Game Review: 'Prototype 2'

2009's Prototype was an unexpected bio-horror blast, mixing the open world mayhem of Grand Theft Auto with a super powered protagonist that skipped on the razor's edge of morality in the quest to fill in the gaps in his amnesiac mind.  It provided an excellent mystery rife with personal and historical revelations, all wrapped up in a gooey, monstrous wrapper.  A sequel was inevitable, but a follow up presents an interesting series of problems, mainly in the character of Alex Mercer and the nature of the virus that ravaged his body.

By the end of the first Prototype, Mercer was a hyper-evolved demigod, swarming with the grotesque power that the Blacklight virus gave him.  For a sequel to present a new challenge, Mercer would have to somehow be stripped of his powers, and the newly nerfed protagonist would then have to creep back of the evolutionary ladder—basically the trope that has powered 20-plus years of Metroid games.  Second, Mercer's story had basically been told, with the mystery of his existence revealed and his character arc essentially wrapped up in a fairly tight bundle of tentacles.

Developer Radical Entertainment acknowledged this, and took a unique route for Prototype 2, recasting the main character as Sgt. James Heller.  However, they took an even sharper departure by making Alex Mercer the antagonist for the game, the possibly villainous target for Heller's vengeful anger.

Mercer, Heller believes, is responsible for a new outbreak of the same virus as the first game—now dubbed the Mercer Virus by the military—an outbreak which led to the death of his wife and child.  Thirsting for revenge, Heller confronts the nebulous Mercer, only to be infected with the virus for reasons unknown.  The rest of the game plays off of the tense interplay between Heller and Mercer, the latter character's mysterious motivations, and the malicious machinations of the Blackwatch and Gentek groups, who have their own plans for Heller and Mercer.  It's not nearly as intriguing as the previous game's slow unraveling of Mercer's amnesia, but it offers enough twists and turns to keep players intrigued.  Heller's motivations and morality are more clearly defined than Mercer's, a man with nothing to lose as he tries to do the right thing with the powers that Mercer bestows upon him.

The gameplay has been tightened considerably over the previous game, with the game's bionic parkour movement honed to perfection.  Heller's movement is fast, tight, and accurate, empowering players to feel like the superhuman badass that Heller truly is.  In addition to the improved movement, Heller also has a handful of new powers at his disposal, including the deliciously satisfying tendrils.

The tendrils are the most brilliant, disgusting, brutal, and often hilarious addition to Prototype 2.  Striking an enemy with your tendril-powered fist will result in a burst of fleshy festoons that stretch between your foes and the nearest solid object, doing everything from restraining them in a rubbery restraint to tearing them limb from limb.  It's hilariously random, and it's positively repulsive at times (especially with the game's floppy physics), and it adds a whole new level of strategy and fun to an already excellent title.

While the level of intrigue may have slightly lessened, Prototype 2 is no less fantastic a title.  Its ballsy departure of protagonist and tightened gameplay make it a superior successor.  For a game that centers on evolutionary growth, it's thematically appropriate.