Radical Entertainment need a slap on the wrist. Their original Prototype was an equally bad port, and it doesn’t look like the team have learnt from their mistakes. This time round, they’ve released a product plagued with frame-spikes, capped at 30fps, which makes playing with mouse and keyboard a relative impossibility, since the forced mouse smoothing seems to correlate in some way to the frame-rate, which is never a constant even on high end machines. Now, I’m not going to give Radical Entertainment perhaps such a hard time as I should, with Protoype 2‘s bizarrely bad textures and PC optimization, because graphics indeed do not make a game, and the porting issues haven’t affected everyone, although they have affected me – he grumbled.

Still, beyond what can later be patched in, what is Prototype 2? Did you play the original Prototype? Well, it’s that, but in Dx11, with a black protagonist. If Prototype 2 were a competent port, I’d be tempted to jokingly call it ‘Prototype 1.5′.

Every bit of chaos is reminiscent of the original

You play as James Heller, a proud stereotype. Not a fan of Alex Mercer, Heller seeks to kill him. Although ordered not to advance, Heller takes the chance and tries to kill the silent Mercer. This doesn’t go down too well, and Heller’s position is compromised. Captured by the Blackwatch, Heller is infected, and becomes the new test subject. Needless to say, Heller escapes and begins his own story in the Prototype universe.

Featuring the same dynamic as the original, the open sandbox world features side-events and main mission objectives to which you must travel, often by running up buildings and flying (or rather, falling with style). The combat has been tweaked somewhat, with a dodge system that makes the game even easier than it would have been without it. Any critical attacks initiate a slow-mo mode with an action button you can hammer in order to dodge and avoid. This makes for some cool Matrixean action sequences (although it’s in the fighting itself) and is an interesting albeit shallow edition to the samey combat mechanic.

Another aspect of combat that has changed is that guns are now far more effective and useful. In the original, it would take an entire clip to kill a single enemy rendering the guns useless compared to your main power viral attacks. Prototype 2 moves forward, with 2-3 shots killing an enemy and plenty of ammo to go around. Still, you’ll probably want to stick to your claws, etc., but they’re there if you want to use them. I find it’s fun to fire a few rounds into innocent people then watch Heller get all sanctimonious in the next cut-scene.

Graphically, Prototype 2 is dated. Whilst there’s more people in the streets than I think I’ve seen in any other city-based-sandbox game, the buildings and effects look sort of post 2006-ish. I can’t say I understand why this is the case, because it’s clear from games like GTA IV and Saints Row 3 that teams can pull off great looking, thriving inner-cities. In the case of Prototype 2 though, you sort of think to yourself after around 2 hours of game-play “haven’t I already done this before?”

But what’s graphics if the game-play is good? Well, the game-play is good; at least, it’s as good as the first. The story is about as nonsensical, but it doesn’t take itself as seriously. This is either a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective, but with ample gore and insane combat, it’s hard to take anything in Protoype 2 seriously. There are moments of heart and seriousness that you’ll feel are just getting in the way of you causing chaos and mayhem, and Hellers relationship with the priest who I am certain is influenced by the similar character in Machete  is a good example of that mix of seriousness and nonsense that Prototype has always done so well.

It doesn’t delve into the depths of Homefront or Spec Ops: The Line, but a lot of the drive invoked through dialogue clearly suggests I’m supposed to be feeling something other than “oh my god this is insane” as I run through the city firing tentacles into crowds of innocent bystanders. It is, as you might suspect, as ethically confused, though. I suppose it tries to apologize for the gratuitous violence with crappy textures that make dismemberment look like mashed-potato, and over-the-top bright red blood splatter, but in doing so I can’t help but feel as though any character motives are washed completely under the carpet. You might say “well, who cares about the story?” which is a shame, because there’s a story there, and it’s actually not terrible. It has more character than its younger brother, even if Heller is a massive stereotype. Then again, so was Mercer, I suppose.

I genuinely love tossing men off.

I’m not saying Prototype 2 isn’t an improvement over the original: it is. It just isn’t as much of an improvement as, say, Assassins Creed 1 – 2, or Saints Row 2 – 3. There doesn’t seem a clear reason for this, and given the sub-par visuals, I can’t see there being a technical one. If we need crappy textures in order to run the game properly, why doesn’t the game run properly?

There’s one huge difference I welcome, though, which is less over-saturated monster battles throughout certain areas of the map. Prototype was plagued with these constantly spawning monster enemies that took ages to kill and slowed down all progress, diminishing fun. Prototype 2 certainly has moments of that, but it’s much easier to get around town without running into a requisite hour long monster battle; your viral weapons more effective at tackling what ones there are.

Challenges are also much improved, with Prototype 2‘s challenge system, which is like an achievement system. These unlock ‘Radnet’ features and unlockables such as skins and extra moves or mutations. Aside from these unlockables, there’s also, of course, a standard level up system. This system allows you to substantially improve your health, abilities, speed, jump height, etc., and you’ll be able to assign a point at milestone moments. My favourite is ‘Darwinism’ which allows you to inflict more damage on military enemies because, you know, Darwin was a Guerrilla fighter who took out thousands of British military forces with his bionic claws.

Tendrils are also a notable deviation from the norm, throwing out slimey pseudo-Spiderman lines of gloop which stick to enemies and contract, pulling them into each-other and basically mashing them apart like the fillings of a cheap vegetable pie. The move is basically insanely over-powered, able to kill about 30-40 enemies at a time.

I’ve seen enough hentai to know where this is going…

Along with the tendrils, there’s the ability to take cover with two shields either side of you, making you invulnerable. These abilities are attained by killing pseudo-bosses which are often found during missions inside military complexes.

Missions aren’t very varied, but they’re fun enough. If you’re like me who likes to exhaust the story missions in a row, without too much time-sink deviation, then you’ll probably tire. Most of them are about absorbing an enemy, taking his form, then sneaking into a complex to learn more information about what you’re doing. To do this, though, you use a new ‘hunting’ feature. Pressing the left joy in, you ping out a radar like ping, which comes back at you from the direction of your target. From this, you get some idea of where it is and quickly head over there. In the style of the original, you then step on the mission start point, and away you go. Rinse, repeat. You might ask yourself “why don’t you go have some fun, go kill a load of stuff?” I don’t know… it just doesn’t seem that fun. The novelty has worn off. Gratuitous violence wore off half-way through the initial Prototype, and this sequel is so damned similar I feel like it hasn’t been a day since I completed Prototype. 

Unlock more stuff for genuine longevity – it’s not all about side missions

Aside from the main missions, you can hunt down information easter-eggs and absorb the minds of certain enemies, giving Heller the same neural-visual treat Mercer enjoyed from the first: displaying their memories and relevant information in sometimes live-action cut-scenes. With that, there’s the side-missions which you unlock by hacking into Blacknet, where you can chose from a set of side missions. Each missions teaches you a little more about what you want to know, similar to Mercers experience.

With “55 pieces of additional DLC at no cost to the consumer” there’s plenty to add to the experience when it runs dry, but is it worth it?

Street level is actually very pretty, although you don’t spend much time down here.

It’s simple: did you love the original Prototype? If so, you’ll probably enjoy this. If you’re like me, and enjoyed Prototype  but grew tired as the novelty wore off, expect to be faced with the same problem. Further than that, though, Prototype 2 just doesn’t seem as fun to run into the city and paint the town red (with blood!). I don’t know if that’s just my problem, or if anyone else has experienced this, but Radical Entertainment really haven’t done much to evolve the game. They’ve added a few things here and there, but for the most part it feels like a parallel-dimension release of Prototype. It’s as if they’d hoped that changing the race of the protagonist would trick people into thinking everything was different this time around, but with Mercer hanging around at every corner you’re constantly reminded that you’ve been here before.

More of the same, most certainly, but it’s entirely up to you if you think that’s a good or a bad thing. I could only really recommend this to people who passionately engrossed themselves in the first – but for anyone who’s thinking “eh, the original was alright, I wonder if this one is better”: you’ll probably be disappointed.

A pretty crappy port at a AAA price, you might want to wait until the problems are patched out, where the game will be playable with a mouse and keyboard. With less expectation at a discounted price, you might be able to find a good balance, but in my honest opinion, Prototype 1.5 mimics the original without offering anything substantially new – other than over-powering the protagonist further.