Sunday, 29 April 2012

Review: Prototype 2

As you may have heard recently the sequel to 2009's gorefest Prototype hit shelves this week past and has been getting fair reviews overall.  Looking around at my regular review sites it seems 7 is the score to fit the bill for Prototype 2, and to be honest I feel its a tad unfair on the game looking at it from purely a sequel point of view.
Meet Sgt.James Heller.  He is very angry

So if you haven't played Prototype here is the story in brief.  A deadly mutagenic virus breaks out on Manhatten island in 2009 resulting a massive loss of human life and almost the entire world.  The virus is released by a man named Alex Mercer, who while working for the virus's creators Gentek, discovers the horrific past of the company he works for and also that its strings are being pulled by an elite military force known as Blackwatch.  Mercer becomes the physical manifestation of the virus and helps to contain the outbreak and prevent Blackwatch from wiping Manhatten off the map.  Mercer goes into hiding while Blackwatch clean up the mess.  A year later the virus returns and infects all of Manhatten at a deadly pace turning the entire island into the red zone.  Our protagonist James Heller loses his wife and child to the virus and wants nothing more than the death of Alex Mercer.  Heller finds Mercer in the red zone and after a brief battle is himself turned into a Prototype to help Mercer get revenge on Blackwatch.

If you have played the previous game then the controls are virtually the same save for a few new moves and slight alterations here and there, you will not find it difficult to adjust.  For anyone new to the slaughter then the controls are fairly simple.  Heller has two modes basically, one being his traversal of the city, which is incredibly easy since you just hold down the right trigger/R2 to enter into a sprint that automatically hops cars, runs up the side of buildings and keeps you mobile regardless of the obstacle.  Jumping while sprinting allows Heller to leap huge heights and pressing sprint again will allow him to glide for a short distance.  Combat controls are a single button press, with attacks changing based on short taps or long presses of the button.  The game does a good job of introducing new controls and attacks as you unlock them, and the in story tutorial is fool proof so you don't have to worry about returning to help screens and the such.
Tendrils are one of the new abilities available to Heller

The world is broken down into three distinct sections, rather than being one large island like Prototype.  Each zone is smaller but more detailed and unique in style.  The yellow zone is the starter zone and is infected but not lost yet.  Blackwatch use the yellow zone as a test ground for new virus strains and weapons testing.  The green zone is the safe zone where the infection hasn't broken out yet, although Blackwatch fight a costant battle to prevent this.  The red zone is all that remains of the previous games map and is now completely overrun with the infection.  This is where Mercer makes his lair and plans his next move against blackwatch.  Missions are spread across these areas and also hide new powers and side missions to improve Hellers skills.

Prototype 2 is incredibly violent much like its predecessor.  Using your claws for example will slice human enemies into pieces, tendrils will pull enemies apart and blades bisect.  A new shield ability allows Heller to deflect incoming missles with a simple press of a trigger button at the right time.  Vehicles can be weaponised, meaning you can tear off a rocket pod from a helicopter or TOW launcher from an APC etc. and then wield the weapon for massive damage.  You can also uppercut helicopters into oblivion, tear off tank turrets and smash the tank with them for an instant kill.  Its no secret that the game allows you to be an unstoppable killing machine, able to take massive amounts of punishment and some may think that makes the game a little boring, but its this level of leniency that creates these great moments during a fight.
Slice and dice with the improved blade skill

Enemies come in two flavours.  Blackwatch flavour is a mix of modern military and high tech equipment and units, such as brutes who prefer to grapple Heller than shoot him.  Infected flavour is a mix of zombie like humans who have been infected with the virus and are changing into new forms and monstous creatures such as Brawlers, which resemble skinless cat like monsters that can follow Heller where ever he goes.  There is another enemy type, but explaining that spoils the story.  All enemies can be taken down with simple brute force, but tougher enemies have patterns and counter moves that need to be used to effectively defeat them.  If you build up enough mass which is gained by absorbing foes, you can activate a devastator attack, which is a massive screen clearing ability, that will kill everything around you.

One of the main features of Prototype and its sequel is the ability to consume targets.  Consuming soldiers stealthily will allow Heller to sneak into bases to consume base commanders or people of importance.  The last form taken will be stored alongside Heller's main form so you can switch between when needed.  Again a tutorial scenario shows how this can be used to avoid military helicopters and ground vehicles, and many missions will require you to exit alert status to end them so its useful to have a military disguise to quickly escape your pursuers.  of course you can also just consume pedestrians if need be and walk around as a homeless guy or business woman if thats what floats your boat.  It can sometimes be amusing to start punting soldiers as a dock worker just for the visual humour.
Uppercutting choppers is pretty cool

Consuming is also necessary to regain health quickly.  Most human opponents give a small amount of health, while larger foes give a substantial health boost when absorbed.  Some infected creatures will give Heller upgrades to his natural weapons.  Absorbing Brawlers marked with an arm flexing its muscle will increase Heller's claw ability, allowing him to do more damage and attack faster.  It would have been nice to see the claws change a little in appearance as they get stronger, or your shields to become bigger and more reinforced as they improve.

The previous Prototype awarded EP or evolution points for virtually any action taken in the game, and as Mercer upgraded the more EP was required.  It could take a long while of mindless killing to simply unlock every upgrade.  Prototype 2 changes this by introducing a kind of level system instead, and earning EP like experience will increase Heller's level.  EP is now awarded for completing missions and absorbing marked targets in the world.  Each level allows Heller to increase one attribute such as movement, health, mass, vehicle etc. and as you put points into it you gain increased bonuses.  Improving Hellers movement will allow him to jump higher, run faster and glide longer.
Blackwatch have changed alot since prototype

When you are in free roam and able to move around the three zones, you can take part in side activities.  The main one is side missions, which involve absorbing an important target such as a scientist and then hacking into the blackwatch network.  This then starts a mission which ranges from killing military personnel, stealing supplies, clearing infected lairs or absorbing targets.  Completing these tasks unlock perks.  Perks can improve Hellers combat skills, movement, consuming abilities and powers.  Other side tasks include wiping out field teams, which is simple enough and searching for blackboxes.  Blackboxes reveal more of the story through radio communications and feels very reminiscient of Infamous' drop box side mission. 

Graphically Prototype 2 is a massive improvement over prototype.  This is expected given the three year gap between the two games.  The map has become smaller overall, but far more detailed and unique.  Buildings are more varied in their appearance rather than being the massive cut and paste blocks of the past.  Civilians are far more detailed and varied again from the bland masses of Prototype.  Blackwatch now sport more sci-fi inspired equipment, with glowing blue lights on their gear, yet still wield assault rifles.  The world now has a more dirty, gritty look, emphasising the slum/concentration camp look of the game.  Killing enemies showers the area in gore and blood and the aftermath of a battle looks more like a abattoir than a city street.  Character models might not look like Crysis or even GTA, but the game is still nice to look at.  The new weather effects add to the atmosphere and the day and night cycle is improved.  There is still fogging to hide the draw distance of the game, but really this isn't that big a deal since all open world games use this to hide this technical limitation.
See that minigun?  Now you can rip it off and use it yourself

Sound wise, Prototype 2 is decent.  Heller spews swear words like its going out of fashion which has drawn some criticism, but to be honest it fits.  If you were an ex US marine hell bent on killing the monster who is responsible for your family being killed, I don't think you would be calling him a cad or rotter.  Heller's voice actor puts across the anger well and probably puts in the best performance in the game considering the material they work with.  The rest of the voice cast is ok, but nothing brilliant, its a shame they didn't get Barry Pepper to return to voice Mercer.  The combat sounds on the other hand are pretty good.  The squishing of enemies, slashing and explosions all work well and the game really comes into its own with these.  I can't comment on the soundtrack since thinking about it I really struggle to remember any music.

Overall Prototype 2 plays it safe by staying to its tried and true controls and combat that made Prototype so much fun.  Yes its like playing Prototype, but all sequels play like their original such as God of War, Riven, Dynasty Warriors, Grand Theft Auto and many many others.  Sequels improve on what made the original so much fun.  There is enough new material here to keep the game fresh and if you liked the original then you will like this.  For newbies, this title will require no previous experience to get into and the game has a story recap for you anyway if you need it.  I really enjoyed it and hope to see a threequel in the future.

SCORE 8.5/10


Post a Comment