PS3 Review – Prototype 2

Activision and Radical Entertainment’s open-world action game Prototype 2 features a different kind of action, one reminiscent of the old days of Grand Theft Auto III‘s five-star wanted level insanity, when taking on the police was not only achievable, but all-out fun as well. Replace “police” with “evil soldiers and scientists,” then replace “taking on” with “annihilating,” and the basics of Prototype 2‘s gameplay come into focus. While not a deep game, the second installment of this super-powered action franchise does offer a brand of action that some gamers will find rewarding and nothing short of solid fun.

Prototype 2‘s story starts out with a nice degree of storytelling that almost feels like the opening sequence to an action movie. Players quickly meet Sergeant James Heller, a military man on his way home to his wife and daughter, who, like most everyone, are concerned about a new outbreak of the “Mercer Virus.” The plot quickly gets personal for Heller, and the first Prototype‘s protagonist easily persuades him to help take down anyone and everyone associated with the virus.

Unfortunately, it’s after the first few hours that the story begins to show a lack of depth. Gentek and Blackwatch are almost “ordinarily” evil, for lack of a better term — they enjoy hurting people, they don’t mind feeding people to infected bestial behemoths, and they never really show any inclination to do otherwise. Father Garcia, Heller’s main contact, begins the story as a sympathetic and conflicted figure. However, the more that the story progresses, the more that Garcia seemingly resigns himself to the fact that Heller is just going to kill people over and over again. Even Heller’s manhunt seems to lose some of its edge after a while, as he’s basically assigned to kill someone or destroy something in every single mission, in very similar ways.

Story isn’t Prototype 2‘s main draw, though — the gameplay is. Prototype 2‘s gameplay is similar in structure to that of Sony and Sucker Punch’s open-world superhero franchise inFAMOUS — go to a spot on the map, follow mission orders, and unleash some superpowers on some enemies. However, Prototype 2 begins deviation from inFAMOUS there, especially in the realm of restraint. Heller has no morality meter and suffers next to no consequences for attacking civilians. He’s a powerhouse and free to unleash any brand of destruction he can, without having to worry about powers or moral alignment changing. It’s a strange contrast to the nature we were introduced to, as he begins the game as a just, country-serving family man and has undergone no plot-driven change to make him a genocidal maniac.

Part of the core appeal of Prototype 2 is the fact that Heller is a powerhouse — he is so powered up that most enemies are little threat to him, at least by themselves. Heller is capable of so much damage that even when completely surrounded, the odds are never against him, which makes for some truly entertaining scenarios in which tanks and helicopters are effortlessly blown to pieces. The chaos that ensues when Heller uses his powers is gratifying, especially for fans of action games. A frequently recurring visual in Prototype 2 is Heller destroying everything in sight, consuming foes, and the enemy having no other choice but to continue to be destroyed and hurl more of the existing failing forces at Heller.

As Heller continues to upgrade his powers, though, Prototype 2 attempts to narrow the odds a bit by introducing more difficult enemies and increasing the numbers of enemies to nearly be swarms. Some of the enemies have QTE-style combat inputs required to defeat them. When more than a few of those kinds of enemies arrive in battle, players may find themselves in the midst of balancing the regular combat with the specifics of the QTE inputs for the enemies, which can prove to be a little frustrating.

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