When Radical's Prototype launched two and a half years ago, it was met with mostly positive reviews. Our own Nicholas Bale praised the game for offering over the top action and a variety of innovative and well executed gameplay concepts. With that said, Prototype wasn't without it's flaws, visually the game felt dated, a few minor camera issues, and difficulty spikes that left players frustrated. All in all, it was a great start to a new IP, and thus when given an opportunity to get a first look at the sequel, you can imagine our excitement.
Prototype is all about insane action, becoming the ultimate badass. An "experiment" gone wrong, you're infected with a virus that unlocks superhuman abilities, such as the power to walk up the sides of buildings, leap and glide from huge towers, and impale and shred enemies with your tentacles. With super strength, you can throw foes into brick walls, and even dropkick helicopters out of mid-air, all in a huge, heavily populated open-world setting. The infection has also given you the power to shapeshift and take the form of anyone, or simply "absorb" them for a health bonus. That's Prototype in a nutshell, and the sequel looks to take it much, much further.
The story begins after the conclusion of Prototype. You play as Sergeant James Heller, a former US Marine hell-bent on destroying Alex Mercer, the protagonist in the first story. The game begins eighteen months after the original, Manhattan is under quarantine, and you've become infected with the Blacklight virus while attempting to eliminate Mercer. As you explore your newly discovered talents, the origins of the Blacklight virus begin to come clear, and you'll take on a wide variety of missions all across New York City. The huge open world is divided into three distinct zones, the red zone is heavily infected, the mutations caused by the Blacklight Virus run rampant, buildings are crumbling, and pretty much anything goes. The yellow zone is heavily impoverished, shanty towns are common, and Blackwatch uses it's citizens for viral experimentations. The green zone is the uninfected, heavily occupied area of New York, virtually untouched by the viral infection.
As with Prototype, you aren't assigned missions in a linear manner requiring the completion of each mission to progress the story. Through hacking Blacknet, Heller can choose which missions he wants to complete, be it intercepting and disrupting Blackwatch military exercises, or locating interesting targets that will uncover more of the story and allow him to explore some of his newfound abilities.
Shapeshifting plays a pivotal part of the game, allowing you to take the form of anyone by absorbing them. You can shapeshift to and from that person whenever you want (until you absorb another person). While in this form, enemies and other people will interact with you as if you are that person. This is absolutely critical in many of the missions, and even just exploring the world you'll find its only possible to accomplish certain goals (or to simply avoid being hunted like prey) by taking the form of others.
Like the first game, Prototype 2 will offer a complete upgrade tree, allowing players to improve many of Heller's abilities. Among these are upgrades to movement, health, regeneration time, shapeshifting abilities, mass, and finishers (such as the ability to destroy vehicles and dropkick helicopters). The game feels much like the first, the controls and gameplay are certainly refined, and Prototype 2 feels much more fluid then it's predecessor. Through the simple multiple pressing of the attack button (or long press, for massive attacks), Heller can rack up huge combos against his foes, using his tentacles, claws, and various deadly appendages to shred his enemies. And shred does he ever. Prototype 2 is certainly not for the weak at heart, as the development team have tacked on even more gore this time around. Blood and guts aplenty, and the satisfying crushing of bone and organs as you absorb others leaves little to the imagination.
Visually, Prototype 2 is a huge upgrade over it's predecessor. The action and on-screen animations are much more fluid, character detail is vastly improved, and the engine is capable of rendering a huge world with no loading times. We had a chance to explore a fully upgraded Heller in a later part of the game, and were very surprised by the many waves of enemies and amount of action on screen at any given time, with no framerate drop. A definite improvement.
Set for release on April 24th for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, Prototype 2 is an all-around improvement to the first game. With that said, if you haven't had an opportunity to play through the first, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy, if just to get the most out of the story. We can't wait to get our hands on more wall-climbing, tank crushing, ass kicking action in just a few short months.