It's amazing how many times New York has been the epicenter of many a disaster or confrontation in video games over the years. Nearly three years ago, New York was ground zero for a terrifying viral outbreak in Radical Entertainment's open world title, Prototype that featured shapeshifter Alex Mercer. Gamers get to pick up where they left off with a brand new anti-hero and Mr. Mercer, seemingly around every corner.
The main character this time around is one Sgt. James Heller who plans on seeking his revenge on Mercer and anyone that stands in his way. After his family is snuffed out by the outbreak, Heller has been volunteering himself to go in to the Red Zone mission after mission to meet his maker. While on one fateful mission, the team Heller is with is wiped out in an infected attack. During the fight Heller comes face to face with Alex Mercer and he begins his chase through an awesome introductory tutorial level that makes him a new Evolved player in Mercer's game.
For those who never played or perhaps never completed the original title you can quickly get caught up to speed thanks to a cool Blackwatch briefing video available on the main menu, and if you haven't played the original Prototype there are no worries, as Radical has rather brilliantly worked in learning the basic attack controls into the story as you wake up after succumbing to the virus, much like Mercer. What better way to start the game than having you escape a room with infected and human military trying to kill you to get the blood pumping. After you escape your captors you get another surprise visit from Alex who wants you to believe that he's not the bad guy everyone has made him out to be.
For those familiar with the original, picking up on the controls in Prototype 2 will be second nature as not much has changed from its predecessor as far as I could tell. The game still features over the top destruction and stylized blood letting by using attacks assigned to the Square and Triangle buttons. Utilizing those buttons and dodging attacks with the X Button will make your life as an Evolved a little easier. I also liked the dual nature of the attacks based on whether or not you hold down or tap the desired buttons.
You're going to run into some heavy opposition at some point in Prototype 2 and that is where collecting mutations and leveling up comes into play; often as a byproduct of doing side missions and finding collectibles. Like in the previous installment, Heller comes into new powers as the story progresses, such as the ridiculously uber powerful Hammerfist and my personal favorite tool of destruction, the claws. While the claws may not dish out the blunt force trauma of the Hammerfist or send out a spray of blood with the Blade Arm, they are extremely fast at laying in several hits before you dodge an attack. They are also great for singling out targets with a pounce attack when the L2 button is held.
One of my favorite things about Prototype 2 is the fact that every weapon can be upgraded by defeating and consuming specially marked infected targets around the city sections. Most of the time you will run into these targets while completing story or special Blacknet missions so you usually don't have to go too far out of your way to find them, which is fantastic. The story and all its content is definitely a lot more coherent and flows a lot better this time. Of all the added content in Prototype 2, the Blacknet missions are particularly the most valuable and should be sought out and completed as early as possible.
The Blacknet missions that you can find by accessing memories from your consuming abilities and/or Blackwatch terminals will give you much needed mutations such as faster run speeds and gliding distances. These Blacknet missions are usually done in phases that start by accessing the designated terminals and then hunting the objective to consume them for memories leading to the next phase. I particularly like the way that Radical has you "sniffing" out a hunted target. By running up buildings with the R2 button you can get a better view of the city section you're in and send out a sonar ping that will bounce back in a ripple effect from the target's location.
The NYZ (New York Zone) is a large city map that is broken up into three zones instead of one large sandbox like the previous title. The zones are aptly named Green, Yellow and Red and each has their own distinct look. The game starts you in the downtrodden Yellow zone where you find yourself walking around quarantine camps and metal shanties with a semi constant threat of infected to surface or me unleashed on the populous. As you progress you will find yourself in the Green zone with its more "pristine" look where Blackwatch and the government seem to have things under control. It's not until you hit the Red Zone that you realize just how screwed things can get in the NYZ, as troops are entrenched and turrets are at the ready for an infested attack at any moment.
As Prototype 2 is an open-world title, you are free to explore each zone once the story takes you there, and you can transport back and forth by hitching a ride via one of Blackwatch's helicopters between missions. In each zone there are smaller districts within the map that should be explored to find several collectibles such as blackboxes and field op groups to take out. I found myself looking for these almost as soon as I changed to a new Zone. There was one feature that Radical added that I wished I had realized sooner though. When you look at the collectible screen and highlight a desired district there are little radar pings that show up every few seconds or so. These are actually close proximities to what you’re trying to find, which is extremely useful.
I played the first Prototype when it came out and I have to say that that Prototype 2 received a huge overhaul in the visual department this time around. As I mentioned before each zone has its own look and level of chaos, and I really liked the contrast between the three, especially going directly from the green zone to the red. The PS3 runs at the seemingly customary 720p HD resolution compared to the 360's 1080p, but it looks really good, especially the draw distances. The only qualm I have is the somewhat lack of detail in the people of Prototype 2. The major players look good but the civvies seem a little plain, but given the fact that you can assume the identity of anyone of them they are there mainly as quick disguise ops, mass fodder, and to make the zones feel more alive, which they do really well. High altitudes have a bit of visual imparity when your climbing really tall buildings or using a helicopter once you gain the pilot ability due to fogging that can obscure traffic and pedestrian details, though I only ran into this problem later into the game.
The story elements are amongst my favorite parts in Prototype 2 because they are presented in a rather cool Frank Miller-style black and white cutscenes with these little bits of color like the reoccurring red theme in Mercer and Heller's outfits. I also really like the look of Heller, as he totally has that "I want to kick your ass" vibe compared to Mercer's sleek urban design. The voice acting, score and sound effects all play a big part in Prototype 2. I really liked the score with its highs and lows especially when, in the heat of battle, the music kicks it up a notch. The visceral sound effects in combat are awesome and help to accentuate the vast amount of carnage that you can unleash upon your enemies. I also liked Heller's voice actor as he does a really good job of sounding pissed all the time. Don't think he can't crack a joke though because he totally can.
Prototype 2 features a pretty decent 15+ hour storyline and that's not really counting the time spent searching for collectibles or doing Blacknet missions for those much needed upgrades. For those that pick up the limited RADNET Edition (the version that I'm reviewing) Activision is offering you 55 pieces of bonus content being rationed out over the next seven weeks. This content includes PS3 Themes, 20 new Events such as Collateral Damage and chopper races, 20 new Challenges, and even player skins and videos. There also a few weapons and mutation abilities and one in-game ultimate unlockable.
Prototype 2 is a sequel that far surpasses its predecessor with an interesting character, good storytelling, and a lot of gratuitous violence. I really enjoyed how the story and side objectives felt like one unified experience where everything was related to the character and his quest for revenge. Prototype 2 really drew me in this time around and I didn't want to put it down until it was over. And even when the story is over, there is a New Game+ mode with Insane difficulty tempting you to do it all again, plus you have that whole set of Radnet challenge missions accessible during the story or from their own menu option with Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals and leaderboards to compete with your friends . Whether you're a fan of the first game or just love a good bloody action game, Prototype 2 is a must own game for your PS3.