Prototype 2 Review
Sometimes, we need games like this. It offers very little in the way of challenge, pulls no punches in terms of brutality and vulgarity, and doesn’t have a brain in its gleefully sadistic head. It sort of tries to be serious with a storyline that reminds one of Resident Evil, but the gameplay dominates and empowers. We’re not always certain of the reasons behind our destruction and carnage, but we definitely know one thing: It’s a twisted, even addictive guilty pleasure.
Prototype 2 isn’t the best looking game you’ll ever see, but the visual presentation is so over-the-top that we rarely focus on the drawbacks. Clearly, Radical’s plan was to place the gamer into a fantastical yet still gritty and somewhat believable world, where our powers reign supreme and we never tire of executing our favorite unstoppable strikes. The screen will then erupt in a savage orgy of color. The only problem is that it isn’t refined; clipping and other graphical issues are tough to ignore, and the environment can appear muddy and hazy.
The sound is fine, although I got a little tired of Heller’s constant anger. The guy only has one mood, apparently, and therefore I have to assume he has a one-sided personality. It works for the atmosphere, I suppose, but…well, you get my point. The other voice performances are decent and the effects can really smash into your speakers. The balance is a little off, though, and like the graphics, the audio doesn’t have the professional gloss we’re used to seeing in big-budget blockbusters. But yeah, it suffices and again, the focus is squarely on the action.
The city is under quarantine due to a viral outbreak of some kind, and the military is cracking down big time. We learn through the course of the story that in fact, the outbreak is a cover; the military force is only there to conduct bioweapon research and the citizens are nothing more than lab rats. It’s a legitimately frightening and depressing environment, and one that’s just begging for something totally insane. One can sense the continual stress throughout the metropolis; it’s as if the town itself is waiting for an explosive rebellion, and you're just itching to deliver.
Enter Sgt. James Heller, endowed with ridiculous otherworldly abilities, which give him the automatic edge over anything the military might throw at him. You don’t really need to have played the first Prototype to understand the story because really, there isn’t much to grasp. That’s to be expected, though, and Heller’s skills are just so damn entertaining that it’s tough to stop playing. The control is a little loose and the camera isn’t always reliable, but those are small irritations that dwindle and even disappear during particularly satisfying rampages.
As I said above, there really is no challenge. Very little can get you into trouble and escaping from the military is as simple as adopting the body of a civilian. Plus, with each passing mission, you get stronger, which is almost unnecessary given the weak resistance you routinely face. Eventually, Heller gains control of a bunch of brutes (enemies he used to fight in the first title), and utilizing this vaunted Pack Leader ability, hordes of faceless enemies fall in a flurry of bone-crunching activity. However, the pacing feels a little weird sometimes, as the cut-scenes almost seem to intrude.
It’s nice to see flashes of lost memory – regained as you progress – add flavor to the story and there’s a theme of revenge and redemption in there somewhere. But it comes out too late and with the almost complete lack of a challenge, we’re left with constant bashing and slaying. Now, for me, this would usually be a problem. As I said, though, it never seems to get tiresome and in truth, I’d call this a stress-reliever…just the opposite kind of therapy one would receive from Flower. This is all about venting and I like the idea of playing as a God.
The open-world sandbox landscape is appealing and stuffed with missions and collectibles. I had almost as much fun exploring as I did with inFamous 2; it’s just a blast to bounce around, knowing that almost nothing can touch you, your mind reeling with ideas: “Okay, how should I go about this…? Leap with my claw from the rooftop? Go a little stealthy? Bring in the help? Oh wait, I can pilot some vehicles around now…” You don’t have to be pinpoint accurate and you don’t have to worry that you don’t have the requisite power and ability.
The controls aren’t perfect and can become a little frustrating at times, and the stupidity of your enemies can go from comical to boring. That much is true. There’s also the storyline that, while hard-hitting at first, isn’t really fulfilling despite the amount of effort put into those impressive cut-scenes. The bottom line is that you have to turn your mind off for this one; provided you can accept the minor problems and aren’t disappointed at the lack of plot depth and character development, you should have tons of crazy fun. You’re off the leash…go for it.
Prototype 2 isn’t difficult to analyze. With such a heavy emphasis on the violent action and just about everything else fading into the background, the experience survives on intensity and shameless entertainment. Technically, it isn’t exactly overwhelming, and there are other issues that pop up here and there. But with a large variety of attacks, a nice open world, and plenty of reason to experiment with your absurd abilities, you can really lose yourself in this dark, bloody, undeniably titillating world. Just don’t expect much beneath the surface.
The Good: High fun factor. Sense of power is unparalleled. Open environment and diverse skills encourage experimentation. Visceral and in-your-face. Acts as a viable stress-reliever. Collectibles add longevity.
The Bad: Technical elements aren’t that great. Story is a little disappointing. Some fickle control issues. Virtually no challenge.
The Ugly: “Oh, just about anything particularly grisly that you can perform is ‘ugly.’ …but in a good way.”
4/25/2012 Ben Dutka