Saturday, 22 September 2012

Prototype 2: Review

Some games are so good, that their sequels needn’t change anything but the story and a few characters to continue their run of success. Unfortunately, Prototype was not one such game. Whilst the first game was good, it quickly got repetitive, so I was hoping for something new in Prototype 2. Frankly, I was disappointed, as the sequel merely felt like an extension of the first game, rather than its own title.

First of all, let’s recap. In the first game, a virus got released turning the city into a mutant-infested, zombie-ridden, hellhole. The anti-hero, Alex Mercer gained superpowers from the virus and took to the streets looking for the cause of the outbreak. Along the way he battles a variety of monsters, zombies and soldiers, all hell bent on making him dead. Why am I explaining this? I hear you ask. The simple answer being that Prototype 2 is practically identical.

The game takes place just after a second outbreak. You play as military commander James Heller. Heller’s wife and daughter have been killed by the virus, giving him a homicidal obsession with Mercer, the man who he believes is responsible. One thing leads to another and Heller ends up with superpowers, and decides to take to the streets looking for the cause of the second outbreak. Along the way he battles a variety of monsters, zombies and soldiers, all hell bent on making him dead. Sound familiar?

The worst part is that it starts off looking like a completely new and interesting story, but quickly dissolves into the same repetitive patterns that flawed the first game. The developers have had 3 years to work on, and perfect the formula, but it seems like they have been sat there, twiddling their thumbs, rather than working to improve on the issues that brought down the original.

The same goes for the gameplay. Whilst it’s certainly fun and satisfying to dismember and consume an assortment of gruesome creatures, or sprint through the city looking for collectibles or other side quests, the gameplay once again becomes repetitive. As you progress through the game, you will unlock and upgrade a number of powers, but even here, things are an exact copy of the first game. Claws, blade, fists, etc.
This isn’t helped by the re-use of enemies over and over. It won’t take long to see that you’re fighting an army of clones. Even boss battles are overused, such as the monstrous Goliath. It’s fun the first time you take the beast down, but when you get to the third or fourth battle, even this becomes tedious.

My final negative comes from the visuals department. The game mostly looks like a good PS2 game. Particularly the explosions, which are just still yellow and orange flares, then the object disappeared. Some of the explosive scenes actually made me cringe, and took me back to the days of the first 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game.

The pre-rendered CGI cutscenes look pretty average, but they do earn points for style. The black and white filter that we see them in contrasts dramatically against the red, which is the only colour that’s shown. Objects like Heller’s hood, or Mercer’s jacket stand out against the colourless backdrop, which does look pretty cool at first. Unfortunately, by the end of the game, this has been used too often, and looks more like a cheap gimmick than a stylish technique.

The game isn’t all doom and gloom though. There is certainly much fun to be had in the customisation. Everything you do, from completing missions, to killing random enemies, and completing the challenges scattered around the city, everything earns you Evolution Points, or EP. When you gain enough EP, you level up, allowing you to upgrade one trait, such as movement speed or the strength of your attacks. There are also challenges around the city for you to complete. The challenges come in sets, and when you complete a set, you gain a Mutagen, which makes one particular power much stronger, by adding a perk of your choice.

Finally, there’s a lot to do. New York is huge, and is separated into three zones; green, red and yellow. Each zone means something, but it’s never really made clear what it is, aside from the number of infected running wild through the streets. There are challenges everywhere you go. Each area has a collection of Dead drops to collect, field operations to decimate, and infected lairs to clear out. There are also Blacknet challenges, which involve you sabotaging a Blackwatch operation, by consuming, and using the memories and identity of someone high up on the chain. As with many aspects of the gameplay though, these challenges become boring, and you’ll soon find yourself just doing the main quest.

If you enjoyed Prototype, you will probably enjoy Prototype 2, but if-like me-you found it a little to repetitive, then you may be a little disappointed at the lack of change in the sequel. The graphics, gameplay and story all just add minor changes to those in the original, so memories of playing this game may blend into the memories you may have of playing the first. The increased level of customisation adds a little spark to the otherwise bland playthrough, but I only played this game once, and I doubt I’ll be going back to it anytime soon.

6/10 – OK

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