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Prototype 2 Review
- Categorized in: Reviews
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Prototype 2 is a very, very dumb game. It arguably has more in the way of downsides and blemishes than actual, well-constructed gameplay and story. The game’s problems are especially pronounced during the beginning hours, when a deadly salvo of stupid dialogue, misleading story, and uninteresting gameplay threaten to sink the game before it’s even found its gooey, tendril-based footing. After sinking a few hours into it, though, it starts to pick up the pace and deliver on some of the great promise of its premise.
The first thing that you’ll notice upon booting up Prototype 2 is that the game is flat-out ugly. The textures, animations, and models look as if they’re caught between this generation and last. Models look blocky and lack detail, even in the CG cutscenes, and textures are blurry and indistinct even by open world standards. For a game releasing this late in the generation, it’s kind of sad that Prototype 2 looks so lousy, and it makes a bad first impression to boot.
The second thing that you’ll notice when you begin to play Prototype 2 is just how counter the whole thing runs to the marketing campaign. Protagonist James Heller was made out to be a sympathetic character by the game’s marketing team. He has lost his family and been infected with a strange virus, and now he’s out to find the one responsible. While all of this is technically true, Heller couldn’t be less sympathetic in practice. About five minutes into the game he starts dropping f-bombs and insulting people’s mothers, like his character was written by a bunch of ten-year-olds who just learned how to swear. By the time you’re about halfway through the game Heller will be reveling in his murder sprees, recklessly killing and absorbing people, and even joking about it afterwards like some kind of sociopath. A relatable and compassionate character he is not. It feels like the development team got together and tried to make the most “badass” character they could think of, forgetting to make him likeable in any way.
This misplaced attitude affects other characters in the game, as well. It seems like every other sentence has at least one swear word in it, no matter who is speaking at the time. Even the priest gets in on the action! It’s truly ridiculous, and not in a good way. It’s enjoyable enough if you have a friend present and are mocking the game in a MST3K fashion, but it is by no means legitimately good dialogue. The story suffers similarly, too. There are enough plot holes and ambiguous motivations that the story, like an undulating mass of mutant jelly, just never manages to hold its shape. The fact that Heller can eat people and see their memory begs the question of why he doesn’t simply eat everyone he comes into contact with. Many times Heller will find himself questioning a character’s motivations, and yet it never seems to occur to him that all of his problems could be solved with one tiny little act of cannibalism. He comes across as a roughish moron. For this reason, you will never care about the characters or their motivations, much less the overarching plot, which involves the last game’s protagonist spontaneously becoming an evil mutant overlord.
Coupled with gameplay that’s slow to start, this makes the early hours of Prototype 2 into a complete chore. For a game in which you can fly, sprint up walls, and throw cars, Prototype 2 asks you to sneak around and evade enemy patrols way too much in the beginning hours. You will enter enemy bases knowing that you could kill and consume every enemy there with little trouble, but be artificially forced to maintain a low profile thanks to the mission objectives. You will find yourself facing the same objectives throughout the entire game, too. Time after time you will be asked to infiltrate enemy camps unseen, consume a scientist or soldier, use their identity to get inside of the base proper, and consume a key figure. The side missions often play out similarly, begging the question of why they even bothered to put them in there in the first place.
It’s too bad that the gameplay feels so stifled at times, because when the game does open up, it’s a ton of fun. Most of the complaints mentioned above vanish when you’re latching onto helicopters with your tentacle arms, or ripping chainguns from tanks to blast through hundreds of infected enemies. Just as in the last Prototype, you will eventually learn how to pilot tanks and helicopters, giving you a wide range of options when it comes to navigating the game’s large open world. These options are reflected in combat as well, where a huge array of mutant weapons, perks, and skills will allow you to tailor the gameplay experience to your own preferences. You can even pick up guns from dead soldiers and play the game as a shooter using the left trigger to lock on to your enemies, if for some reason you wished to do that. The only worthwhile weapons are the Rocket Launcher and Grenade Launcher, though, and swinging away with a giant blade arm is a lot more fun.
No matter how you choose to approach it, combat in Prototype 2 is chaotic and mashy. The game doesn’t go out of its way to reward skillful play, so mashing on buttons is about as tactful an approach as you can be expected to take. This is all well and good during the lesser battles, where the large variety of options during combat makes up for a lack of precision, but sometimes the action onscreen can just prove too much for the mechanics under the hood. I found that the camera would flip out frequently during battle with larger enemies, getting caught on objects or aiming in the wrong direction during hectic moments. The lock on system is similarly flawed. It’s almost useless during melee combat because it is just so spastic and inaccurate.
Prototype 2 is a game filled with potential, but it sadly falls short at almost every turn. The story and characters are awful, rendering a very cool concept impotent. You won’t relate to James Heller so much as you will pity his fierce stupidity. The missions start to feel repetitive about halfway through the game, and although the gameplay that backs these missions is a lot of fun, it is also highly inaccurate and somewhat shallow from a control perspective. For fans of slick action, Prototype 2 is worth a playthrough despite all of its flaws. When it finally opens up in its second half, the feeling is one of liberation and excessive power. The problem is getting to that point without becoming bored of the game’s redundant mission structure and lame characters.