Gamescom 2011: Prototype 2 Updated Impressions Preview

James Heller, protagonist of Prototype 2, has a few new tricks for quickly annihilating multiple enemy types at once, and we've got all the gory details.

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New York City fell upon hard times during the third-person, open-world action game Prototype. And in Prototype 2, it's not getting any better. The city has been renamed New York Zero and is divided into three zones: green, yellow, and red. All of these zones are miserable to varying degrees, with citizens suffering from either the viral outbreak or the oppressive military group Blackwatch that monitors the zones.

On the other hand, the Gamescom 2011 convention in Cologne, Germany, is classified as a fun zone, with more video games and sausage-based cuisines than imaginable. During the show, we caught up with Ken Rossman, studio head at developer Radical Entertainment, for a quick, hands-off demonstration of this destructive game.

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We'll go ahead and spoil the ending of the demo now: The main character, Sergeant James Heller, uppercuts a helicopter so hard it explodes. With that in mind, let's review the events leading up to this character-defining moment. The demo took place in the yellow zone--the "petri dish" of the Blackwatch forces. It's a refuge (prison) for those affected by the outbreak. The lucky ones die a quick death. The unlucky ones get carted off by Blackwatch for experimentation, never to be seen again.

One of the early features Rossman showed was the improvement to your character's hunting ability. When activated, the ability releases a pulse that blankets everything in a shade of red. Normal color then radiates out from your target's location until its covers the screen again. It was a simple visual trick that quickly and clearly communicated where the target was located.

"We want the player to have a lot more choice this time around," Rossman said. This philosophy applies to simple matters, such being able to pick up a person and set him down again without killing him--something Alex Mercer struggled with. It also extends to the combat. "We found that in the original Prototype, players didn't have a lot of incentive to switch powers," said Rossman. Therefore, it led to a lot of players just picking one power and sticking with it. With Prototype 2, the team wanted to give players more of a reason to paint with the full palette of destruction.

One way is by giving Heller's powers new attributes, such as bonus damage against certain enemy types. For example, his claws are great for carving up squishy humans, while his hammer fists excel at punching tanks. Players can also equip two powers at the same time, which lets them switch from one to the other on the fly within combat and without having to pause the action.

Our hero used these abilities to great effect while busting up a Blackwatch covert operation. The op was to safely transport a captured monster back to Blackwatch HQ for research. Heller's operation was to kill it and as many Blackwatch troops as possible. After consuming and shape-shifting into a enemy scientist, he was able to waltz up to the storage container holding the beast and pop the electronic lock with a flash of his badge.

The monster then burst from its cage, and everyone flipped out.

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Things spiraled out of control pretty quickly afterward. One moment, Heller was chasing the escaped beast down a city street; the next, he was tearing the turret of a Blackwatch tank. After that, it was back to the beast for a few rounds using the giant claws. Then the helicopters showed up, which Heller promptly jumped onto and hijacked in midair. From moment to moment, our character was doing something to sow more mayhem across the battlefield. And having the ability to swap between the two powers kept the action moving at a constant and destructive pace.

You can smack around heavy machinery for yourself when Prototype 2 is released next year.

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