E3 2011: 10 Thoughts on… Prototype 2 (Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3, PC)

Prototype was a polarizing game for a lot of people, even here on our own site. The game was generally fun enough to play, but wasn’t the most technically proficient game to come out in the sandbox action/adventure genre, and Alex Mercer was kind of a dick, which made the game hard to appreciate and relate to. When the sequel was announced, and Mercer wasn’t named the main protagonist, I imagine that came as a positive surprise to many, though the new protagonist, Sergeant James Heller, also happens to have a bit more of a sympathetic motivation for his situation. Activision gave us an opportunity to sit down and review some playtime with Prototype 2, to show off the new protagonist, his situation, his new combat options and the new elements of the game in general, and for the most part, the game seems to be coming along well. If the final product comes together as well as the developers seem to be hoping it will, well, it’ll likely be a much better product than its generally solid predecessor, and that’s not a bad thing.

1.) The presentation begins with the developers highlighting the enjoyable aspects of the first game, including them noting the Penny Arcade strip where it’s noted that you can karate kick a helicopter. Unlike a lot of the other presentations I’d attended up until this point, the folks presenting the game here had a real sense of humor about what they were working with, actually, and it’s pretty easy to see that they really liked their game and liked talking about it, which was… reassuring, I suppose you could say. Anyway, at this point we then address James Heller as a character, pointing out that he wants revenge on Alex Mercer for killing his wife and child, but Mercer has his own plans, choosing instead to infect Heller and leave him to his business instead of killing him outright, which brings us to the game proper. After the events of the first game, Manhattan (the setting of the game) is now divided into three zones. The Red Zone is ground zero of the first game, and is a quarantined infected wasteland. The Yellow Zone is a quarantine zone for survivors who might be infected, where Blackwatch can study people to analyze the virus. The Green Zone is a safe zone where Blackwatch runs business with an iron fist and keeps the quarantines in check. As such, the environment this time around is significantly different… and a bit worse for everyone. This is a bit confusing, given that the end of the first game implied that Mercer was attempting to stop the infection from progressing any further, but it seems like there’s a purpose to what’s going on here, so whatever it is, it involves Mercer and Heller.

2.) We start off the gameplay demo showing off some events in the Green Zone, where Heller starts off from, and the game, so far, is looking pretty good. It’s not looking like it’s a powerhouse in terms of pure texture quality, but the game seems to be running smoothly and it’s more technically proficient than its predecessor for sure. The characters generally look cleaner and better textured than in the last game, and the game world seems to be higher resolution this time around as well. The audio is also impressive all in all, with some solid voice acting in the various scenes and some impressive orchestral scores that pop up when needed. While the game doesn’t seem to be pushing any system limitations in terms of sheer technical prowess, it does have a lot going on and seems to be handling it well enough, so in its own way, it’s impressive enough.

3.) Heller, having been infected, gets a bunch of tools to work with in his quest to kill Alex Mercer and figure out what’s going on here, and we get to witness a new one first hand: the bio-bomb. After seeing a segment where various protesters are gunned down in the street, Heller disguises himself as a Blackwatch trooper to gain information from a scientist in the nearby compound, then infects a Blackwatch trooper with the skill. The trooper flails around for a bit, then several disgusting tendrils fire from his body, pull in everything in the immediate vicinity, and explode outward, killing all of the troopers in the area in the process. Heller then takes out the scientist as needed, and we get some flavor speech about how the virus in him works. Bio-bomb seems like a fairly revolting, rather impressive technique, and should play off fairly well in combat, so, good times.

4.) The Web of Intrigue from the first game has been given something of an upgrade in Prototype 2, and now exists as Blacknet. Blacknet is described as a more active system that allows you to follow through the various existing subplots and events by hacking into the system, which will give you the names of operatives to find. This time around, Heller can activate “hunting mode”, an odd sonar system of sorts that allow Heller to find necessary targets to acquire their information. Once the information has been acquired, Heller can then progress to the mission in question to take it on and progress the events in Blacknet. In this case, we need to hunt down a Blackwatch representative, which the person playing does with relative ease, and upon consuming said person, we then get tipped off on a mission that has opened up from consuming the operative, which we go off to do.

5.) The mission in question is a sweep meant to destroy Heller with APC units, which can be stopped by taking out the unit commander, so we opt to go and do this thing, with two new abilities: tendrils and weaponization. The former does exactly what you’d expect: tendrils fire out of Heller to attack a target. Now, this seems like it might be similar to how the whip tentacle from Prototype worked, but in this case, the tendrils employ something called the “Black Hole Attack”, which essentially is an attack that works, well, like a black hole would work. Heller wraps the tendrils around the target, in this case the APC, and compresses it heavily, as if it were entering into a black hole. Squish.

6.) The weaponization system is similar to that of Hulk Ultimate Destruction, as Heller jumps to the next APC, rips the missile pod off of it, and uses it to obliterate the remaining forces with ease. It’s uncertain to what level the weaponization will work, as there wasn’t a point where we were able to ask questions of the developers, and while they informed us to look for people dressed like Alex Mercer to ask questions out on the floor, I’m guessing they morphed into other forms (hur hur) because there weren’t any around at any point that I could see. Regardless, this has the potential to be cool, and if the developers use it to its full potential, it should be a good time.

7.) At this point we discuss the perks system in the game, as Heller earned some type of perk, or mutation, for completing this last mission. We see a few of them attached to Heller already, such as “Bird of Prey” which improves his air dash, and Adrenaline, which improves his jumping power, depending on what you need at the time. There are five categories of mutations, and you can equip one of each at any time. You can have one Offensive, Locomotive, Defensive, and Hunting power equipped at one time, each of which seems self explanatory, and you also get a Wild Card power that can come from any category, by all indications. It’s noted here, however, that powers will still be able to be upgraded normally, so this is an additional way for you to tune Heller to your own personal tastes.

8.) At this point, the developers go over the visual fidelity and art direction in the game world, which we mentioned previously, before going to a Lair, which the developers note are essentially treasure locales of sorts; they come equipped with nasty mutants, but can also offer up some nice upgrades for those who hunt them down. The lair itself introduces some of the newer mutants in the game, so to say, as they’re essentially the mutants fans of the first game remember, but dramatically different looking. We see Hunters, which are huge, muscular monstrosities, and Juggernauts, which are fat, sloppy mutants that are rather repulsive in design. Clearing out the Lair earns our player a blade arm upgrade, as well as several “ew” responses from those assembled, which I suspect were gratifying to the developers.

9.) We finish up by addressing some of the improved AI performance of the monsters as well as the methods by which the team has attempted to make the combat more about strategy, by finding the best possible attacks or dodges at the time to deal with the enemies to keep health high and enemies destroyed effectively. Some more attention is paid to the upgrades here, noting that you get more attack options and visual enhancements of the attacks. Finally, we then show off the “Behemoth”, AKA “Tiny” or, as the presenter jokes, “Ken” (one of the people on the project), which is an absolutely massive abomination with a gigantic bone arm that it uses to mow down vehicles in the street to come after Heller. We don’t get to see much combat with the Behemoth, unfortunately, but what is shown is… impressive, to be honest.

10.) While Prototype 2 still comes across as a game that’s not going to appeal to someone wanting to play as a heroic sort, it’s absolutely coming together as a game that looks like it will be fun to play, period. Despite the warning that the game was still in a technically fragile state, the game ran smoothly and without any obvious glitches, which is always a good sign when a team isn’t really close to completing their product (the game isn’t due out until 2012). There are several significant enhancements to the product, enough so that the game doesn’t just feel like a rehash, and if the game can pay off the potential its new additions have, it’ll easily be one of the better games released next year.

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