Prototype 2 paints the town a new and improved shade of red

, | Game reviews

The gore is silly enough. Most gore is. The attempts at gritty edgy dialogue are even sillier. Prototype 2’s adult language is anything but. It’s playground bluster. If you got your tights in a twist over the bad guys in Arkham City calling Catwoman a “bitch”, Prototype 2 will send you into paroxysms of righteous indignation. Which is to say this is a prime example of how some videogame writers wouldn’t know good writing if it insulted their wives and called them a cunt. And that’s about all Prototype 2 has to offer in terms of storytelling: insultingly obvious, overintentionally gritty, childish, churlish. Just shut up, already, Prototype 2. You’re not impressing anyone. I have never skipped so many cutscenes so quickly and so willingly.

After the jump, but what about the game?

“This is starting to feel like a wild goose chase,” Protagonist McHeroman barks in his best GI Joe voice during an early tutorial mission. It is the smartest thing he will say over the course of the entire game. Prototype 2 is all about moving to the next waypoint, which will then give you the next waypoint after that. Sometimes you have to chase down a guy with a name from the Prototype Random Clumsy Name Generator. Here I come, Sanjay McIntosh, Carl Yoshihiko, or Muhammad Smith! Blarg, I will eat you to unlock the next waypoint! Even the story missions work the same way. There is nary a surprise or clever twist to be found as Prototype 2 unfolds itself across its three oddly intimate cityscapes. Waypoint to waypoint to waypoint, then through a loading screen into a room you’ve already seen several times. Kill a bunch of dudes and then walk back out. Mission accomplished. Now pick a minor perk that won’t matter. When you’re exploding zombies 20 at a time, a 10% damage bonus is about as useful as a pair of galoshes.

The problem with Prototype 2 isn’t really Prototype 2. The problem is Saints Row 3, in which every mission was a new delight, or Arkham City, in which the world and characters are vividly realized fever dreams, or Assassin’s Creed 2, in which historical detail and environmental interaction came alive, or Just Cause 2, which set the standard for graphics engines and scope of destruction. When you play an open world game, there is no reason you should have to compromise. Yet here you are in a moderately attractive, moderately open, moderately memorable papier-mache chaos generator with about a dozen different ways to track the chaos: friends leaderboards, unlockables, challenges, side missions, etc., etc., etc. Prototype 2 sometimes feels like more etc. than actual game.

This is the third time Radical Entertainment has made this game. They did it first with The Incredicle Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Then they more or less ported that game, same city and all, to this Prototype character, who isn’t a character so much as a mass of biogoo that can form solid shapes like knives and stabbing weapons. And some random tentacleplay. He’s basically a combination of The Hulk, Spiderman, and Wolverine, but with 100% less Marvel licensing fee.

But after doing this three times, Radical is getting the gameplay down. A lot of the last game’s fat has been trimmed. Prototype 2 is leaner, more focused, less frustrating, the obvious product of a developer who’s gotten it wrong a couple of times. As a game, it moves. It has a sense of purpose, pace, priorities, and forward momentum from waypoint to waypoint to waypoint. It knows enough to pepper the meaningless stuff with meaningful stuff. Although the occasional 10% upgrades are dripfeeds of inconsequential advancement, your powers are distinct. Each has its own role in the overall scheme of splatting a hundred dudes at a time, with the occasional helicopter or brawler thrown in for good measure. By the time you get to the final boss fight, all that’s left to do is to force you to use a specific attack for each stage of the boss fight. Then roll credits. Mission accomplished.

In fact, you might find the game has so cleanly rolled out before you that you’re segueing into a new game+ mode on the insane difficulty level. You’ll be four or five missions deep before you realize, “Hey, wait a minute, I didn’t even like this game that much!” If that’s not a game made well enough, I don’t know what is.

3 stars
Xbox 360