Superhero games have been in the spotlight over the last few years. While the subgenre didn’t have the best reputation in the past, it certainly picked up speed with titles such as Batman Arkham Asylum and Infamous. Activision’s take on the concept, 2009’s Prototype, was a mixed bag. While the idea sounded amazing on paper, it failed to truly deliver the memorable experience we all hoped for. How does its sequel compare? We’re about to find out!
The story in Prototype 2 is a fairly simple one. You are James Heller, a former U.S. Marine Sergeant who saw his life destroyed when his family was killed by Alex Mercer, the protagonist from the first game. After getting superpowers similar to those of Mercer himself, Heller ends up going on a quest for vengeance against his new nemesis. Sounds familiar? You may have heard that story a million times before in other games, and this one brings little to the table in terms of fresh excitement. Using every trick and cliché in the book, P2 probably won’t blow you away with its script. Despite the marketing campaign suggesting an emotional roller coaster and true sense of drama, the story never elevates to anything more than a mere justification for the gameplay. It’s not exactly a bad thing either, as the gameplay is incredibly satisfying.
"The hugely satisfying gameplay makes up for most of its mistakes."
The gameplay is where the meat of the experience lies. More specifically, the game relies on the great sense of empowerment that the player will feel while controlling the protagonist. Running up vertical walls, jumping higher than the tallest buildings, and bouncing off skyscrapers to glide down to an enemy base, James Heller does it all. You will truly feel unstoppable at times, such as when you find yourself at the mercy of dozens of enemies and cut through them like sticks of butter in a matter of seconds. As with any good superhero game, the powers will improve as you play the game. The ability to jump higher, run faster, and fight better are great, but these improvements, however, are rarely substantial. You start out the game with so many powers that it can affect the difficulty of the experience. Prototype 2 is simply too easy! It may be the price to pay to make the player feel empowered, but a little more balance wouldn’t hurt as I rarely felt like I needed to use skills and strategy to go through the game’s missions. A noteworthy ability that James Heller does have and needs to use in more difficult and interesting missions is the ability to “consume” people and gain their physical appearance as well as their memories. This mechanic creates situations where you will have to sneak around some guards and consume them to gain security clearance and infiltrate their headquarters. The idea is a great one, and involves a lot more strategy than simply having to cut through hordes of enemies and forcing your way in.
The missions are varied enough to keep things from becoming too redundant, but a little more creativity would have been welcome. Not only does it often feel like we have done the same thing in other games many times before, but it also feels like the game is missing a lot of opportunities. With such satisfying gameplay mechanics, more extravagant and unique missions wouldn’t have hurt the overall package. The tone of the game is fairly serious, but I wouldn’t have minded a few concessions story-wise in order to improve the fun factor.
With only 29 story missions and a tame difficulty curve, Prototype 2 clocks in at about 8 to 10 hours, which is pretty disappointing considering the usual length of other open-world games. Of course, roaming around the city aimlessly can be fun, and there are a few side-missions that some players will want to try out, but the main problem is that they aren’t very compelling. Featuring simple objectives such as knocking down as many immobile enemies as possible by jumping on them from the top of a building, these mini-games simply failed to engage. The fact that you can’t seem to exit out of them without completing them also turned out to be a minor annoyance for me, as I sometimes found myself accidentally activating these side-missions while I was on my way to more interesting objectives. Overall, I would have appreciated a little bit more content to occupy myself in between missions. While playing games such as Sucker Punch’s Infamous 2, I often found myself getting sidetracked from my main objective as I got distracted by other interesting things to do in the city. It simply did not happen to me while playing Prototype 2.
On the technical side of things, the game offers an honest presentation, but remains a mixed bag. While the character models look good and the textures are sharp enough, the draw distance is atrocious, the animations are subpar, and the design isn’t all that interesting. As a result of these flaws, the city isn’t that compelling to explore, and the environments aren’t varied enough to encourage players to roam around for hours. The draw distance being so poor is unfortunate, since you’ll spend most of your time up high, unable to see where exactly you’re going. The sound design is competent without being stellar; the same can be said about the voice acting (though some of the lines spoken by characters can be unintentionally funny at times).
Overall, despite the flaws, I found Prototype 2 to be a blast to play through. The hugely satisfying gameplay makes up for most of its mistakes. However, with uneven visuals, a cliché-ridden story, and an unsatisfying amount of content, we can’t help but think that with a bit more polish, P2 could have ended up being a fantastic game. Unfortunately, it simply remains a good one as it never reaches its full potential.
Release date : 2012-04-24
Publisher : Activision
Developer : Radical Entertainment
Gameplay : Action
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