Prototype 2 PS3 review
Prototype by name and nature, Radical’s original superhero sandboxer was a pot pourri of vibrant next-gen ideas that possibly attempted to deliver too much, too soon. Alex Mercer’s powers were godlike, but the engine powering them was more Vauxhall Corsa than Bugatti.
Likewise, the idea of the go-anywhere, do-anything world disorientated players as much as it emancipated them. Give us crazy-mad toys to mess about with by all means, just don’t forget the underlying structure, too.
The original wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination – more half-formed. This sequel, in contrast, is the finished article and then some. Repositioning original hoodie-wearing lead Mercer as a villain, ushering in a new protagonist in the form of grieving hubby Captain James Heller, splitting a Cronenberg-esque infected NYC into three distinct Zones… and finally realising the fledgling franchise’s Empire State-high potential.
The Zones are key to Radical’s newly discovered sense of pacing, a trait wholly absent from the first game. Prototype 2 experiments with mission tone – alternating gory melee battles with stealthy base infiltrations, point-to-point platformy bits with chaotic boss encounters, giant mutated freakazoids with baying packs of Blackwatch troops. Indeed, after an explosive prologue, gore-hounds will likely find the initial few hours surprisingly low-key. It’s almost as if the devs want to educate us that, although violence remains the ultimate solution, the game has a menagerie of new tricks up its gene-spliced sleeves.
The aforementioned base infiltrations are one. Happily, alarms are much trickier to trigger now, the game savvier at warning you if you’re about to do something stupid. Attract too much heat and Strike Teams are dispatched to hunt you down – although shaking them proves too easy, if anything. The upside is that the first effort’s legendary frustration and fiddliness are largely confined to history. By allowing the game to breathe, Radical has allowed the player to do so, too. It’s a revelation.
Niftily, Heller’s able to use his ‘viral sonar’ to hunt down targets, figure out troopers’ lines of sight… and generally get all Altair on Blackwatch’s backside. Certain individuals need to be targeted in order to acquire various permissions, intel or skills – and while you can just get up close and personal with your claw-arms, there’s an odd appeal to slipping in unobserved, getting the job done and flitting back into the shadows, ninja-style.
Missions are now notably more diverse, even if few escape the established conventions of the action-sandbox genre. So expect to be looting Blackwatch cargo drops in vaguely disguised point-to-point sections, tailing people of interest before confronting – and absorbing! – them, commandeering tanks and the like.