I’ve just jumped off a 20 storey building, grabbed hold of an attack helicopter and ripped the missile launcher from underneath. Having shot it down with its own payload I hit the floor and use my freaky tendril hands to squash an unsuspecting Blackwatch guard between two cars and six innocent passers by. Luckily, I’m only a quick sprint across the rooftops away from being able to change my appearance to a scientist and nobody will be any the wiser. Unless they question how a scientist got onto the roof of a church, but I’ll worry about that later. This is Prototype 2, one of the most over the top, gleefully destructive sandbox games you’ll see for a while.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about the Prototype series before GAMEfest last year. At that point, I was sat in a large inflatable room with a lot of other people, being shouted at by a Canadian guy while one of the developers showed us how you could destroy a helicopter with an uppercut. It was an immediate hit with everyone there, and as I pointed out in our roundup of the expo it was instantly one to keep an eye on. Now, after spending a good chunk of time with the game, it was definitely worth the wait.
Playing as Sergeant Jams Heller you end up fighting against the Blackwatch and Gentek corporations as you try to rid the world of the Mercer virus. Luckily (well, sort of Luckily) you’re pretty pumped full of the virus yourself, and through a combination of completing missions and consuming suitable targets into your own body your powers will get more and more beefed up, with more skills unlocked and extra evolutions making you an even more badass killing machine. Some of these skills are tricky to choose, and with a range of new skills or improvements on offer at once selecting the best upgrade for how you want to play is often harder than it appears, especially as so many of them are every bit as cool as the others. If nothing else it drives you on to complete as many side-missions as possible, with most rewarding you with some kind of upgrade.
It’s easy to compare Prototype 2 to other open-city games like Infamous 2 and Arkham City, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. They’re all a similar kind of idea – climb into a big city, follow the main storyline through the game and every now and then duck off to do a few side missions, search for some hidden items or just cause grief to a few random bystanders. Prototype doesn’t quite live up to the visual loveliness of the aforementioned titles though, with destroyed vehicles sometimes half-disappearing into the scenery, explosions looking a little uninspiring and the general feel of the city not quite living up to what we’ve seen before.
That’s not to say Prototype 2 is a bit of an ugly dog, not at all. Climbing to a tall building and looking out over the city is still a hugely satisfying moment, and there’s a great range of enemies and random folk wandering around that you can consume whenever you like. The fighting is pretty good too, with a combination of button mashing and carefully places special attacks giving enough variety to make life interesting. The trophies and achievements give some fun challenges too, such as killing 10 people at once with a single tendril attack, and although I’m never one to play a game to win trophies they give you a few more specific challenges that are good fun. That said, Prototype 2 isn’t quite on par with the others of its ilk, but I’m more than happy to admit it’s not all that far off.
Speaking of specific challenges, buying a new copy of the game will give you Radnet access, which unlocks a series of fun (and pretty tricky) tasks dotted around the three main areas of the map. Unlocked week by week these challenges are either spot-tasks such as collecting a series of items in a certain amount of time, or things to aim for while playing the game day to day. It’s even more to do and even more ways to spend a few hours around the city and while you won’t miss out on all that much without Radnet, you’ll appreciate it when it’s there.
Prototype 2 isn’t the toughest game you’ll ever play, even on the highest difficulty, but it offers a decent challenge and will last you a good 12 hours or so due to the sheer amount there is to do. It’s easy to get hooked on the idea of chasing down every target DNA strand, every evolution, and every weapon upgrade. Knowing that at some point you’ll be able to destroy a helicopter with an uppercut, or tear the canon off a tank and use it to smash up the rest of the tank… knowing that the perfect sequence of stealthy body consumings will give you the ability to unlock a huge beast which you can kill to gain an extra upgrade, it all adds up to something really quite addictive and very enjoyable.
So would I recommend it over and above Infamous 2 or Arkham City, games that are easily available for £20 or less? Frankly, no. Not quite anyway. Prototype 2 is a very good game, and most people will get a lot of enjoyment out of it, but there are a few little things that just stop it short of being brilliant. But don’t let that put you off if you like the look of Prototype 2, you’ll still enjoy grabbing a random office worker, sprinting up a hugely tall building and throwing them miles off into the distance. You’ll enjoy the over the top destructive nature of pretty much everything you do, and you’ll enjoy running, leaping and gliding across the rooftops with an ease that makes a Parkour expert look like a drunk teenager staggering out of a club at 3am. This is really good fun, even if there are some gaps.
It’s even good enough to forgive the Canadian man who kept telling us off for not shouting back at him loudly enough.
Reviewed on PS3