Activision and Radical Entertainment recently held a press event in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for Prototype 2. Along with a signature “virus shot,” the press was given an opportunity to play the first hour of the campaign as well as a later part in the game showcasing a selection of shape-shifting weapons and powers. Also on preview was a portion of gameplay from the Radnet Edition content featuring a time trial challenge.
From the epic and moving introductory cinematic to the vastly improved visuals of virus ravaged Manhattan, Prototype 2 has brought back everything great from the original hit
and improved on aspects that were widely criticized with the first game. Radical has gamers returning to the newly renamed New York Zero in which Manhattan has been divided into three distinct districts known as the Red, Yellow, and Green Zones. However, gamers will not be returning to the role of the original game’s protagonist Alex Mercer, but instead as his rival Sergeant James Heller.
Upon returning from his tour in Afghanistan and Iraq, Heller discovers the military group Blackwatch murdering his family among others infected from the Blacklight virus. Heller blames the death of his family on Mercer for spreading the virus throughout New York City. He eventually joins the military and strives for death in each battle, but instead survives every one of his encounters. On his final mission, he becomes mortally wounded when events take an unexpected turn with Mercer saving Heller using the mutation of the Blacklight virus and thus beginning the premise of Prototype 2.
Upon viewing the dark and moody introductory cinematic, it was immediately apparent that the sequel is aiming for an epic cinematic experience far beyond that of the original. From the scenes of live action footage to CG visuals of Blackwatch soldiers, it felt as if it were the beginning to a high quality Hollywood movie. Radical has clearly not spared any shortcuts in developing the sequel. After the enticing cinematic, gamers are directed to follow Mercer through the near apocalyptic streets of Manhattan to seek revenge. This section serves as a quick tutorial for basic movement controls. Heller’s odds are made even worse as a giant infected creature appears known as the Goliath. After a quick chase sequence over barriers and cars, Mercer corners Heller after being wounded and infects him with the mutation.
Captured and seemingly without hope, Heller starts to learn of his mutation powers and wreaks havoc upon his Blackwatch captors. This is the particular section in which basic combat controls are taught allowing for some gleeful elimination of soldiers. After another cinematic, Heller is finally set free in the Green Zone of Manhattan to carry out his mission of seeking answers and reparation. It is immediately apparent upon viewing the streets of New York Zero or NYZ, that the developers took notice of past complaints for the original game including dull and uninspired visuals. The differences between game environments offer a welcome contrast with the heavily patrolled and infection-free Green Zone ranging to the ravaged and infected Red Zone. Using Heller’s ability to glide across rooftops was far more enjoyable than the original due to the redesigned cityscape aesthetics. The minor details of pedestrian variety to the major increase in visual quality result in a game world that makes it difficult to not pause and stare into the infected chaos.
Complaints of complex controls from the original have been solved with easier to navigate menus and the process of switching mutation powers is even simpler with an improved radial menu. Switching quickly from Heller’s blades to the new mutation power of tendrils and then proceeding to toss a helpless Blackwater soldier across the street was a smooth and effortless affair. The only area that still could use tweaking is the ability to run up the side of buildings. There were a few instances that Heller accidentally started running underneath an awning that simply resulted in a neat back flip. However, this is only a minor gripe in comparison to the majority of Heller’s movement in the game world being quite fluent.
Another section of the game on display took place later in the storyline allowing gamers to create mass havoc with most of Heller’s shape-shifting weapons unlocked. Gamers will be able to utilize an assortment of new weapons including claws, blades, hammer and whip fists, and the crowd favorite tendrils. Described by the developers as “trauma-inducing,” the tendrils can best be explained as the bad ass equivalent of Spider-man’s web ability. Heller can unleash tendrils from his arms that serve multiple purposes including catching enemies in a web, pulling enemies closer, tearing enemies into separate pieces, throwing objects, removing helicopters from the air, and a wealth of other creative uses that gamers will create through their playthroughs.
More important than the improved visuals and controls, the experience of playing as Heller was the most significant factor for increased enjoyment and interest in comparison to Mercer in the original Prototype. From the beginning of the story, Heller was far easier to relate with due to his reasoning behind exacting his vendetta against Mercer and quest to eliminate the Blacklight virus. It was a smart choice on Radical’s part to introduce a new protagonist to the Prototype universe.
From the extended Prototype 2 gameplay session, it was evident from the beginning that the developers at Radical improved on far more aspects over the original than simply the level of gore. With more varied mission types, increased freedom with choosing primary and side missions, improved visuals, and more refined gameplay, it will be difficult to avoid the infectious and addictive gameplay of Prototype 2 when it mutates this April.
Prototype 2 will be available on April 24 in North America and April 27 in Europe for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, with the Windows PC version releasing later on July 24.
Activision paid for travel and lodging expenses for the Prototype 2 press event held in Las Vegas, which included a hands-on preview of the game.
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