The virus that plagued New York City in the original Prototype has returned. More importantly to new protagonist Heller, his wife and child were murdered, and he's out for revenge in a city that's in full lockdown. Shortly after entering, he's infected with the virus himself, gaining an impressive swath of superhuman abilities in the process.
What follows is a veritable slaughter: as Heller, your general approach to exposing cover-ups and crooked scientists is to hack apart and consume everyone in your path. There's no subtlety here: you can tell the main character is angry because he says as much.
Welcome to Prototype 2, the gaming equivalent of a late-80s Schwarzenegger flick.
The supporting cast of characters are even less interesting, whether it's a friendly priest who doesn't seem to mind you killing a ton of people, to a succession of soldiers and scientists whose memories are forced on you, inevitably posthumously. Regardless of who they are, you definitely won't be able to remember their names five seconds after they've shuffled off.
Of course, they play second fiddle to the main mystery, which involves Mercer - he of the original game - keeping an oddly close eye on your activities. Is he a friend? A lying foe? Will you still care by the time questions are answered? Probably not.
You won't care much about the plot, then. What you will care about are the powers at your disposal. Full credit to the developers: leaping and gliding from rooftop to rooftop is seriously fun. If gaming is about feeling empowered, then Prototype 2 has got it down. It's reminiscent of the first Crackdown, and just as fun. I highly recommend maxing out your movement abilities as soon as possible, because then you can leap really, really high into the air.
It's lucky the simple task of getting from A to B is so entertaining, because repetition sinks in quickly. Nearly all your missions degenerate into the same old pattern: sneak into this base, kill that guy, fight this new monster, get to that new location. There's a fully fleshed-out skill tree to unlock, and a healthy number of collectables scattered across the city, but it doesn't disguise the fact that you're repeating your actions for much of the game. You'll fight bigger and bigger threats, gain access to cool new means of dismemberment, and unlock access to different parts of the city, but there's little variety to be had.
The combat system largely holds up, at least - which is lucky, considering how much it's used. Slashing and tearing at enemies is well done, and the number of moves at your disposal grows impressively. If you're into your third-person combat engines, you should find this one satisfyingly solid.
Most of your time is either spent looking at vistas of New York or having gore cover half the screen - either way, it's nicely rendered. Maybe not the prettiest game on the current crop of consoles, but it's definitely proficient. The pavement cracking as you fall 30 stories to the ground is a nice touch. The voice actors, meanwhile, perform their cliched lines in an appropriately over-the-top kind of way, and the audio in general services the rest of the game well.
There's not much else to say about Prototype 2. It's big, dumb fun, presented in a package that might be derivative, but at least has a lot of polish. The story is forgettable, and the jumping is entertaining; if that's enough to pique your interest, give this one a rent.
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3