If there’s one thing that can be said about Prototype 2, is that it does a good job of letting you raise some serious hell. Whether you’re punching tanks into little pieces, eating people or slicing up sociopathic soldiers in a variety of gruesome ways, Prototype 2 doesn’t beat around the bush on what its gameplay is all about.

Prototype 2 starts off about a year after the first game, where a second outbreak of the deadly Blacklight virus is once again devastating New York City. You control Sgt. James Heller, a soldier whose wife and daughter are killed by infected monsters, and who, despite suffering from some severe post-traumatic stress disorder on top of a pretty big deathwish, volunteers to help keep the New York outbreak contained. After a rather nasty encounter with Alex Mercer, the “hero” from Prototype who’s responsible for the whole Blacklight mess, Heller ends up infected with the virus and gaining super powers as a result. Turns out Mercer actually wants Heller’s help in taking down Gentek, the company responsible for the creation of the virus, and the brutal military organization known as Blackwatch.

Prototype 2’s story is likeable in a cheesy, B-grade action movie kind of way, with some interesting plots twists and a few predictable moments (you can kind of tell that Alex Mercer isn’t telling you the whole truth right off the bat). The story doesn’t offer up any kind of examination of right or wrong or moral dichotomy like Infamous or similar games in the genre, and Heller’s character is more or less that of a stereotypical angry black guy. Essentially, Prototype 2 focuses straight on combat, which is the game’s best feature. You’ll start off punching and kicking your way through enemy soldiers, but as the game progresses, you’ll gain access to more and more powers ranging from clawed hands to tentacles to giant rocket-repelling shields. You can do some really crazy action movie moves like ripping a gun off of a tank or turning people into living bombs. You’re also given the ability to run up buildings, jump extremely high and glide across the cityscape with relative ease. Once or twice, I found myself getting snagged on an overhang, but its enjoyable being able to leap up tall buildings and glide above the city with ease.

Most of the infected abilities you have will be earned in a linear fashion, but there are a few RPG elements in play. You’ll gain experience for absorbing people or killing tanks, and as you level up, you’ll be given points to boost things like your health, movement speed or unlock instant-kill finishing moves. You don’t have a whole lot of control over the various abilities and mutations available to Heller as many are locked based on where you are in the story or what side missions you’ve completed, but it’s a nice touch to have a little flexibility over how Heller’s super powers play out.

The one super power that’s indispensible is the ability to absorb people, which regenerates your health, and gives you a peek into the victim’s memories. You’ll be able to assume the form of people you consume, giving you a way to disappear into the crowd if things get too hot or sneak into heavily-armed check points and research facilities as though you were the creature from John Carpenter’s The Thing. Unfortunately, the AI isn’t terribly suspicious of your actions, and it’s kind of weird how none of the soldiers seem to really get weirded out when you fly out of the sky and smash into the ground next to them. You can even start eating the local civilian populace and half the time they’ll just shrug and carry on with their business instead of screaming for help.

As much fun as Prototype 2’s combat and free roaming is, repetition is probably the biggest problem the game has. The storyline missions more or less follow the same formula of finding and absorbing a target to gain their knowledge to progress the story or to introduce a new ability. Usually these involve killing a boatload of people in the process, which can get old, even when the game starts throwing tougher enemies into the mix. A few missions do break away from this formula by letting you hijack a tank, defend a church or kill off a Gentek experiment or two, but most of them involve hunting down a single guy and eating his brains. They all start to blend together after all while, which is a shame, especially given that Prototype 2’s set in a mostly open-world environment and it can feel like you’re being limited for the sake of the game’s story.

Thankfully though, there is some variety in how you can accomplish these missions. You can follow the usual modus operandi of jumping in and killing everyone and everything in your path to get to your target, or you can act rather crafty and sneak your way past heavily armed guards to absorb your target instead. I personally got a kick out of using Heller’s speed and mobility to leap in, grab the poor bastard whose brains I needed to eat, and then hauling ass across the city, dodging tanks and helicopters until I got to a safe area.

There are plenty of side quests and a handful of collectibles to find in each of Prototype 2‘s three regions, so you’ll never exactly run out of things to do, and completing them also nets you bonuses that improve your abilities or help you level up faster. These range from finding military black boxes containing audio logs to taking out lairs full of infected monsters or killing teams of Gentek scientists. They’re a nice breakaway from the main missions and give you a chance to explore the game’s environment a little more thoroughly. I liked how you can stumble across the extra missions just by hopping around town, so you never have to spend a whole lot of time hunting them down just to get a small boost to your jumping height, unless you’re a bit of a completionist.

Bottom Line: Prototype 2 is a decent action-adventure with fun combat, but gets a little too samey here and there.

Recommendation: If you loved the first Prototype or just want a game that lets you slice up bad guys as an amoral anti-hero, Prototype 2 is a excellent choice.

[rating=3.5]

The review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Game: Prototype 2
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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