time. Along with it arrived InFamous and, while both sold well, the Sony-exclusive seemed to steal a lot of the limelight. However, InFamous 2 has come and gone and now the story of Alex Mercer and the Blacklight virus gets to shine on its own.

For Prototype 2, though, the spotlight is shifting slightly away from Mercer. He’s now playing the role of villain while Sgt. James Heller is stepping up to the lead, hoping to catch the public’s imagination in a way his predecessor struggled to.

While many fans enjoyed the pure power of Prototype’s combat, one of the major complaints levelled at the first game was that of story – and Alex Mercer’s personality in particular. Dave Fracchia, studio VP of technology at Radical Entertainment, even admitted that the overall feeling was that “Mercer was a dick.”

Now we’re getting a proper look into what makes Heller tick, starting with his return from a war overseas… only to find his wife and child have been killed by Mercer. We’ll even catch a glimpse of Heller before he gets turned into a shapeshifting murder machine by Mercer himself.

Prototype 2 doesn’t keep it quite as simple as that, though. A friend of Heller’s, a priest, trusts Mercer and tries to persuade Heller to do likewise. When they meet, Mercer denies killing the family and an uneasy alliance breaks out. It’s unclear whether the war between the two hinted at is just from the beginning of the game or things fall apart again, but at least there will be reasoning to it. It’s certainly a far more human story than a quest for revenge by an amnesiac clone of its creator, generated by a virus.

But even with a new protagonist, could the fact that the series is staying in New York affect the game? We saw what happened with Crackdown 2 when it didn’t move city and simply jazzed up its existing one. Unlike Ruffian’s return to Pacific City, Radical Entertainment have given Manhattan a huge graphical overhaul, something it was much in need of, and a new level of destructibility, which should make the combat feel that much more involving.

The art of fighting

All that said, Prototype’s forte was always its combat. How does that shape up in the new edition? Heller has a lot of the same abilities as the man who gave them to him – claws, blade arms and hammer-fists. That’s to be expected. But he has some new tricks up his sleeve as well. Gone is the rather useless musclemass ability, and the tendrils now act quite differently. Instead of just flailing around, they now attach to walls, stringing up bad guys, cars, even bits of scenery. It looks like some demented Spider-Man arrived and had some fun with his disgusting black and red web-shooters.

Then there’s the bio-bomb. Here Heller plants a bio-grenade on an unlucky subject and, after a few seconds it explodes, tendrils shooting off in every direction, grabbing other unlucky bystanders and vehicles and dragging them back to the point of origin in a crushing mess.

Vehicular combat has seen a few improvements, too – not so much in controlling them, but in fighting them. While before it was a case of ‘working’ or ‘exploded’ there’s a lot more range of destructibility now. Tail rotors can be ripped off from helicopters. Tank turrets are ripe for being torn off and used as a baseball bat. Of course, there are guns too. The violence-o-meter has been turned up to 11.

What about those we get to use blade-arms and bio-grenades against? The virus has learnt a few tricks itself for its second breakout. First are the Brawlers, which are easily the most brutal of the infected. A Brawler started like as a regular infected that went through a mutation giving it extra muscle mass, resulting in its being incredibly hard to take down. These foes also have the speed to keep up with vehicles, and can take one down with a good shoulder barge.

Elsewhere, Spiked Brawlers lack the speed of their previous form but make up for it with massive spikes! Then there’s the Juggernauts. These things are the tanks of the infected army. Huge monsters with rock-like skin and fists like hammers. Last, but by no means least, is the Flyer – the only infected that doesn’t seem to originate from a human form. Flying about in flocks, these things have a two metre wingspan and can take on helicopters.

As for Blackwatch and the military? The super-soldiers have been given a bit of an upgrade, but other than that it seems that they don’t have anything new in their arsenal this time around.

The first Prototype was a cracking game, full of visceral combat and shape-shifting superhero goodness. With the sequel Radical Entertainment look to address a lot of the previous game’s problems – like its lacklustre, uninvolving story – and improved them ten-fold. Let’s just hope they’ve moved the rest of the game along with them.

Prototype 2, from Activision and Radical Entertainment, will be released on April 27th for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

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