Prototype 2 is the sort of game in which one can rip off an enemy’s arm in a deluge of blood and gore and then use it to beat its former owner to death.
To say Vancouver-based Radical Entertainment’s latest open-world adventure lacks subtlety is an understatement.
But that’s sort of the point.
The action is set in a present-day New York that’s come under quarantine after the spread of a manmade virus that turns its victims into murderous mutated freaks. Our hero is James Heller, a burly soldier whose wife and daughter were killed in the outbreak. He’s looking to take revenge on the mutant suspected of starting the epidemic, a shape-shifter named Alex Mercer (protagonist of the original Prototype).
However, things go sideways when Heller is himself transformed into a mutant and bestowed a range of super powers that evolve over the course of the game. He soon begins questioning the origin of the virus, and where his loyalties lie.
That’s all one really need know about the story. It’s not a vehicle to realistically examine the perils of weaponized viruses or gaze into the soul of a grieving father and husband, but instead act as a skeleton over which to drape the game’s meat: A relentless parade of wildly over-the-top action sequences in which players run straight up the sides of buildings, toss cars and trucks like they were cardboard boxes and bloodily “consume” enemies to restore health and gain new powers.
As I said, it’s not exactly a study in nuance.
However, it can be entertaining in a manner akin to the most brazenly brutal of Hollywood action movies.
The merits of watching bloody tentacles leap from a man’s body and form into a deadly web of dismemberment may seem dubious to some, but the game’s philosophy of spectacle over substance will likely work for its intended audience of hardcore players (of which I am a member), a group long since desensitized to the visceral ferocity of Mature-rated interactive entertainment.
However, those same hardcores may take issue with the game’s repetitive nature.
It seems each new task set before us is essentially the same quest of epic death and destruction, only with different villains and structures are swapped in. Wanton violence of the safe, virtual variety can be a blast, but the real trick is to keep the devastation fresh and surprising.
If there’s anything about Prototype 2 that is understated it’s that our hero is a black man – a rarity in a medium that’s notorious for offering almost uniformly fair-skinned champions. Radical Entertainment draws little attention to his skin colour, save perhaps one early scene in which an antagonist taunts him by emphasizing the word “bro.”
That he’s an avenger who merrily murders every foe he encounters with no thought of race, gender, or creed, is just a bonus for liberal-minded gamers.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release: April 24, 2012