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Slick’s Nit-Picks: Prototype 2

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If you are not familiar with the Prototype storyline, you can get a quick recap here, or better yet, go play the game. Alex Mercer saved Manhattan Island from a threat he himself created. In the process, he lost both his life and his humanity, becoming part and then the core of a collective sentience in the form of a virus that predates humanity itself. As this new being, Mercer could absorb the abilities and memories of his prey,  as well as replicate the appearance of any living being he had consumed. This virus has had many names, but the current strain has come to be known as either the Blacklight or Mercer virus. Alex has outlived his “hero” role now that he knows what he is; what he chooses as his next role will change Manhattan forever and possibly the entire planet.

ONE DAY Sergeant James Heller was a career military man with an impeccable record. That all ended the day he came home to find that his wife and child, his reasons for living, had been murdered. The second outbreak of the Blacklight virus created monsters that literally tore his family apart and Heller became an instrument of revenge against the source of the infection: Alex Mercer. The game opens up to Heller's squad entering the red zone of NYZ (New York Zero). This is the uninhabitable section of Manhattan that soldiers call “Mercer's playground.” An unidentified attacker destroys the APC he is in and Heller is the only survivor. he immediately spots Mercer and gives chase. After testing Heller against a goliath and a brawler, Mercer evolves him and says he will find him when he’s ready. Heller doesn’t really care what that means or why Mercer spared him; he intends to use whatever life he has left to destroy the one that took his family from him. Heaven help anyone or anything that tries to prevent that.

BLACK RAGE Prototype veterans will take to this game like a fish to water. The air dash and glide controls are switched around from the previous game, but that is no huge issue. The powers wheel is still there and the issue of having to switch all the time was dealt with nicely. You can now assign two powers at once that you can switch between by pressing one of two buttons. The only problem there lies in remembering what you have assigned, but the HUD takes care of that. so mid attack you can switch from blade to tendril. hammerfist to whipfist , or whatever you have set up. Jumping is the greatest improvement in the game. Gone are the days of waiting for that sound to indicate you have charged your jump. Now you hold the button down and perform jumps that would make The Incredible Hulk take notice. The AI is still about as bright as a barrel of retarded sticks. Your disguise power fools people all too easily. There is actually a moment in the game where a general sees your face in his cel phone’s reflection, turns and sees his subordinate and is like “Oh, there you are!” The control interface is an overall joy to use and makes the original look broken, which it was not. The upgrade system is just as detailed as before, but streamlined and cleaner. You no longer need $1.5M to buy your best upgrade, you just have to keep leveling Heller up, which will take a New Game+ playthrough to complete and get the last two trophies/achievements. Once all the Radnet content is available, a person might be able to get all the upgrades in a single game if they complete everything. The one drawback in the gameplay is that Radical made everything so well that the game is a cake walk, especially if you played the original. I am playing the game on Insane right now and nothing is hard to beat.

THE GORY DETAILS The first thing fans would notice about this game is that it actually looks like it belongs on this generation’s consoles. The original Prototype was very much a re-skin of an earlier PS2/Xbox title made by Radical Games, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and it looked like it.  Many of Alex Mercer’s abilities were taken from the green goliath; the mighty elbow drop from hell even makes it into James Heller’s repertoire. Fortunately, this new title does take advantage of current console power and NYZ is looking prettier than ever, despite its state of ruin. The system still has its flaws and the same glitches from the first game are present like hilariously watching Brawlers fail to scale a wall as they are trying to come after you. Tons of enemies can be seen on screen without any noticeable drop in frame rate. Even when you encounter a goliath (one takes up the screen) and you have a swarm of soldiers attacking it, the game continues at its normal pace. Reflections and lighting effects are well done, but little effort was put into water effects. I doubt anyone will have complaints about how the game looks.

ONE MAN ARMY James Heller is an army of me. While he does get help from a few colleagues, this is a single player campaign and the only form of online play are the Radnet leaderboards. The Radnet content itself got a mixed welcome from fans. Some feel that these missions should have been part of the regular game like in the first. Personally, I like the idea of Radnet. It is a bonus giving players 7 weeks of free DLC just for pre-ordering. The issue is that the game should have been longer and or more difficult so that the Radnet rewards could be enjoyed while playing the game. While dealing with a busy schedule where I did not get to play much, I still beat the game in four days. The second set of content has not even become available yet. The Radnet events themselves are fun little minigames designed to test Helller at the peak of his viral evolution. Rooftop races and kill missions are alive and well in this DLC, and I honestly do not know how well the planned paid DLC will go over considering you would have to not play this game to not finish before May 8, 2012. If you are even considering this game, I would say buy it now while there are still Radnet codes remaining as I am sure that content will cost $10-20 extra after the promo ends.

Music from the game’s intro

FAILED TO SCORE The music of a game is very important as it can be one of the most memorable aspects for the player. Just about anyone will instantly remember the theme to Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. The music of Prototype 2 is very well done, but it just does not capture the atmosphere the way the music of its predecessor did. I mean to take nothing away from Scott R. Morgan for his work on this game, because the music was definitely good. However, the original was scored entirely by Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco and Activision should have kept it that way. These guys have worked on games like the God of War series, Mass Effect and Clive Barker’s Jericho, so I have no idea why this winning formula was not used again. The Alex Mercer theme was used throughout the first game in multiple pieces and followed the “every hero needs theme music” formula. James Heller ha no official theme, and while pieces like “Natural Selection” sound reminiscent of the first game, they just do not stand up. The music of the first game made you feel like Alex Mercer was the one and only thing keeping the world from going to hell and that feeling is decidedly absent in the sequel. If a Prototype 3 is made, I seriously hope that the talents of Dikiciyan and Velasco are used again. Even if Morgan does some of the music, the first two need to do the main theme and the music for the major events.

Now the big question on everyone’s mind is whether Prototype 2 truly surpasses the original.  If you are asking whether Heller surpasses Mercer, the answer is overwhelmingly yes, but that has to do with their backgrounds. Mercer was a geneticist; Heller is a trained soldier. Even when Heller was human, the fight between the two would have been one-sided if not for Mercer’s healing factor. The story of Prototype is a lot more convoluted than that of the sequel. Until the end, Mercer did not really know what he was doing and ultimately became Elizabeth Greene’s puppet, despite having consumed her. Heller’s path was clear; kill whoever was responsible for the death of his family, plain and simple. The first game made you want to get to the bottom of things and really had you connect with Mercer. The second makes you want to just bash things and does make you feel some sympathy for Heller, but only at the beginning and end. There is never a moment in the game where the player truly will want to see Alex Mercer torn apart because the story does a piss poor job of making him the villain. James is in fact directly responsible for way more deaths than Alex in this game. The gameplay is another mixed bag. Alex had way more moves than James but most of them were unnecessary. Heller is light years ahead of Mercer in terms of sheer violence. Bashing a tank with its own turret is almost poetic in its madness. The animations for consumption also never get tired, at least not when you defeat a monster. Prototype 2 is in many ways superior to the original; it has better graphics, more streamlined gameplay which makes things just work better and despite the unnecessary level of vulgarity he uses, Heller is a much better protagonist. He says point blank that he is not a hero; he knew he was a monster from the beginning. The problem is that the game is too short and entirely too easy. If you really go at it, you can finish it (Hard mode) in a day. Insane mode is just as easy and by the time the first set of DLC comes out, I will have beaten the game twice. It does not deserve the high accolades that it is getting, but it is a must play for anyone who liked the first. That said, the terrible ending leaves room for a Prototype 3 which I hope addresses these issues. There is still a loose end from the first story that I would love to see Heller tie up with his particular brand of justice. I also am tired of beating up on Manhattan and want to see carnage on the West Coast. Prototype 2 is not as good as the first; it could have been a lot better than the first but it seems the developers just got lazy. It is still a must play for fans or anyone that needs a good action fix.