Prototype 2 hands-on

Take a pinch of Grand Theft Auto, a slice of Left 4 Dead and throw in a bit of conspiracy for good measure -- the resultant mixture should come out something like Prototype 2.Set in a post-viral-infected New York where the mysterious blacklight virus is sending everyone all sorts of crazy, Prototype 2 follows the story of two characters infected with the disease. But, unlike everyone else, they don’t have great big flabby lumps of skin hanging off their faces. Instead they can practically fly, absorb huge amounts of bullets, shapeshift and transform various body parts into weapons.

Now we dont want to give away too much about the story as we would hope you would enjoy it for yourselves. What we will say is this, Mercer, the quasi-antihero from the original, has returned. This time round however you aren’t playing as him, instead you assume the role of Sgt Heller, who has lost his entire family to the blacklight virus. Heller is seeking revenge and decides to hunt down Mercer, the rest is for you to find out. In a nutshell, everything that was good about the original has been turned up to 11 for the sequel. That means more explosions, bigger baddies and an even more powerful protagonist - but behind the scenes there have been some clever gameplay changes that result in a much more balanced experience.

This is definitely a good thing, as the original Prototype frequently created situations that completely overloaded the player. Gone are those cheap deaths where the engine just pours enemies on to you, fixed with new weapons like the tendrils, which stop your character getting bombarded with on -creen baddies.

Graphically Prototype 2 also looks a lot better than the original. New York has been divided into separate zones depending on the levels of viral infection. One, the red zone, is completely overloaded with enemies and all sorts of other gunk. It looks drastically different from the safe zone or quarantine zone, making for diverse city to explore.

The lighting has also undergone a facelift as have the character models, all of which are far more detailed. The character you play as, Sgt James Heller, looks great and has all sorts of nice little graphical touches which separate him from Mercer in the original. Being a military chap of sorts, he is much more hefty and feels a bit more beefy on screen. He is still damn nimble, but his size just makes the damage done after leaping off a skyscraper on to the top of a tank just that bit more convincing. Prototype 2 still provides an incredible sandbox of destruction in which to mess about. We had around about three hours playing through the early and latter parts of the game. In his final form, Heller is an incredible force to be reckoned with and we spent an hour just smashing things up for fun.

The engine creates the sort of situation where you can rip the gun from a helicopter and use it to blow up a tank. It begs for destructive creativity. At one point we filled an enemy with what we can only describe as explosive viral goo, then hurled him as hard as he could at a pair of attack helicopters. He exploded taking the pair of them down. The choppers then incinerated the remaining zombies on the ground. We ran off up a building vertically, chuckling as we went.All this smashing and bashing however does create a serious gameplay risk. At times, from what we played, it is easy to feel totally directionless. Actually making the effort to play the missions rather than just go on a rampage is quite tough. It was a major issue with the original and is something Prototype 2 promises to fix using stronger characters and better incentives to play through the story.

We can’t say yet whether Prototype 2 does what the original couldn’t quite manage. We need a longer play through to say for sure. All the fun is still there, it looks better and the game feels a lot more engaging. The city is also a much more interesting environment to be in. There was still a slight hint there of it not quite being on a par with Infamous 2, which is the go-to game for this sort of super-hero smashing stuff. Still though, it is refreshing to see the standard zombie game handled in such a crazy way. We will have more on Prototype 2 closer to launch, including a full review of the game.

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