Monday, May 14

Prototype 2 Review (PS3): A bloody good time

I love sandbox action games. Now that I've moved away from my hometown and don't have any readily-available friends for local play, I dare say that the genre has eclipsed fighters as my favourite. There's something so powerful about the fully-realised worlds and mechanics found in the genres greatest champions -- Grand Theft Auto IV, Just Cause 2 and Red Dead Redemption off the top of my head -- that allows me (and most probably others) to tune out from reality and forget about the troubles of modern life. Great story and characterisation aren't a pre-requisite for enjoyment with these games, and that may just be the reason that Prototype 2 succeeds.

Iraq veteran, James Heller is by no means a terrible character, but you'll have seen his emotional range within six minutes of first meeting him. He gets angry and swears... a lot. That, punctuated with violent, superpower-tainted outbursts comprises the game's story: a played-out revenge tale with hilariously and infallibly evil villains with untrustworthy eyes and devious grins. Be assured, there are no twists or turns across ten plus hours of narrative. Gameranx editor, Ian Miles Cheong commented that the game has a comic book storyline and he's not wrong in saying so. What I will say, however, is that you have a small trade paperback's worth of dialogue and character development and an entire series worth of mindless, albeit compelling action.

What does surprise is the way and speed in which players are empowered with stomach-turning abilities. After completing a handful of missions and collecting a few items, I was able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound and soar across New York City's skyline without a care. Play for a little longer and you'll be granted the ability to pluck helicopters from the air and create tentacle hentai at the push of two buttons. This sense of instant gratification is both Prototype 2's greatest selling point and its biggest weakness: you get far too powerful too quickly. Any sense of challenge is created by the game's awkward camera and occassionaly unresponsive controls.

Losing sight of a Goliath or any other abomination will rarely cost you your life, but it will cause you frustration. Accidentally grabbing a table instead of the enemy you were supposed to consume may cause you to replay a short sequence, but there is no genuine threat. There is no difficult mission, no brain-breaking puzzle: James Heller's most imposing opponent is the player controlling him.

I should clarify that these moments of infidelity are relatively infrequent, and for the most part I was enthralled by the game's thrilling approach to movement and conflicts of a scale not seen since inFamous 2. I loved every power with the exception of the seemingly-redundant Blade ability. I won't detail everything on offer, but there's a few powers that allowed me to fight like some of my favourite comic book characters: Wolverine, Venom and Hulk to name but a few. There's even the ability to commandeer tanks and helicopters, complete with functional control schemes. The attack chopper is probably the best sandbox helicopter I've come across, all competitors considered. The mission design may be a bit repetitive (hunt, consume, and destroy in no particular order), but you're often afforded enough freedom to make each one fun.

Prototype 2 also offers a glut of collectables and side missions that can add hours to your playthrough and most of which are worth experiencing. Prototype 2 even has a New Game + mode that allows you to carry all of your abilities and upgrades to a playthrough on the same or different difficulty. This is a full-featured package, with enough meat to justify the purchase price.

Prototype 2 isn't the best sandbox action game available, but it's still worth playing. If anything, its violent spectacle is sure to arouse discussion with friends with depth and feeling far greater than the action occurring on screen. It's violent, it's awkward at times, but more often than not, it's bloody good fun. Recommended for all except the squeamish amongst you!

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