If 2009 marked the birth and awkward adolescence of new intellectual property, Prototype, the second coming of the game just skips past wondering why hair is growing in places it hasn't before and tears it out by the roots. Prototype 2 introduces a new character who doesn't struggle under the weight of unwrapping a tightly wound ball of lies to uncover his own past. The game strikes first and asks questions later, taking everything fans loved about the original and cranking up the juice.
While original main character Alex Mercer was concerned with piecing together his own story, new lead Sergeant James Heller fights with purpose and is determined to avenge the death of his family who was killed in the outbreak. He holds Alex personally responsible, and the game skips origin and coming to terms with superpowers by going straight to revenge. Like the first game, Prototype 2 takes place in a modern New York City, called New York Zero. This war zone is split into three distinct divisions: Red Zone, the infected bio jungle; Yellow Zone, playing host to survivors; and Green Zone, the most together part of the city that is under heavy military control. Though undoubtedly more will be revealed as we get closer to the game's release, one thing we do know so far is that a new type of biological beast has been found, and though it hasn't yet been identified, it has grown here organically rather than invading.
Our demo began showcasing two of the fundamental tenets of the Prototype series: subterfuge and brutal violence. The mission began with us slipping into something a little more inconspicuous and approaching a group of protesting civilians. Blackwatch guards aren't your neighborhood-friendly organization, and without notice, its members opened fire on the crowd, gunning people down in cold blood. Inside the guarded zone stood a scientist we wanted to chat with, and as we walked toward the group, we consumed a soldier and took on his form. We also got a first look at a brand new offensive weapon: the bio bomb. Not unlike Red Faction's Singularity weapons, the attack bursts forth, skewering any nearby enemies on the ends of giant green tendrils in slow motion before sucking them inward, finally erupting with bloody spray. Not so inconspicuous, but it certainly did the job clearing the space. Our target scientist was unhurt in the skirmish, and we promptly got down to business, consuming his biomass and with it, his memories.
The "web of intrigue" concept from the first game was founded on eating people to fill in the blanks of your own missing memory, and it returns here with new features, including blacknet. These world targets and vehicles reward you with intelligence and are found using the new sonar system. Tapping a button sent out a pulse, scanning the area and blipping targets that had useful information for us to use. In our case, poor Lieutenant Barry Pollock had something we wanted, and after stalking and feeding on him, we were given the coordinates of some nearby artillery.
Weaponization plays a bigger role in Prototype 2, and augmented limbs with blades are always pretty cool, but Heller will also be able to disable and disarm vehicles. Springing into attack, we scaled a building and uncorked a huge elbow drop on a parked armored vehicle. Once atop one of them, we--through repeated button presses--removed a rocket turret and used it as our own cannon. As swarms of Blackwatch came at us to reclaim their stolen property, we launched volleys of missiles before scurrying off, running vertically up a wall and away from the action to shed our threat level.
Another new feature in Prototype 2 is lair; subterranean sections of the city marked by red glowing growth zones. Entering these broken ground areas changes up the pacing completely, temporarily shelving the open-world environments for more confined areas. Ours was an industrial bunker that had been forgotten to time, and as infected scuttled around, we perched on the top of small raised structures. Hunters burst into the room and our job was to put them down. Dismemberment was a key element to ensuring their submission, and after finishing off the first wave, we were set upon by Juggernaut--bigger and nastier versions of the Hunter. The zone came to a climax when we were forced to take two on at once, and it felt similar to the henchman fights in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Butchering and feeding on these brutes granted us some of their attributes and rewarded us with an arm-blade upgrade. The lair moments help add structure to the open-world gameplay and act as a path to level up your skills.
Our demo ended with a brief look at one more new enemy type: the behemoth. This towering creature was several stories tall, black as sin, and covered in bulky armor. After narrowly missing being hit by a car thrown at us, we decided to get out of there quick.
Fans of Prototype will be pleased to hear not only that the game will be getting a second outing, but also that the development team says it is committed to taking the most popular elements from the original and adding a lot more oomph. From what we've seen so far, it's very much in the vein of its predecessor, and we're interested to see more of it as it approaches its 2012 release date on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Stay tuned for more.