The first Prototype made me feel ugly. Radical’s open-world action game tore through the city I love and live in, having me eat people — some of them innocent civilians — and destroy city blocks in the name of its plot. Prototype 2‘s probably going to make me feel worse.
I’m immediately struck by how much better Radical’s return to virally-powered metahuman revenge looks than its predecessor. Improved facial animations, level of detail and lighting all make the Manhattan of the Prototype universe come across as particularly nightmarish. Most people already know that the game’s main character Sgt. Joseph Heller is on a mission to kill Alex Mercer. The game opens up with flashbacks from Heller’s past, showing hazy, soft-focus shots of his wife Collette and daughter Amaya while phone conversations between the soldier and his family play. Heller’s family dies off-screen thanks to events of Prototype 1 while he’s away on active duty and he volunteers for missions in his hometown.
The NYZ, as the battered Big Apple of Prototype is called, is under martial law, divided into three zones. The Green Zone’s the least chaotic, patrolled by the military Blackwatch division who maintain an iron grip over movement and information. In the less safe Yellow Zone, secret experiments happen in the crowded shantytowns left in the wake of Alex Mercer’s rampage. Finally, the Red Zone’s rampant with infection and the mutated horrors that it spawns.
When Mercer comes to the NYZ, he encounters Mercer straight off and tries to kill him. He’s no match, of course, and when Mercer overpowers him, the former scientist infects him with the Blacklight virus and tells him that everything is not that it seems with regard to the carnage. Media outlets are blaming Mercer for the death and destruction while Blackwatch clamps down on any evidence that says otherwise.
I played through about the first hour of Prototype 2 and saw how the gameplay’s going to vary from zone to zone. The Red Zone’s filled with damaged real estate that can topple onto Heller or his antagonists while there’s going to be more predatory hunting in the Yellow and Green Zones where you won’t be always able to tell who’s deserving of Heller’s beatdowns. After his encounter with Mercer, Hellr gets captured by Blackwatch and experimented on. The game’s first action has him escaping the facility where he’s being held and eventually finding a safe haven in the Yellow Zone.
The world in Prototype 2 feels more alive than in Proto1, with more reactive NPCs. Citizens will cower in fear if you use the morphing abilities to copy the look of Blackwatch soldier and they’ll constantly chatter at you or each other. Switching between your abilities gets streamlined in Proto2 with the ability to quick-choose between two powers (instead of just one in Proto1).
Skills upgrade from either doing side missions or beating mini-bosses. So, after beating the hulking Brawlers for the first time, Heller got his claws. You’ll also have access to different contextual finishers depending on what type of enemy you’re fighting.
Among the new features, I got to play around with was the Pack Leader ability, which lets Heller call down two Brawlers and command them to attack whomever he wants. You can use this as a distraction, too, drawing enemy awareness away from you. Once you’re done with the Brawlers, you can explode them into a gooey mess that detonates across a wide swath of the environment.
Heller’s saga feels like more Prototype — massive destruction done in the third-person in an open-world — but shows polish that the first game would’ve benefitted from. Radical’s delivering more flexibility and combat customisation so that you can rampage through the NYZ in decidedly different ways from other players. You’re still going to be an revenge-obsessed man in Prototype 2 but your vengeance can be stealthier or more explosive than ever before when the sequel hits on April 24th.