"Can a Prototype Have a Second Version?"
The open-world superhero sandbox game is one concept that has been tried many times over the past two generations of consoles to varying degrees of success. Taking a genre that got its start through handing the keys to an average person who may not have the best intentions is hard to change around to focus on saving the world (or something like that). Prototype 2 is the follow-up to one of gaming's original attempts at throwing a hero in a sandbox, and while it gets the job done, it doesn't do much differently, other than offering different super powers.
Prototype 2 stars James Heller, a soldier whose family has been killed due to infection from the virus the first game's protagonist, Alex Mercer, was carrying. James himself is infected by Alex personally, but he survives, gains superpowers from the infection, and finds himself on the run from his former employer as he hunts down the truth.
Prototype 2's gameplay involves the use of these powers to get to the information James needs. The most notable of these is the ability to shape-shift and take features from enemies. What's taken from enemies can vary, with situations in the game such as using shape-shifting to take on enemy appearances and DNA temporarily and passing through body inspectors, or stealing abilities from grotesque mutant enemies like claws or sprouting tendrils as a permanent new ability. Completing activities and missions in the game world allows James to level-up his abilities, adding features such as health regeneration and faster running.
In those regards, Prototype 2 is similar to the first game. However, the gameplay feels open but constricted. Upon getting past the long-winded introduction, the game makes the player feel as if they have the keys to the city and the world feels open, but as I went through missions, the game started feeling very linear, with a predictable structure. Most missions only focus on two types of gameplay, stealth or beat 'em up. Playing through one mission, I accidentally killed someone whose fingerprint I needed to get inside a building without being detected, and the game forced me to do the mission all over. Before this point, it felt as if fingerprints were needed to only avoid causing a scene if I chose to kick down the door.
Even within stealthy situations, the gameplay is extremely linear. Consuming a person is only allowed if someone isn't looking at that person. So instead of going inside a laboratory, consuming a person and leaving with the information needed, the player is forced to constantly press in the left thumb stick to see who is looking at whom and consume them in order. A few times enemies weren't moving, so I was forced to push them in different corners or off stairs so they weren't looking at each other; surprisingly, the enemies didn't even react to being pushed. The overall structure of missions in Prototype 2 also follows the same structure of getting in a place, getting out, running out of sight and then switching over to the other set of DNA in possession. In the context of the game's story, it doesn't make any sense to be able to change back into the DNA of James Heller to escape the corporation looking for James Heller.
Character progression and the act of leveling up also happens at what feels like pre-determined points. Prototype 2 kills any sense of progression that could had by exploration in the city with the amount of points given from killing enemies. Each enemy kill gives points toward the amount needed to enhance a skill, and the rate at which normal enemies give points compared to specially marked enemies that must be consumed, (5 points vs 1000) forces the player to do things in a specific way.
Visually, the game looks nice, but when put against games of the same ilk such as Batman: Arkham City, it pales in comparison. The colors always seem muddy, regardless of the time of day, and a lot of the environments look similar. Notably, the game world does sound alive however, with the ability to hear in on civilian conversations and how James Heller is changing the game world through his actions.
Prototype 2 isn't flawed in a major way, and it's actually pretty fun to play if you enjoy action games, but on the same token, there's nothing that particularly sticks out about it. It feels like an overly simplistic open-world game without a real open-world feel.
GameDynamo's Score for Prototype 2 (X360)
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