Played on Windows, and PlayStation 3.
Also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
Prototype 2, stylized [Prototype2], however, that’s just a bit silly so I won’t type it that way again, is a sequel to the 2008 game Prototype, or [Prototype]. It’s also a game that’s currently out for Humble Bundle if you’re region locked from getting Destiny 2. And it’s also a game I like quite a bit, and as such that sounds like a good enough reason to review it this month. I just replayed it for my fifth time, and now I’m ready to give it the look it deserves.
I played Prototype back when it first came out, and it was alright. It wasn’t amazing and it had a lot of issues. The final boss was solid but I don’t remember much else standing out. Its release was up against Infamous, and that’s probably one of the reasons for a lack of attention paid to it, and overall it was a bit rough.
Then I played Prototype 2, and actually had a number of problems with it. The game crashed on my PC a lot and it seemed to do with my ATI card or my AMD processor that I had at that time. This was back when Steam didn’t really have a return policy in 2013, so I shelved it and ate the lost money.
Then I gave the game a shot on PS3. I always wanted to play it and I got it at a good price and finally played Prototype 2. I played it through twice, once on normal and once on hard to get a trophy and because I enjoyed it so much. It was amazing.
Last year, I saw it was in my library and decided to tackle it again on Steam to complete the achievement on it. And I had such a great time, I played it through a second time again to get that last trophy and because it gave me a great experience again.
Just this last week I played it again for my review, and while I didn’t do the second replay for it, I could have. I’ve now played the entire Prototype 2 story five times and most of the sidequests at least twice. I think I can give it a review it deserves.
Before I dig into the game though, I must say this game has a lot of swearing. I don’t just mean a character shouting shit once or twice. There’s an uncountable number of times that fuck is said and some lines are just laced with obscenities. I am a swearer, I like a good cursing and I enjoy Scorsese as one of my favorite directors. I’m very comfortable with foul language.
But Prototype 2 REALLY goes overboard with it’s cursing. Not every line is a curse, but a good majority is. I was shocked at how much there was and honestly I would say there’s too much. It’s almost like the developer wanted you to know this is a mature game, and not just because of the blood.
I do mean a lot of swearing…
But what’s odd, is the themes in the game aren’t that mature. The violence in the game is far less horrific than it needed to be. You can cut people in half, but there’s no blood. So really the only thing making it VERY mature is the language. The game probably would still be an M rated game without the language, but it would be more of a borderline.
The story of the game starts in a cutscene, you hear your character James Heller talking to his wife and kid while he’s deployed. If you instantly say the wife and kid are going to die, you win, because they instantly die before the first cutscene is up. They are killed by people infected with the “Mercer virus” named after Alex Mercer from the first game.
It seems there’s another outbreak of monsters on “New York islands”, making the islands become the Yellow Zone, the Green Zone, and Red Zone. While you will see some New York Landmarks, really this is a fictionalized version of the city. Some landmarks are similar, you can find Time Square, but Long Island is split up into three separate cities.
To continue with the story, Alex actually shows up early after that opening cutscene. He appears a few times over the game, and always feels like a driving force in the story. He’s also the one who infects you and gives you powers rather than just killing you. From there you uncover a story with a rather large number of elements.
I should mention James Heller is black, and honestly, it’s one of the things I almost never think about, because the game never holds it up, or wraps Heller in it. There’s a lot of obscenity but I can’t even remember a single reference to his skin color. It’s something I enjoyed because rather than making his race a statement or a part of the story, he can have a similar story to almost any other character, and that’s something I hope becomes more of the norm in almost any industry. It doesn’t have to be big news that there’s a black character in entertainment, there just can be.
He has the badass attitude down.
The story though goes on. You work with a priest at a local church, and he assists you trying to take down Blacklight the group Mercer says released the virus as well as fighting the “infected” when they appear. The entire game is played like a vengeance story. Heller wants revenge for his wife and daughter. It’s what drives his character and he really has a one track mind. But the world around him is more complex than that, and you watch him constantly dealing with different people, betrayals, and learning the scope of the plans involving the virus and the people pulling the strings.
The main story has the most development but there are side stories and most of them are interesting. These are the B stories, clearly made to be entertaining for only a couple of minutes and most are single shot pieces, but they serve to give you reasons for almost everything you do and they work. There are a few humorous moments like a soldier who says “Brah” too much, but they’re just there to give you reasoning for the game.
On the other hand, the main story is good but isn’t perfect. There are thirty-one stories, and the last eight start to go off the rails. There are also twists that feel almost made up, but more importantly, characters act oddly. If someone told me the entire last third of the game was rewritten at the last minute I wouldn’t be surprised.
At one point, Heller who has been motivated by revenge and is about to murder someone stops when he hears that his target has a kid. This is a guy Heller has been ready to kill for most of the game. Ok, you can make the case that this is Heller’s limit. No orphans, but what about the million other people he killed, did he think none of them had kids? How about the innocent people you consume to regain life? Is that one character the only one who had kids?
In fact, that character changes too. He is standing against Heller through the whole game, and yet there’s a scene at the end that also doesn’t make a lot of sense. You also meet someone in that last third, who isn’t well defined. She is betraying a major relationship bond but doesn’t explain why. I don’t want to spoil these points but they sit on me, and they always have bothered me.
Overall I like the story, but it is a video game story from 5 years ago. It’s good, but they were just trying to find reasons to let you be a maniac.
That’s exactly what you are. James Heller isn’t just an “Evolved” which is the term in the game. He’s not a hero, and I’m not sure if I’d call him a Superhero. But he has the powers of one. He becomes more like the monsters who created him than the monsters they created but I enjoy that. This is a revenge story and Heller uses his abilities to achieve it. By the end of the game, he becomes almost a god, to the point where no one can successfully attack him.
I feel like James Heller is a bit like later versions of Venom when he can work together with heroes. He’s clearly not the hero, but he’s also not a complete villain. He can murder citizens but it’s only incentivized if he needs health. Heller gets a lot of power in the game, weapons, abilities, and all these powers are all fun.
There are not many games where the player is able to run super fast, jump and climb a building as if he’s running, then jump off and fly or rather glide in mid area, then landing with a major attack and proceeding to shred up enemies who are of little danger to him.
I said Heller has the power of a superhero. Someone might think of the Flash, or Superman
with these images I’m mentioning, but it’s more than that. Heller gains the ability to create different attacks as the game goes on. These are spread out over the entire game, but he can get the ability to use claws, tendrils, hammerfists, a blade, and a tentacle, called a whipfist.
Easily my favorite weapon, the blade
There’s also shields, super attacks, and Heller will keep gaining powers as the game goes on. The game has a great pacing for these powers so Heller continually feels like he’s gaining power and control from it. This is actually one of the best things about this game. Most games tend to front-load powers, and then last half of the game has almost no power gain. Instead, Prototype 2 continually gives Heller new powers, and almost everyone I gained replaced an old one or augmented one. The only one which isn’t perfect to me is the hammer fist, but even it has a lot of use.
There are even more powers outside of specific abilities. Heller eventually gets the ability to “Weaponize” vehicles, meaning he can pull weapons off helicopters and vehicles, and later hijack them. The fact eventually makes it so everything the humans can throw at you is just another weapon for you to use against them or against the monsters of the world.
The monsters don’t have that weakness, but this is where the challenge of the game comes in. However most of Heller’s major powers are gained in battles against new types of monsters, and I love the feeling of tackling an interesting new monster and gaining an all-new power from them. Then later on seeing those same bosses and fighting them to be easy to take apart. It doesn’t feel like the game makes certain versions of them harder, it’s that Heller has gained so much power in between those two points that he’s that much more powerful. Something that challenged the player once becomes simplified later.
Then there are the flying and gliding I mentioned early, which are really enjoyable. These make it feel like you can effortlessly move around the map. You get one air dash at the beginning of the game, but by the end that can be upgraded to three, and each can become more powerful at the same time. The feeling of your control in the air is one of my favorite features of the game because you have so much control and power from that position. You can actually run along sides of buildings and leap from each building to the next or another building blocks away due to all these powers, and it gives me a lot of joy to just experience the freedom this provides.
It feels amazing even if it looks like blood is shooting out of your body.
Just like in the original game you have the ability to change forms by consuming other people. This is mentioned above as a way to regain health, and it’s useful as that at almost any time. If you’re low on health, you can run away from a battle and find some civilians or some military forces to “Consume”. The mechanic works fast and doesn’t kill the flow of battle, though you will usually have to look for characters you can quickly consume if you are in a dire need.
But consuming does more than just gives you health. It allows you to disguise yourself as them, and switch between a saved form and Heller, it also allows you to have stealth gameplay. If Heller doesn’t do anything too outlandish, soldiers won’t get suspicious of him, or even realize he’s their target.
Stealth gameplay is one of the buzzwords that is a red flag, at least in my book. Stealth tends to be done poorly or too gamified. Oftentimes engines aren’t built for it, or the game expects perfection and fails the player if they make a minor mistake.
Prototype does none of this. There’s only a handful of “Stealth” missions and most are optional. Even when Heller does fail, he is usually told to escape and go back to stealth. I believe there’s only one mission that requires full stealth, and one mission that requires Heller to stay in a “Costume” but both of those are done well.
However, the stealth is very gamified due to the fact the AI in this game is “bad”. I don’t mean it’s poor AI, but the characters seemed to have taken stupid pills. There are so many instances of people just ignoring the player. If the player is flying in mid-air and then lands heavily next to them, the AI is a little suspicious. If Heller runs up the side of the building, the AI treats that as a normal day. Heller has a costumed form, but he also has a normal form the enemy has seen and publicized, and the game doesn’t make it an instant alert.
Nothing to see here. Just a guy walking up the side of a building.
There are even weirder tricks you can play. If there are two guys on guard duty, you can grab one, kill him in front of the other while he watches, which causes the alert, you then can run around a building go back into stealth by switching forms and waiting a couple of seconds, not even a full minute, and then Heller can switch back into the guy he just consumed and the NPC acts like it’s no big thing.
Prototype heavily balances stealth in the player’s favor, and yet that’s what I liked about it. You can do insane stuff and the NPCs will barely pay attention to it, but that enables you to use the tools you are given without worrying about it.
There’s a number of tools that allow Heller to run into an enemy base, accomplish some goal, whether it’s to consume a specific target (which the game will show when he’s being watched, and stop you from breaking stealth) or entering a base without having to fight everyone. Bases require a military uniform but there are so many available it’s a not even a heavy limitation. But the game also allows you to come in violently and have that same experience while people are shooting at you. It doesn’t make a value judgment over which one is acceptable, though it might require you to go back to stealth before some action, it doesn’t penalize you for clearing a base and achieving the stealth through murder. It’s up to you to decide which one you enjoy doing, and I oddly found stealth to be just as enjoyable as the violent option.
Even exiting a military building where you’ve had one of the game’s fights (which happens often inside those military buildings) you can often leave and not require another fight. If you leave in uniform the game even shows you a scene of reinforcements coming up and Heller/soldier tells them “He’s inside” and walks off. Something about that makes me love it every time I pull it off.
There are other reasons to consume people and monsters besides costumes. You can earn bonus XP and abilities from certain enemies, and also a few enemies (all story or sidequest based) open up memories that you can see. Both of these are critical, one for story advancement, and one for ability advancement, and drive the player to seek them out.
On the other hand, the memories that the Heller sees after consuming an NPC are really trippy and that’s honestly one of the big negatives I have for Prototype. They completely take me out of the game, and I often look away because it’s not visually appealing. I understand the effect they wanted, the flashes of memory, but it’s more annoying than anything.
Heller also gets the ability to track down enemies using a ping system.
There is another buzzword besides stealth that the game uses. It’s our old friend, Quick Time Events, or rather QTEs. However, similar to stealth, Prototype 2 makes them tolerable. They usually are not difficult to pass, and often don’t mean defeat by missing one. However, unlike Stealth where I enjoyed the stealth, which could have been a real pain, the QTEs are only tolerable. They won’t ruin your experience, but they are still annoying when they pop up.
To get back to the story, The main missions in the game are well done and usually drive the plot along. The player always feels in control and even that one stealth mission isn’t bad, and has a reason for existing. I’ve played this game five times now, and honestly, there’s not really a mission in the main storyline that I don’t enjoy playing. There are a few that are better than others, but the game has great pacing for missions and each mission is a joy to play, especially if you take full advantage of your powers.
In fact, there are mini challenges in addition to the main story, and these seem like simple ways to earn XP, and they are, but they also teach you how to play the game. They might be as simple as “Don’t cause an alert”, or “Use hammer fists to destroy a vehicle.” They incentivize you using the powers you got recently. Other times they can just be minor challenges such as killing X enemies with a specific attack.
It’s interesting to see the game use this more as a tutorial than plain text because if you want XP (and you should, as gaining levels are important to growing your character’s power), you’ll follow little tasks that show you how to get more powerful.
Now with stealth, and the consume mechanic, there’s the obvious potential problem of “you need this person so you can’t consume anyone else”. If you consume an important scientist, you don’t want to overwrite him with another form, in theory. In practice, Prototype 2 just gives a shrug and says “Whatever.” If you consume another person and lose that form, the game just returns it to you when it’s necessary for a cutscene and moves on.
Really the important part to understand is that Prototype 2 never punishes the player, it pushes the player to be a more powerful character, and teaches the player how to get there, and as such I enjoy this game so much more than other superhero games that try to put the character on an even or slightly disadvantageous scale with the enemy or tie them down with some sort of morality. When you’re dealing with a power fantasy, it’s fun to be overpowered at times, and that’s where Prototype 2 stays.
There are side missions as well as the main story. There are actual side missions called “Blacknet” where you do a mini mission, usually something simple with a touch of the story (from those consumed memories). They give a decent amount of XP but more important they give “Mutations” which are the upgrades in this game. In addition, there are also collectibles in the form black boxes, which are really just vocal story pieces, field ops, which are small groups of enemies you have to fine, and lairs, which are just underground side missions. Each one has a set number in each area and ties into another mutation that the player can gain.
These mutations aren’t required to beat the game, but a few of them are worthwhile to go after, and the missions are enjoyable to collect, though I do admit that the locations for the collectibles could be clearer, and the side missions usually have a decent amount of travel to get to them.
So we’re at the end of the review, and I do have to bring up one problem. When I first bought this game in 2013, I mentioned that I tried to play it with an AMD processor and an ATI card I believe. The game crashed on me pretty easily. I recently played it with an Intel processor and a Nvidia card, and never even had a single problem. So those with AMD and ATI cards and want to play it on PC might have a problem. I don’t know for sure, but I’m glad I gave this game a second shot on PS3, and another shot on PC because this is a game that not only did I play five times, but I enjoyed every time through it. Just be aware if you have an AMD and ATI card you might still have those same problems, sadly.
Ultimately, Prototype 2 is the superhero game I wanted to play. It made me feel powerful, in control, and gave me a ton of toys to play with. I had the ability to sneak into locations and to smash the same bases as desired, and both styles of gameplay are enjoyable.
Is it perfect? No, while I clearly love the game, the story works but is more serviceable than stands out. The gameplay doesn’t have many really strong moments (the strongest is the finale) but it also doesn’t have weak moments. I enjoy it, but it’s more I enjoy the above average game, than a masterpiece. Still, I don’t normally replay games, and I can’t think of many games I’ve played even three times. As such I’m giving this game a
Final thoughts: If you want a good “superhero” game where you’re allowed to be evil, Prototype 2 is it. It has a solid story and enjoyable action to the point where I find it a joy to play this game multiple times.
Stats: I have completed all the achievements on this game twice. As well as getting 24/43 on the last playthrough. I spent about 20 hours on each dual playthrough and 14 hours replaying the game.
I bought the game twice, once on PC and once on PS3.