Catharsis through Carnage
I’m smashing through the city, tossing soldiers left and right and breaking tanks with glee when an attack helicopter descends from the sky. In any other game this would be a major event. I’d have to run and hide, looking for the developer-placed rocket launcher necessary to take the chopper down. If it were inFAMOUS, I’d hang off the side of a building and toss electric rockets. If it were Spider-Man, I’d web-zip to the vehicle and perform a quick-time event to remove the pilots. But this is Prototype 2, and I don’t have time for that. I opt for a simpler approach: I leap straight up into the air, turn my arm into a giant blade and slice through the damn thing. And even though I’m not - actually - doing any of this, just pressing buttons on a controller and watching the action on a screen feels damn good.
Prototype was an open-world action game with bloody shape-shifting powers and an underutilized story. Prototype 2 aims to be bigger, better, bloodier and more understandable than its predecessor. I had the chance to talk to Dave Fracchia, Vice President of Technology and Chris Ansell, PR Manager at Radical Games and find out who James Heller is, what he can do, and why we should care about it.
The first Prototype game was often compared to inFAMOUS, though the two were fairly different games and conceived separately. There was a lot of competition between the two games and public perception pitted Radical Games against Sucker Punch as a result. With inFAMOUS 2 out this summer, you would think that the rivalry has been reignited. But according to Dave, the rivalry is more of a friendship:
“We know the guys at Sucker Punch really well. We like them, I like inFAMOUS 2, I don’t like criticizing that game or comparing it.”
He also pointed out that despite their extrinsic similarities, inFAMOUS and Prototype are fundamentally different games.
“Looking at our game, it is very much an over-the-top action game. If you look at inFAMOUS there are a lot of third-person shooter elements that we don’t have, necessarily, in ours. So I like to think of our game as a different experience than inFAMOUS. Again, I like those guys so the last thing I’m going to do is criticize them, so really, why people should pick up this game is because it really is the over-the-top action game. It’s that kind of cathartic game where you’ve had a really shitty day, picking up that controller and doing stuff is fantastic.”
Everything is made in-house. Even the pizza.
Open world games have to render so many objects that their graphics often suffer as a result. Prototype looked a little bland but Prototype 2 is much better, even featuring simultaneous explosions without any drop in frame rate. Chris explained that this was courtesy of the Titanium 2.0 engine, a proprietary engine that Radical made and optimized for open world games. “Everything is made in-house. Even the pizza. It just tastes great,” he said. Jokes aside, Dave explained Titanium’s development, and how they no longer have to sacrifice quality for quantity:
“This year is Radical’s 20th anniversary, so we’ve been developing our own technology for the last 20 years, and it all came together with the first Prototype game, with what we called Titanium. In the first game there was a lot of quantity over quality as we wanted a lot of enemies. It’s that kind of game where you’re really going after a lot of things and you have a lot of powers, so the stability of the world can only go so far while still having quantity. Literally, we rewrote the rendering engine from scratch. So we got rid of the old rendering engine and rewrote it because we wanted higher fidelity and still have a high amount of enemies in the game.”
Prototype 1 did not shy away from violence; it fully earned its Mature rating. The copious amounts of blood present in its sequel show that Radical is keeping to the same track. But Radical isn’t including so much blood to facilitate teenage wet dreams; Chris explained that it all stems from the design:
“Yeah, this is a mature action game, like so many other action games out there. For us the real goal is to make sure we really perfect the experience of Prototype in gameplay, plus have a character who is someone you can get behind, understand his motivations. The idea of a Prototype fighting another Prototype, it sounded too cool to us, we had to make it happen.”