Nothing more than face value.
I was leaping across skyscrapers with ease heading towards a top-secret military facility were a scientist gone mad was conducting outlandish research while being protected by tanks. There were too many guards to tackle this fortress head on. I made use of my shape shifting skills by stealthily absorbing one of the guards and taking his form. I walked through biometrics security without any hitches. The guards suspect nothing as I approach my target. With my sword arm, I decapitate my foe. Revealed to the other enemies, I make a break for it outside, flew over the walls and ran up a large building to break line of sight of the attack helicopters pursuing me. Another mission accomplished! I’m alive and my target was taken out in a gory and conspicuous fashion. The base was left in flaming ruins. Sound exciting? This mission is recycled for about 90% of the game.
Prototype 2 is a single-player only third person open world game that grants the player super-human abilities like inFamous or Crackdown. It’s just not nearly as exciting as those games. You play as Sergeant Heller, a recently infected soldier out on a vengeful quest to take out those responsible for the death of his wife and kids. He blames Alex Mercer, the first game’s protagonist. Which never makes sense and is one of many examples of Prototype 2’s poor writing. None of the game’s characters are drawn to life with motivations or personalities. All characters simply become a voice in your ear to give out missions. Every event in the game occurs “just because”. Heller is pissed off about the death of his family, but not in a cool Asura kind of way or in a civilized person way. He has to constantly tell us he’s angry by shouting a lot of vulgarity and generally being an asshole to everyone he meets.
There are a lot of videogames that have much more to them than face value. Someone can look at Mass Effect for 30 seconds and say “It’s Gears of War, in space!”. On more than one occasion, I’ve actually heard people say that. While correct, upon closer examination Mass Effect is a well-realized universe that has the protagonist solve major issues ranging from politics to war. Prototype 2 on the other hand, presents itself as is and never offers surprises. The game doesn’t change much from its opening moments to the final battle aside from a few new abilities. Yes, you can throw cars at helicopters. The action looks grand at first, and is totally fun. But the gameplay runs out of steam very quickly. The plot never makes dramatic jumps and the conflicts never feel meaningful. Prototype 2’s simple mechanics aren’t strong enough to support the game alone, and with weak characters and a poorly developed world, the game falls apart.
Ultimately, the game’s greatest strength is its greatest weakness. The attacks are impressive looking. One of which, pulls all nearby enemies and objects into a target. It’s glorious. The consequence free world allows you to smash tanks and slice up hordes of enemy soldier to your hearts content. In some early instances, causing this chaos made me remember how much fun I had causing havoc in GTA III. Then it eventually dawned on me that Prototype 2 is a sandbox and nothing more. Even with the game’s more dramatic moments, I never cared. At first, the mission I talked about earlier was great. It’s electrifying sneaking into a base to destroy it from the inside and escape. Aside from a few lame boss fights, that’s literally the only thing the game tasks you to do. The structure never changes in a meaningful way. There are side missions, but are mainly there as a structured way to murder a lot of people.
It’s weird that the game attempts to make stealth something the player should care about. In a lot of instances, you’re forced to sneak into bases after taking the form of a soldier. Even in the utter screen-filling chaos, I was never met with any challenge. Soldiers fall at one swipe of any attack I so choose, helicopters go down quickly, and I can hijack tanks. The whole point of Prototype 2 is to feel like an utter badass, and that’s one of the few qualities the game nails. So why am I sneaking around everywhere? Guards, however, don’t seem to care one of their buddies disappeared for 5 minutes only to leap from a 200ft tall building to regroup. There isn’t anything suspicious here, guys!
Prototype 2 has no doubt what it wants to be. It’s simply a dumb game, and that can be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. I got really bored with the repetition of the missions and the game didn’t really have any characters to drive the narrative. It doesn’t help that the visuals are super bland and makes the game look 4 years old. The whole experience is pointless, but the action isn’t poorly made by any means. It’s just that the game has no soul. Prototype 2 may be a good choice if you just want an open world to fuck around in, but expecting anything more will result in disappointment.
Written by: Steven Beynon (EpicSteve)