Prototype 2 Preview (PC)

Prototype was a bit of a surprise when it was released, late in December 2009. It was immediately tagged as a competitor to inFamous, but it honestly had more in common with Crackdown. The protagonist, Alex Mercer, was a genetic experiment gone awry, waking up in a morgue of a genetic engineering company with no memory. He then finds himself at the center of biological disease gone awry in New York, as a virus has broken loose, turning people into horrors as the military try to contain it in true Half-Life fashion: kill the scientists and everyone infected with the virus.

Prototype 2 takes place a while after. New York City has been cordoned off into three sections: Red, Yellow and Green. The Red section is where the virus is still running rampant, and horrific mutations roam. The Yellow section is a quarantine for those who escaped the Red section, but must remain due to suspicion of infection. Finally, the Green section is the healthy part of New York - but it's not so healthy in that a militia has been stationed there to protect the citizens from incursion by infected - but rule with a violent iron fist. An example of this is when a curious blob of infection has found itself in a lot, the militia deal with onlookers by giving them a few seconds to disperse then opening fire on the crowd with live ammo and killing them.

Heller is one angry man.
At the center of this is the new protagonist James Heller, a man who was a Marine fighting in the Middle East when the biological chaos broke out in New York, losing his wife and daughter. Out of grief and despair, he went to the Red zone himself to find them. Mercer found a mortally wounded Heller and saved his life and infected him with the virus to save his life. However, Heller's system seemed to incorporate the virus just like Mercer's, and now he, too, has incredible powers.

The twist is that Heller wants to kill the one man responsible for his wife and daughter's death: Mercer himself. Heller's grief has been transformed into an unstoppable rage, but still views his new powers as a gift as well as a curse, and begins his quest for revenge.

In the aforementioned scene with the militia's harsh use of "crowd control", Heller is on the roof of a building watching the scene. Among the militia is a scientist he requires the memories of; like Mercer, Heller can fatally "absorb" someone and gain all of the victim's memories as well as appearance. Heller first finds a soldier cut off from the rest and kills him to transform into a doppelganger of the soldier to remain in disguise - at this point, Heller is Public Enemy #1 to the milita - and shoots something called a "bio bomb" at one of the soldiers investigating the strange matter. The bomb causes tendrils to burst out of the soldier, attaching itself to building walls and cars, before the soldier explodes. This kills most of the other soldiers, leaving Heller free to "consume" the scientist to learn his discoveries of the virus, which in turn moves the story along.

Combat get get quite gooey.
Prototype was accused of being too chaotic, so the sequel has slowed everything down and will now allow players to plan their schemes, or use tactics in battle. The open world is far more open now. Heller can use a "sonar ping" to find targets, for example, which sends a pulse in a wide radius. Finding it, he can stalk his prey at his leisure.

That's not to say the game isn't filled to the brim with action, and Heller has some powers that Mercer didn't, such as being able to rip turrets off of heavy ordinance and use it against the enemy. For example, while hunting for a militia general, Heller attacks a squadron who have two heavy vehicles armed with missile batteries. Heller extends tendrils to rip one of the missile launchers from a vehicle, and use it to destroy the squadron and the light tanks. A battle with underground behemoths also showed off an almost Bayonetta-like ballet of combat, as Heller sliced and diced with his arm transformed into a mutated blade, leaping and dodging while using his tendrils to throw objects or grapple the enemy. Where Prototype was a frenetic button mashing experience, Prototype 2 is practically Devil May Cry covered in viral goo. The combat is fast and frenetic - with the occasional slo-mo finishers to allow the player to catch his breath - but it is always a planned attack.

Prototype 2 will also feature a deeper character upgrade system. Heller can level up to add or improve mutations. For example, while fighting underground beasts, Heller leveled and made his bio blade sharper. The battle became less difficult as Heller began dispatching mutants with easy, literally cutting through them like a hot knife through butter.

Heller doesn't always rely on biological weaponry.
Finally, the graphics and sound have received an upgrade as well. Prototype 2 has sharp visuals and looks a lot better than the original game. The cities - at least in the Green and Yellow zones - are more populated and seem more real than they did in Prototype. In addition, the physics engine is better, as exemplified by the end of a demo, when "Baby" made its debut. Picture a fifty foot mutated tossing cars aside realistically as it shambles forth, and you get the basic idea of how well the engine works to realistically have objects being thrown out of its way.

If there's a word to describe Prototype 2 in the end, it's "badass". The open world, the combat, the visuals, are all visceral treats. The game feels polished already, even though it won't see a release til 2012. Keep an eye out for Prototype 2 for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 - this one is a real winner.

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