Nearly three years ago, Prototype hit shelves and delivered a really open-world experience that added a lot more drama to the narrative than usual for a sandbox game and a fast-paced parkour style to get around instead of using vehicles. It also found itself in a friendly rivalry with the PS3-exclusive Infamous as a result. But with that game's sequel a distant memory for many PS3 owners, Prototype 2 sees the series return with a better chance to stand out, while bringing with it a new protagonist and the same kind of crazy action the original had.
As James Heller, you're an ex-military guy out for revenge on whoever killed your wife and daughter. Like it’s predecessor, you go around a city to handle the missions given to you by an ally. Before, it was Alex's sister Dana, now, it's Father Guerra - one of the few people the newly-infected James Heller trusts. Both were out for revenge, and now Alex finds himself in the role of antagonist due to his infecting of James, who also wants to destroy the corrupt Gentek and Blackwatch organizations that are killing the citizens of New York Zero.
Like before, the developers' past with the Spider-Man and Incredible Hulk franchises is apparent with Heller's leaping skills and ability to run up buildings, but now you can do HULK SMASH attacks, use some Chains of Olympus-esque whips, and a bit of Venom is thrown into the mix as vile tendrals can be used against foes, with some Wolverine-esque claws coming out to play as well. Not only can you just slice folks up with them, but also do a lunge attack, and even use his feral sense as a makeshift radar - although actually finding folks with it is a bit of a pain. Similarly, aiming doesn't work all that well either. Thankfully, everything else is a breeze to control, and slicing up enemies is a joy.
Also, as was the case with the original, the storyline is pretty compelling, but is hurt by all the swearing. I think it would've been better for the story to do what Infamous did and push what the “T” rating lets you get away with instead of just throwing a ton of swearing in. It makes it hard to take Heller seriously at times when every other word is an expletive, although it is at times amusing - like when he's getting a verbal description of how to operate a keybard mid-rant. Thankfully, the cast of characters you meet is pretty good, especially the ones that stick around. Everyone is well acted and it really allows you to care about them.
The core game is a lot of fun, but is hurt by falling into a pattern of getting a message, going to a place, killing a whole bunch of folks in one of a handful of ways, then moving on, gaining a level and/or a new power. It's a fine pattern in the sense that it keeps the pace relatively fast, but does make the gameplay wear a bit thin during an all-day playthrough. There isn't a lot of variety, although first edition copies come with Radnet bonus stages that provide a welcome change of pace for a little while - although they pale in comparison to what was offered with InFamous 2's mission creator tool. The campaign's formula is fun, but nothing in it is really new. It feels very similar to the first game, even with the addition of things like stealth consuming that adds a small amount of strategy to things.
Although even then, most of the time you “need” to use it, you can get by with just going all-out and not getting bonus XP to use towards upgrades. There are a ton of those available, and do allow you to unleash Hell more efficiently, although you'll easily be able to make up for any lost bonuses by just going around and consuming folks. While the game does play a lot like its predecessor, it also plays better. The controls are a bit more responsive, and I prefer the redone control layout to the original one as well. Like Infamous 2, the sequel stays close to what made the first game work, and tightens up some issues as well.
Graphically, Protoype 2 offers up some impressive visuals. The game starts off with a bang showing the scale of you versus a gigantic mutant creature, and then progresses into largely black and white cutscenes with only a smattering of color ala the Sin City movie. The main game looks a little better than the first, although I doubt it'll blow anyone away. I was impressed by the sheer size of the world, a pretty good draw distance, and a lack of slowdown no matter how fast you ran up stuff or just acted crazy, although when things get really hectic, the camera tends to get stuck behind things. It's not a huge issue since even if it causes a death, there are frequent checkpoints, but it's worth mentioning. Attack and running animations look good, but some of the consumption animations just flat-out don't happen - you'll still gain health and their form, but it just looks weird.
The audio's pretty good overall. As I said before, I really dug the voice acting in the game, even if the script was a bit too swear-heavy to take things seriously at times. Everyone did a good job with their role and no one had a voice that didn't fit the character. The sound effects for slicing, shooting, and general mayhem are great and the music has an intense beat to it that fits the action, but isn't likely to be remembered once you turn the game off.
Overall, I'd say Prototype 2 is a worthy follow-up to the original game. It improves on some key areas, has an intriguing plot, very good voice acting, and is a blast to play. However, its formula can get old after awhile and there are some nagging control and camera issues as well. It's a bit lacking in replay value, but is a must-have for anyone who enjoyed the first game. Others may want to wait for a price drop, and anyone who's remotely interested in it should at least rent it. Multi-system owners should be aware that the PS3 version requires half a gig of hard drive space, so if you're low on space, it might be better to go with the 360 version.
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of Prototype 2 provided by Activision.