by Josh Butler
previewed on PS3
The origin story for every new hero worth their salt contains within it the genesis for a new breed of villain - a Joker to every Batman, a Moriarty for every Sherlock, a SOPA to every Wikipedia. In the Spring of 2009, two new figures made their presence known: inFamous’ electric Cole MacGrath and Prototype’s virulent Alex Mercer. Both heroes were ambiguous anti-hero types, possessing within them the potential to be very good or very bad. Both games were decent open-world action games with their fair share of flaws.
Hindsight (and Metacritic) paints inFamous as the victor of that first encounter - though whether that makes Cole the hero or the villain in their dynamic remains to be seen. In any case, 2011’s inFamous 2 saw Cole return as the super-powered protagonist he had become by the end of the first game, leaving itself with the challenge of creating an arc of progression for an already near-Godlike character.
Tearing it down
Radical Entertainment’s Prototype 2 takes a different tact. The mad scientist Alex Mercer was king of all he surveyed by the end of Prototype and was never a particularly loveable protagonist, even for an anti-hero. In the sequel, you play Sergeant James Heller – a war veteran, returning to find his wife and child have fallen victim of the Blacklight Virus Mercer originated. Heller too becomes infected, and swears to use the power it imbues him with to bring down the superhuman figure the previous game brought to power. As the trailer’s tagline puts it: it’s time to destroy your maker.
Playing Prototype 2 is a familiar experience. You still explore a ravaged city by gliding while striking a suitably messianic pose, bringing down your wrath on foe or innocent as you see fit (though health can now only be harvested from enemies and a ‘put down’ option has been added to avoid unnecessary deaths). The action is still split between stealth take-downs and brutal bouts of violence, and the former is more robust now so you won’t have to compensate with the latter when a tactic doesn’t work as it should. One early demo sees Prototype 2’s stealth tools used with terrible efficiency as you sneak up behind a guard while surrounded by his colleagues, place inside him a ‘bio-bomb’ and retreat to a safe distance as his body implodes, sending out tentacles of black matter which suck the other guards in to the black hole that was once his body.
Prototype 2’s gore is as hideously organic as its predecessor, with some of the kills in early previews appearing to be particularly unpleasant while Radical fine-tune the level of brutality that will be in the final game. You can still possess enemies’ bodies in the same, frankly violating, manner and your ‘hero’ is augmented with tendrils that can extend out to brutalise them in various other creative ways. For example: the same demo sees you wading through the corpses of those recently exploded enemies to reach the scientist they were guarding, whereupon you penetrate him with a tendril just to attain the information he possesses.