Prototype 2 review (Xbox 360)
“Now that’s some motherfluffing gratuitous violence right there!”
Back when I penned my review for The Godfather II, I identified a gaming phenomenon I dubbed “The Diablo Factor”.
Most gamers will be familiar with the occurrence: you’re playing a game, and just when you decide to quit you pick up one more piece of armour in that elusive set you’ve been chasing, or you unlock a new ability you were patiently working towards. Then, after fiddling with your new toy for a while, your next attempt to quit is again thwarted by the crafty game dangling yet another tasty carrot in front of you.
Repeat ad infinitum.
Prototype 2 understands “The Diablo Factor” – constantly luring you back to play with sweet upgrades and powers you’ll earn by doing almost nothing, and despite being little more than a technical and exceptionally violent overhaul of the original game, there’s enough allure in the satisfying gameplay to make it a sequel worth considering for the fun factor alone.
What’s not really worth considering in Prototype 2 is the excessively elaborate storyline, a tale that’s so painfully stretched out and force-fitted to the repetitive missions that narrative cutscenes, though well produced, quickly become a snore-fest.
Quite simply: Alex Mercer, original protagonist, is now antagonist to James Heller, a military vet who’s also infected with the nasty virus that’s turned the pair into rapidly evolving killing machines. Their city of Manhattan is yet again infected with said virus, and as Heller you’re tasked with avenging your family’s death, stopping the blah blah blah… yeah, you’ve heard this all before.
What makes this “story” as well as the motives driving everything you do feel so feeble is the way everything is worked into such a simplistic and monotonous gameplay structure. Main missions always consist of either hunting a scientist or military commander, infiltrating a compound, or beating the connective tissue out of a designated enemy.
Just when the story starts to veer in the direction of an interesting twist, it always swerves abruptly back to a mission objective you’ve done a dozen times previously. A good way to picture it would be imagining what the mission objectives might’ve been like for the arcade classic Rampage: no matter what building you’d be destroying or which person you’d chow down on, you’d always just be demolishing or eating to achieve victory. While such inclination for annihilation is a lot of fun, Rampage never pretended it needed justification.
However, Prototype 2 finds its saving grace in combat that’s an absolute blast, a plus that I lauded in the original game and one that developers Radical Entertainment clearly know is the game’s driving force.
Controls have been tweaked to make selecting powers and weapons a cinch, and even the button-mashers among us can accomplish some impressive kills with little cognitive effort. Navigating the infected Manhattan is as much fun as ever, and even though the vehicle hijacking and building traversing mechanics have returned they’ve both been refined to make creating the type of destruction you want never feel like a chore.
A graphical facelift accompanies the revamped controls, and brings with it new additions like the kickass Tendril power that grotesquely suspends foes from their surroundings, and the Biobomb that rewires pedestrians into unwilling organic explosives. It’s undeniable that these along with the Heller’s host of other abilities are all beautifully rendered for maximum eye candy and gore.
The violence itself, as per Heller’s quote in this review’s sub-heading, is nothing short of gratuitous, and pounding an enemy’s face into mincemeat or slicing them limb-from-limb are as visceral and satisfying as they sound.
Once I’d finished staring through a screen perpetually spattered with entrails though, it was actually quite difficult assigning a final score to Prototype 2: on one hand, if you’re after a crafted narrative, surprising mission twists or thoughtful combat then you’re best off not even considering it, but if you’re content with pretending you’ve recently undergone a frontal lobotomy and can be satiated with little more than blood by the bucketload and hearing someone scream “f***” every twelve seconds, you’re sitting with an absolute gem.
There’s also the undeniably strong allure of “The Diablo Factor”. Heller is awarded some manner of power or ability almost every fifteen minutes, and scouring the sandbox for collectibles or completing side-quests always gives you something tangible to play with, like doubling your jump speed or making you bulletproof. Being so pleasantly strung along by sweet upgrades is a huge motivator to plough through the cookie-cutter missions, so ultimately it’s going to come down to what kind of game tickles your own personal joystick.
Me? Sometimes I’m happy foregoing common sense and playing games that let me do nothing but cause wanton chaos and destruction, so I’m scoring Prototype 2 with that mindless approach in mind and ‘tilting’ the final score as such: as modern gamers we spend so much time obsessing over bleeding-edge visuals and storylines based on New York Times bestsellers, when often all we need is something that simply hearkens back to the basics, games like good ol’ Rampage that unashamedly let us have fun simply destroying stuff.
Check out MyGaming’s Prototype 2 coverage.