Prototype 2 review

Tom Francis at

Cue: nonchalant whistling.

When you’re not being openly horrible to people, there are lots of new ways to be secretly horrible to them. The stealth system is simple but intriguing: if you’re disguised as a soldier, you can get close to any other soldier and ‘stealth consume’ them. To be clear, that means you secretly eat them.

But rather than having to guess whether you’ll get away with it, you automatically abort the operation with a hilariously suspicious shoulder-brush if it turns out someone is watching. Handily, the potential witnesses are also picked out with big icons above their heads, so you know who to secretly eat next.

It’s a generous system – guards are absurdly relaxed about the labcoated scientist running up the barrack walls, backflipping off them, flying like superman to the mutant cages and opening them for no reason. For the same reason, you can also get into some awkward situations.

On a mission that wanted me to take out two supersoldiers, I used a disguise to release mutants into the compound to soften them up. Nice idea, but mutants can always sniff you out. I had to sprint around the compound pretending not to know why they’d singled me out, or how to fight back: my superhuman combat moves would reveal me to everyone. Eventually I slipped behind a tent to beat one of my pursuers to death, and emerged as casually as I could.

The missions often give you refreshingly free rein on how to tackle targets or get into a facility, but occasionally still fail if you step outside an arbitrary range or zone. The best missions have you fight something big and powerful wherever you happen to find it in the city, and happily, that’s most of them.

In one, a mutant commander fled through traffic at night. I ran up a building and launched myself into the air, gliding above him to keep him in view. He picked up a car and threw it at me just as I started to lose altitude. I veered just enough to avoid the brunt of the impact, but my feet brushed its underside as it span. On some kind of automated animation logic, my character ran across the car before it flew harmlessly past. I turned it into a diving tackle on the target, and felt incredibly cool.

My favourite place to fight is rooftops: if the target’s on the offensive, I’ll run up a skyscraper and wait on the roof. You can rip up truck-sized ventilation units to hurl at foes when they arrive, and if that knocks them off, they scramble back up. If they knock me off, I try to turn it into a glide and circle back for another round.

Once, my target climbed a different building to leap across the street at me. I saw it coming, and charged my horrible tendril attack. Both my arms stretched out to hit him mid-air, making sub-tentacles erupt from him in all directions. They snatched up everything from the street – cars, people, chunks of building –and brought it all smashing into him.

The only game to have weaponised love-handles?

At its best, Prototype 2 is a spectacular clash of horrific titans, their mutant limbs ripping through the city as they pound each other. The fights spill out into traffic, sending cars flying as they smash each other into whatever is unlucky enough to get in the way.

Both Prototype games have terrible stories, unlikeable protagonists and hammy voice acting. But what’s exciting about this one is that it seems to understand how to sideline that stuff: the plot is just a framing device for why you’ve got to kill and eat the next guy you’ve got to kill and eat. It lets the game take centre stage, and refines it to show off its most ridiculous and horrific pleasures.

That’s why it crushes me that I can’t recommend this game. It’s just in a terrible state, and there’s no way for you to know if your £30 will get you a fantastic game, a chugging mess, or something that simply doesn’t work at all.

I don’t know how many towering PC successes it’s going to take to convince publishers and developers to invest in their own games properly, or how dismal the console games market has got to get before we start to look appealing to them
in comparison. But I hope it happens soon, because I hate seeing something as good as this ruined
by neglect.


Verdict

60

It could have been great, but this gruesome and ridiculous power fantasy is spoilt by a disgracefully shabby port to PC.