Many times throughout my play-through of Prototype 2, I found myself wondering if I was playing as Sgt. James Heller or some twisted form of Spider-Man, as Heller scrambled up the sides of skyscrapers like the famous webslinger. Of course, it makes sense the game should feel that way, coming from Activision and all, responsible for the quite serviceable Spidey video game adaptations. But it doesn’t do much to make this gory hack-and-slash/sandbox game stand out from the pack. It’s still a muddled, often repetitive adventure that relies on elaborate shows of grotesque imagery and foul-mouthed dialogue and delivers little in terms of reward to the player. With that said, it’s still pretty fun to absorb a fellow helpless human being to gain health or steal their identity.
We journey back to New York City, now a horrific mishmash of the Blacklight virus and those infected by it. Sgt. Heller’s out for blood, after both his wife and daughter are murdered at the hands of the very same monsters inhabiting the city. With a hatred that rivals that of anyone of the age of thirteen’s disgust for Twilight, Heller sets off to track down (and annihilate, most likely very violently) Alex Mercer, who he believes to be responsible for the entire mess – as well as the death of his beloved family.
Of course, things aren’t what they seem after Heller finally does meet up with Mercer. In fact, Heller himself receives the “phenomenal cosmic powers” carried by Mercer. Suddenly, a whole new world has opened up – is Mercer really the enemy? Heller has to determine this for himself.
He’s been given an arsenal of powers not easily rivaled, though: super strength, superhuman abilities like ridiculous leaping, wall-crawling, blades, whips, and other strange mutations of his person that may be used as weapons. Stringing together combos and beating baddies to a pulp is reminiscent of the combat flow system of the Batman: Arkham games (especially the more-recent Arkham City).
In fact, button mashing your way through a crowd is quite satisfying, especially once you’ve developed your combat abilities beyond that of kicking, punching, and chopping because you’ve got the funky flow. If only, then, the camera could mind its business. It’s exceptionally easy for the camera to become wedged behind Heller, or lose him entirely. Targeting is all over the place, especially when it comes to crowds, and it’s irritating to have to change auto-targeting or re-align the finicky camera behind Heller to get your bearings.
Combat is satisfying enough, and you can ignore the camera if you’re willing, but Prototype 2 still feels pretty dull. Heller’s constant cursing and angst is grating on the nerves, and there isn’t too wide of a variety of missions. Many involve consuming other enemies to obtain information (more interesting the first few times you do it), stealing their identities, and stealthy infiltrating certain locations.
Other times? You’re spending a lot of time mowing people down. Par for the course. For the most part, you’ll be running around the city with the intent on collecting as many personalities, absorbing other citizens as possible – it’s what I found I enjoyed doing most, plot be damned.
Side missions and challenges abound, but once you’ve exhausted all there is to do in the campaign (with clichéd plot direction and tired dialogue) there just isn’t much reason to revisit the infected NYC. Prototype 2 feels very much like a marginal update from the first game, with an angrier protagonist, plenty of coarse, unnecessary language (seriously – who really talks that way?) and a veil of angst so thick you could cut with a knife. At least they got the “beating people up” part right.