Sandbox, Action, Hack-and-slash, 3rd Person, RPG growth system
A worthy successor to the original Prototype
PC, PlayStation (3 and 4), Xbox (360 and One)
Prototype was a game that I owned on the 360. It was an enjoyable game set in New York. Having played Spider-Man: Web of Shadows I thought this would be a bloodier take of what the infected metropolis might endure. It’s regrettable that I cannot get Prototype to play on my PC. However, Prototype 2 has filled the space nicely.
After the events of Prototype (for which there is a Recap option on the main menu of Prototype 2), the Blacklight virus had been brought under control. A new outbreak, dubbed “The Mercer Virus”, assailed the New York approximately a year later. Contractor James Heller, who lost his family, did whatever he had to do to sate his vengeance. He was eventually hired by a group to enter to The Red Zone. Here, the virus had the greatest foothold and was presumed all but lost. Two months later Heller had a promising lead to follow and indeed found Mercer. It seems as though Mercer had his eyes on Heller. Their meeting changed Heller, but didn’t stop his drive for vengeance. He was now like Mercer, a weapon imbued with the Blacklight virus.
The Prototype games did not set out to tackle heavy cerebral concepts. The setting of the world is very well rendered. I have never been to New York, mind you, but everything about the graphics works. Nothing about this version of New York is calm or idyllic, and it is reflected in the characters. They are very responsive. When you shape shift in front of people, they scream and run away. People at a greater distance, in seeing a throng running towards them tend to make way with puzzled expressions. The voice acting is solid as well. This is good because many of the non-critical NPCs have their faces covered in one way or another.
James Heller himself did not gain much depth as a character, at least to me. He is a vengeful family man, and I’ve been played that before. I oft comment on vulgar word choice, and I will do so here. Heller has a mouth on him, but by and large so do the rest of the military and armed forces in the game. I have no idea how accurate that may be, but this was consistent in and of itself.
In a few ways James Heller was successfully portrayed as a harder man from a harder world than Alex Mercer. This is actually reflected in some of the Power expressions.
The previous game and a very satisfying twist, and there wasn’t any way to replicate that, I think. In part, I was looking for something like that due to the prior game. But none came. Heller is a straightforward man. This game is a straightforward experience. In this way, it is consistent.
Isn’t this the way of games? If themes are not strong, the mechanics are. Prototype 2, the whole way around, hums like a dream. The entire time I played the game I do not think there was a critical failure. Everything linked well together. New side missions and weapons had a chance to shine so you could practice with them. Everything was conveyed so that if you wished to find it, you could.
In an improvement over the original (as near as I can remember), the leveling in this game is not just straight experience point gain. There are traditional levels, but there are enhancements dubbed “Mutations” that improve attack, defense, and many other aspects to how to play the game. The lions’ share of these are earned from side missions. Regular leveling opens some similar and cumulative boons onto you too. I always enjoy this sort of two-pronged growth. For example, if a main mission you are on has an experience bonus for being stealthy but you are finding particular difficulty with there may be a line of side missions that reward you with a related perk. Additionally, enemies in the environment will sometimes spawn with different icons. Many of these, if consumed, will earn you a somewhat random bonus. Consuming Infected can grant you a bonus to any of your primary weapons, infantry will up your pick-up weapon damage (guns, rocket launchers), while pilots and specialist can increase your survivability with their vehicle.
The heart of this game. Many powers attributed to your play as Alex Mercer return in the second game. Heller gets unique tricks of his own. In this way, there is both something old and something new.
The first power you gain, the claws are quick and effective against all enemies. More advanced enemy types will require you stun them or position yourself in a non-defended portion of their body, but this is true of many powers.
Your first ranged ability, these are useful for keeping distance. Additionally, the Black Hole ability will pull surrounding debris and Infected to the target. This can give you the chance to get some distance from particularly persistent foes.
For when you need to hit something hard and heavy. These are useful for the heftier Infected and any tanks or APCs giving you guff. They also have a punishing AoE attack that comes standard and saved my hide via crowd control many a time.
This tool boasts greater power than the Claws and some of the crowd control from using Tendrils. However, by the point in time I got this ability the other two aforementioned powers were nearly maxed out. This made the Blade lose some of its luster to me.
The last power you acquire, and it is the superior power for taking out helicopters quickly. It is also useful for pulling Infected people at you from a distance, which can make late and New Game Plus feeding much easier. It also seems that Whipfist acts to expand your grabbing range even when not equipped.
A power I remember fondly from the original Prototype. This is an area ability that has a very high damage potential. This is one of two abilities that require a meter to reach a threshold before activating.
Later in the game there are a really annoying enemy set that will just be everywhere you go. During on outing I had three of them taunting me in a cut scene. Rather than playing fair, I set Devastator to active as soon as I could. All three bars were used, and as they were standing well in the blast radius they were all brought to critical health immediately. After that point I consumed them, and each one refilled a full bar out of three. I defeated them in one fell swoop and lost nothing for it. This may seem overpowered, but it is balanced by needing to be built up first.
The other ability using your Critical mass gauge, this summons a group of Brawler type infected to you. Allowed to attack on their own they will go after any and everything. But if you target something you can have them focus your assault. This was a wonderful balancing measure to the Devastator. One is quick and in your immediate area. This is great for damage over time, and allows you some strategy. Do you let them attack as they will while you focus on a big bad? Do you work your way up the food chain until only the big bad is left and go to town? Normally with special abilities on a gauge I do not use them frequently as “I never know when I will REALLY need this!” And before I had the Pack Leader trait I didn’t use the Devestator much for this very reason. But this versatility allowed me options.
Perhaps the most useful ability. At the very least I enjoy it a great deal. Alex Mercer had a shield ability which I never remember using. It allowed him to be mobile, but was unidirectional and could be chipped away at. James Heller, meanwhile, hunkers into his shields and is nigh invincible from all directions.
There is an area called The Dead Zone, a stay over from the previous game, that is subject to aerial bombardment for anything entering it. Heller’s Shields will protect him even from this scripted auto-death as long as they are raised. But as they render you immobile you’re stuck there. I’d still put this up as a win for Heller. It hard to beat Deus Ex Machina.
When I said earlier that some of the Powers differences from the last game reflected the respective protagonist, this Power came to mind. Heller’s Shield is more wholly encompassing. It is large, spiked when improved, and leaves no openings. When actively guarding Heller is practically invincible. Mercer’s defenses crack fairly easily. However, he had an Armored Form that Heller lacks. Heller is active and absolute. Mercer was passive and needed focus. It is small, but if looked at this way it can provide some character depth.
The only DLC available with this game, seems to be designed uniquely. It scatters various challenges around the city sections as well as adds challenges that can be completed at any time. The event instances will provide one time bumps of experience for each medal level. Bronze, Silver, Gold, and a hidden Platinum. Twenty-five in total, they are broken down into sets of five each. Bonuses are granted upon completion of a set of five.
The challenges have some variety. Some are foot races across rooftops to checkpoints, others are throwing barrels in incinerators. It is a wise reuse of in-game assets. Some are simply infinite horde modes. They do make use of the latest save files’ abilities. So if you don’t have the Mutation to throw objects further you may want to acquire that and return to these challenges later on.
The interesting element is that these are saved outside of all your save files. As such, if you complete them you will have access to these bonuses when available in New Games. Some story progress challenges lock out the bonuses from the start, but you will not have to complete all the challenges for every file. This also means you can’t get the experience from them a second time. Another aspect that I like is that you only need to get a bronze on the challenges for sake of completion. It’s not calling for gold level performances. The only thing that would make this better is if there were an achievement check for their permanence like the first Mass Effect game, so they would still be available if you changed your machine. The way Radnet was executed elevated my score a notch.
A quick note to the bonus mutations from Radnet:
Fast Learner gives a 25% increase to experience points gained from killing opponents. The sooner gained, the better.
Ravenous raises the “low health” threshold for consuming enemies. Useful for mopping up the bigger enemies more quickly.
Security Blanket regenerates 1% of your health a second while you have your shields raised. As it is, there are perhaps only five instances in the game in which you can’t heal to full with immunity.
Weightless allows you to release the glide button and press it again to gain more altitude. This can be used for quick traversal and some strategic placement.
Health Pack grants summoned Brawlers a 25% boost of health atop other bonuses they have.
The game has a New Game Plus that will let you keep all of your Powers, Mutations, and other upgrades. This will work from one mode to any other I believe. I went from Hard to Easy so I could achievement hunt. I can key up either of those saves for Insane difficulty. There are no achievements for beating Insane difficulty, so that is a personal choice if you want to go for it. You’ll get the whole of the story just following the main missions. Outside of perhaps getting Platinum medals for Radnet, there is not much to do once you beat the game.
As I have said a few times, Prototype 2 is a solid game. I feel like they took lessons from the original and came around with another worthwhile offering. The game was released in 2012 and the price point is still a bit high. As the game is assembled so seamlessly it isn’t unwarranted. But there are hosts of other games on the market that $50 for the whole package could cover or take a bite out of. Outside of Radnet being saved outside of all save files, it does nothing spectacular. But it doesn’t do anything poorly either.