Picking faults with Prototype II is like shooting fish in a barrel. The core action is undeniably repetitive. Heller isn’t actually that interesting a hero. As a setting, post-outbreak New York lacks character, and the populace never gives it that living, breathing feel. Enemy behaviour is smartly tuned in that you’re not constantly struggling to evade attention, but it’s weird that highly-trained Blackwatch troops find nothing peculiar when someone that looks like one of their comrades leaps down from the top of a skyscraper and strolls towards the nearest security door, or races up the nearest wall. It’s surprising that, after inFamous 2, the last three Assassin’s Creed games and Red Dead Redemption, Prototype II still struggles with some of the basics of what makes an open-world game tick.
And for the first few hours, it struggles to make much of an impression. The graphics are decent, but without the detail or lustre we’ve become used to in Assassin’s Creed and inFamous 2. The story and the dialogue fail to grip. You begin to wish that getting around the city was a little more exciting, and that the mission design was a bit more innovative. The combat early on is fun, with plenty of toys to throw around and weapons to fire – not to mention lashings of good old-fashioned gore – but it’s not particularly distinctive or enthralling. For the first few hours we had Prototype 2 down as decent but thoroughly unremarkable.
With Great Power....
Given more time, though, the game begins to blossom. Completing the main story missions unlocks new powers, like vicious, spiking, clubbing and stretching tendrils, meaty shields that deflect incoming missiles and a destructive power that transforms Heller into a sort of walking bomb. With these at your disposal, the game transforms. The slightly pedestrian skirmishes of the first few hours become exercises in experimental mayhem, as you find new ways to unleash your powers on your foes in a series of spectacular bloodbaths. It’s fast. It’s frenetic. Its fun.
Your enemies grow tougher too, and suddenly you’re having to play a bit more tactically, controlling the crowds of Blackwatch infantry while dealing with the tanks, helicopters, experimental super-soldiers and rampaging mutants. Meanwhile, upgrading your other abilities makes it faster and more enjoyable to speed across the rooftops, tackle Blackwatch control points and complete the secondary missions. The result? Within a couple of hours, Prototype II goes straight from ‘Meh...’ to ‘Hell, yeah!’
This isn’t quite enough to elevate the game to greatness. Really interesting missions are rather few and far between, and the game tends to drift from one fracas to the next in an enjoyable but not always particularly memorable blur. When it comes to mission design, game-world and high-speed thrills Prototype II consistently plays second fiddle to the inFamous sequel. Yet there’s no denying that Prototype II has a real hook: making you feel like post-epidemic New York’s biggest badass, and tempting you with the knowledge that you’ll be an even bigger badass if you keep on playing. For many gamers, that’s going to be more than enough.
In many ways Prototype II falls behind the best of its open world superhero rivals, but once it hits full-swing it delivers some of the most intense and satisfying super-powered scraps around. With great power comes not just great responsibility, but real entertainment, and while this sequel lacks the stuff of genius, it’s a lot more fun than it initially appears.