The Tuesday usual: I talk Prototype 2 with Radio Wammo

Today, I’m going to take a double punt at my review of Radical Entertainment’s Prototype 2, the open-world game that features an angry soldier as its main character and the ability to turn your hands into razor-sharp blades and consume other people and take over their identities.

First there is the video review with Glenn “Wammo” Williams, which I did this morning, then there is the written review, which I finished up, so I had a bit more time to think about things and how anti-hero James Heller acts in Prototype 2. Don’t get me wrong: I like the game but  it’s just that Heller acts like a complete arse  most of the time and that irked me a bit. It seems that just about every sentence that comes out of Heller’s mouth features the f-word or some angry tone. I just felt that the angry anti-hero tone could have been toned down a little.

Watch the video, then read the review and let me know what you think. I’d appreciate it.

Prototype 2 (Activision) *** 1/2 (out of five)

Army sergeant James Heller is having a really bad day.

Not only has his wife and daughter died as the result of a deadly virus, but he’s been infected by the virus himself, causing him to shape shift at will and turn his hands into mutated weapons of mass destruction.

In the opening moments of the game, we see hard-as-nails soldier Heller part of a special forces squad chasing Alex Mercer, the protagonist from the original Prototype, and  – long story short  – after confronting Mercer, he’ becomes infected (by Mercer) by the mutation that afflicts Mercer. Heller turns his rage into a hunt for Mercer and works to stop the spread of the Blacklight virus that has divided New York, now known as New York Zero, into several zones, some containing mutated creatures.

If you’ve played the first Prototype you’ll remember that the virus – now know as the Mercer virus – lets the hero  consume other people, taking on their form and identity – just the ticket to infiltrate military bases and science laboratories, and take over the identities of key military and science personnel. It also have offensive capabilities, letting Heller sprout elastic tendrils and claws from his arms, letting him chop people (and other mutants) in half and pluck helicopters from the sky. What a party trick.

Prototype 2  follows the original game’s mission structure  closely, so if you’re looking for something dramatically different, you’re not going to find it here – although some of the game mechanics have been tweaked. Now, when Heller grabs a victim he now has the choice to either consume them or toss them aside like a teddy bear.  Heller can also hijack armed vehicles, ripping the armaments from them and use them against the military.  Another new feature is the sonar, a much improved system for letting Heller locate key targets. Pressing the left analog stick (I was playing on Xbox 360) deploys a sonic pulse – like a whale or dolphin would use – and how quickly the pulse returns – and from what direction – indicates how close Heller is to the target. It makes identifying a target much easier in the hundreds of inhabitants of New York Zero and is a much welcomed addition to the game play mechanics.

The game play does get a little repetitive, though, with most missions involve Heller heading to a checkpoint, getting instructions to hunt and consume a key person (scientist/military officer) at a location, then getting the hell out of Dodge while avoiding the Blackwatch forces that have arrived on the scene. It’s a story involving a shadowy military organisation and science experiments, which a dose of super soldiers thrown in for good measure, so not exactly original.

What I liked about Prototype 2 is that it’s the sort of game that you can pick up the controller, switch off your brain for a few hours and just revel in the open-world that developer Radical Entertainment has created. There’s something about being to run up the side of a building then change your identity at the press of a button, confusing the heck out of following pursuers.

Heller becomes more powerful every time he’s consumed a certain number of mutated monsters, granting him upgradable abilities such as an attack that drives spikes into the ground and the aforementioned tendrils.

As you’d expect with a man who can turn his hands into razor-sharp blades and chop people in half, it’s a game that has plenty of blood, and I’m OK with that –  it has an R18 rating, after all    – but one thing that did bug me was Heller’s gutter mouth. He seems to have been stereotyped by the developers into the atypical angry anti-hero, and there doesn’t seem to be a sentence that doesn’t come out of his mouth that doesn’t involve the f-word.  I know he’s an angry man on a mission to avenge his wife and daughter but it seemed to me that the developers were just trying a little too hard to make Heller bad-ass hero. Having a main character spouting out swear words all the time doesn’t make the game edgy and adult: it actually makes me like him a little less.

Those quibbles aside, Prototype 2 has to be taken for what it is: a turn-your-brain-off action game where you get to play a character who can consume people, climb buildings and pull helicopters out of the sky with his arms. It’s not going to win any awards for originality, but it’s  good fun if you don’t mind a lot of swearing and buckets of blood in your games.

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