Traditionally when the mainstream media picks a game to focus on over video game violence, they usually choose the likes of Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. The most popular titles are put on the chopping block, whether they deserve the harsh criticism or not. For the most part, the criticism is not warranted. When I think of a game to focus on in this scenario, a game like Prototype 2 comes to the forefront. With its brutal violence, constant use of abrasive language, and largely hidden sexual nature, Prototype 2 is not a game for everyone. Whether you feel these characteristics are necessary for artistic expression will unfortunately be a huge judge of whether you enjoy your experience with this game.
From the get-go, Prototype 2 makes it clear that this is an adult game. The opening cut scene establishes a harsh reality in New York Zero, the game’s devastating take on The Big Apple. With infection spreading and a father on a tour duty, helpless to protect his family, the game sets a scene that it never really follows through on. Once our serviceman and main character James Heller discovers his family has been murdered by the “Mercer Virus” and unexpectedly infected by Alex Mercer himself, Heller storms into a world of destruction, killing anything and everything that stand in the way of finishing off the game’s villain. It is through this tour of destruction that the game takes a disturbing turn.
Instead of following through on this emotional opening and offering a compelling story of revenge, Prototype 2 instead becomes a cesspool of vulgarity and failed jokes. Sure, there is a ton of revenge, but it is all linked together by awful bits of story. Heller’s foul mouth is never silenced and the chauvinistic military tough-guys that litter the game spout colourful comments that will make even the most hardened veteran cringe. This relentless storm stands out more than it should for a game of this caliber. Hearing an NPC soldier say something along the lines of “Hey, those infected women are pretty hot if you put a bag over their heads” made my stomach turn. Why would a game with so much potential stoop so low dialog-wise? Its at this point that it becomes clear the game is more interested in creating a distorted sense of “grit” than telling a worthwhile story.
To be fair, the cut scenes are rather well done and do add quite a bit to the game. Certain characters and their adventures along side Heller — such as Father Guerra — also show a glimmer of story telling ability from the developers. It’s unfortunate though that this is all overshadowed by a pile of immature responses and awful one-liners. Overall, the less-than stellar story of the game can be chalked-up to James Heller being a misguided character. Going from caring military father to deranged, vulgarity-spewing maniac was just a bad decision. The game could have been much grittier if Heller’s actions held more weight from him being an average father forced to avenge his family using newly developed, super-human powers. Instead, they simply pushed the character over the edge and created an average, unstable video game “tough guy”.
Fortunately, Prototype 2 is able to pick itself back up with its outstanding gameplay. There is no denying that Radical Entertainment knows how to make an open world game that is both expansive and enjoyable. Jumping, sprinting, and gliding across NYZ as James Heller is always a great experience. Exploration is complimented with a limited amount of collectibles that give the player something extra to do without bogging the gameplay down with hundreds of rudimentary pickups. At times all the jumping is stopped by a slight glitch or two, but none were game-breaking in my experience. A few jumps here or there will usually get you out of any glitchy situation.
Combat in the game is another stand-out. Fast and fluid is the name of this game. Mowing down enemies with Heller’s various abilities and power ups is undeniably fun. You would have to be a bitter stuck-up to not get at least the slightest bit of entertainment from viciously obliterating the troops, scientists, and pedestrians that populate NYZ. This violence is where the game shines and should have been the developer’s focus for creating a grimy scenario, instead of the heavy doses of intense language and questionable quotes. After slicing, dicing, smashing, and consuming thousands of NPCs, I have only one complaint: things can get very hectic. For the most part, these hectic scenarios are what make the game. However, there is nothing more frustrating in the game than trying to focus your attack on one enemy and having your target change without warning due to a crowding of enemies. If another Prototype game is in the works, Radical will have to either limit the amount of enemies, or, in my opinion, the much better solution of improving the aim focus system.
At the core of Prototype 2 is the game’s missions. Although there is an entire city — with three zones — to explore, the game is nothing without its missions. Unfortunately the majority of these missions are not so hot. Most missions offer something compelling through promotion of a new ability or something totally unique, which is awesome. What’s not so awesome is that the game relies far too heavily on its consumption system. With every NPC, the player has the option of having Heller consume them and take their memories, abilities, weapons, and appearance. This is a great way to create a few mission situations. However, the game uses it for just about every mission scenario. At some point in nearly every mission Heller is tasked with finding a particular NPC type, consuming one, and entering some form of building or laboratory. What’s interesting at first quickly becomes tiresome through overuse. The game has a lot of interesting ideas floating through the missions, but the constant use of consumption severely overshadows what’s great with what’s bad.
Graphically, the game is superb. The city of NYZ really comes alive as Heller trashes it. The amount of enemies on the screen and heavy action with no frame rate slowdown is amazing. There are a few graphical hitches here and there, specifically with Heller falling through environments. But for the most part the game stays strong in the graphical department. It won’t blow you away with its visuals, but the game does a fine job of creating a believable city then destroying it, all with a steady frame rate.
Another strong point for the game is its use of audio. Although Heller’s language will make you cringe most of the time, his voice acting is quite well done, as with all the NPCs in the game. While exploring there are times background music will pop-in, but none of it is ever distracting. It’s nice when it comes in and often leaves you wondering why it doesn’t come in more often. Solid audio all around.
Once all of the missions have been completed, the game does offer some replay value. It will take a while to fully upgrade Heller and his abilities. Various events and sidemissions spread across the game will also help keep players entertained. Those looking for additional replay value will find plenty more in the game’s RADNET service, which comes free with new purchases of the game. Although there are a healthy serving of sidemissions and additional content, I feel that it is lacking a bit for an open world game. But to be fair, the game is already a little cluttered as-is. Those looking to spend just as long after the credits role collecting various items and maxing out Heller may be a little disappointed. But for the average player, Prototype 2 offers the right amount of replay value.
It is unfortunate that a game like Prototype 2 is overshadowed by a misguided main character, lackluster story, and repetitious missions. With fantastic, action-packed gameplay, outstanding visuals, and solid audio, the game could have been amazing. Instead, the game will likely wallow in mediocrity, all capitalized by its preventable downfalls. Radical has many lessons to learn from this game. Those looking for a great open-world title may want to look elsewhere. Those a little more daring should definitely give this title a chance. It definitely is far from great, but there are some solid concepts for the developers to build on and enough entertaining content to keep most gamers going through the game’s six hour story and possibly even beyond.
- Fantastic, action-packed gameplay
- Interesting mission concepts and objectives
- Outstanding visuals
- Solid audio
- Misguided main character who opens the door to abrasive violence and vulgarity
- Lacklustre story
- Repetitious mission scenarios