In Prototype 2, rather than resuming the storyline with the titular character of the first game, players instead control Captain James Heller, a man on a mission of revenge.
The protagonist of the first title, Alex Mercer, is blamed by Heller for the death of his family. Unfortunately for the Captain, Alex isn't so keen on the accusation. The new hero soon finds himself a victim of the blacklight virus that gave Alex his powers, so it's from here that players set out to seek their bloody revenge on both Mercer and the scientists who are ultimately responsible.
The core gameplay remains relatively untouched, and largely consists of running about the open world as a powerful mutant, with the ability to run up walls, glide over terrain, and generally cause all kinds of havoc in the name of finding those responsible, and getting even.
Prototype 2 is fundamentally entertaining. Heller leaps and bounds about the map, with barely a framerate stutter. Combat is fast, fluid, and chaotic. Players will need to make use of the mutations and levelling system to keep up, and will quickly find that relying on basic attacks simply isn't enough in the later stages of the game.
If there is any attribute Prototype 2 manages to excel in however, it's the innate ability to make the player feel superhuman. With all abilities and mutations unlocked, it's positively gleeful to do little more than smash around New York.
The game mechanics manage to function acceptably, and feature the toe-curling extraction of DNA from multiple bad guys, along with the ability to shape-shift into another persona, or use giant claws to bring bloody destruction to unsuspecting henchmen. If a character's DNA is stolen, their identity can be used to sneak past computer and security systems, and the first time a helicopter is requisitioned from the heavens is a glorious moment indeed. For the obsessive-compulsive players out there, there's also the now-obligatory ‘collectibles’ scattered about the map.
Between missions, attentive players are treated to some creatively presented cut-scenes, even if they are a touch graphic at times. These serve to present the story, and this is where things begin to unravel. For all the polish of the cut-scenes, the story itself is nothing write home about.
Having the original primary character as the central villain in the sequel is a concept with huge potential. However, of all the directions this game could have pushed the all-too-rare African American hero, settling on "absolutely nowhere" seems a poor choice. As time goes on, Prototype 2 manages to make Heller a less and less likeable character. As he evolves with new moves and mutations, his dialogue seems to run screaming in the other direction. Indeed, in order to reinforce to the player that they are in fact a "bad ass", Radical has seen fit to have Heller curse and swear like a drunken sailor. The severe overuse of swearing becomes cringe-worthy, and breaks whatever minute immersion has been built up to that point.
It's simply too hard to relate to Heller as a character. Perhaps Radical should have taken a leaf out of the Saints Row playbook, as the problem here is that Prototype 2 simply takes itself too seriously. In order to have empathy with the central character, it's crucial to see more than one side of their personality.
Heller isn't helped by his environment either. Whilst knocking over bins and pedestrians does provide a level of interaction, the city simply has no personality. The architecture is bland, repetitive, and it would appear almost every building in the game has the same brown brick texture. As open world as the gameplay is, the city itself serves only as a backdrop to the action.
As missions become repetitive and clichéd characters are encountered left and right, it becomes increasingly obvious that it's all been done before, and it's been done better. Prototype 2 competes in a gaming market full of quality open world titles. Grand Theft Auto, Assassins Creed, Saints Row, Red Dead Redemption all shine in their own ways, but all share an obvious desire to be the best they can be. In contrast, Prototype 2 at times appears to be little more than a sequel made purely to cash in on the success of the first title.
For those gamers who are all about the action, who care only about how many times the lead character can swear, and only want to smash everything in sight there is still a decent experience to be had. Certainly, if playing simply to relieve some stress, there's plenty of relief in gallivanting around a virtual world shredding enemies with giant knives.
But an in-depth followup to the exciting premise introduced in the original Prototype is not to be found here.