Sergeant James Heller, is a man on a mission. Following the exploits of Alex Mercer in the first game in the Prototype series, Heller is looking for revenge. Unfortunately for Heller though, soon into the game he is consumed by the same virus as his target, although fortunately for you as the player, this is probably the best thing that could ever happen, after all, Heller and the rest of the enemies in NYZ are no pusher overs.
So who is Heller? Well, Sergeant Heller has his own reasons for hating Mercer. It all begins when Heller returns from tour in Afghanistan and Iraq to find the bodies of his family, amongst countless others, whom it is claimed have been killed by civilians infected with the Mercer Virus. This is when Heller decides to blame Alex Mercer for their deaths, since he is the one who released the virus in the first place. Having no fear for his own life, Heller joins the military and chases down Mercer, although the two soon find themselves being chased through the street by a massive mutant. Soon after escaping, Heller catches up to Mercer, at which point, the now-evil-one infects him. That just about brings us up to date as to how Heller gets his powers, although it’s fair to say that there are plenty more twists and turns to come before you’ll see the end credits.
Although Heller finds himself not caring too much about his life, he probably isn’t the only one. NYZ is in a desperate state of affairs. Manhattan has been quarantined due to a second outbreak and has been blocked off from the other boroughs of New York City, which has been renamed New York Zero. In addition, the boroughs of New York have been divided into three zones, the Red, Yellow, and Green Zone. The Red Zone is Manhattan and is worst effected by the Virus. The Yellow Zone is the poor area of the city and although it is affected by the virus, it at least isn’t consumed by it. Finally there is the Green Zone which is not affected at all, meaning that at least the people hear can live a normal life with the minimum of worry, well apart from the large Blackwatch presence which is constantly looking over their shoulder.
This brings us back to Heller, who starts off the game in the Red Zone. Finding himself now infected, he decides that it’s time to kill off the virus once and for all and therefore decides to make use of these new skills to as a means to do so. One of the most frequent abilities used in this respect is Heller’s fantastic ability to consume people. This becomes a big part of the game as you can use the knowledge of those you consume to hack trucks, set off traps and conceal Heller from the enemy and most importantly heal any lost health. Heller also has a neat hunting mechanic which sends a pulse out, allowing him to find certain targets; this is also complimented by an Awareness System, which allows him to see if any of his potential consumees are being watched before making his move. All three of these abilities are certainly put to good use throughout the game as most missions will require you to find a certain target, consume them and gain any knowledge they are carrying. By following this routine the story evolves, although obviously I don’t want to give too much away about the direction it takes.
As well as the non-combat abilities above, Heller is also able to get around each area of the city by running up walls and by using his ability to fly for a limited time. He can also jump fairly high and later on in the game, hijack Armored Vehicles and Helicopters.
On the combat side, Heller is very strong indeed. Although he starts off quite weak, it isn’t long before he grows claws, tendrils, gets some neat looking blades and a powerful hammerfist attack. As well as this, he also gains abilities such as being able to infect enemies with a bio-bomb which will cause them to blow up near their own allies. Finally he’ll also gain new mutations, allowing for more powerful attacks, defensive skills and more. All of these abilities and perks are gained as you play through the game, with Heller becoming stronger and you being given the choice of how you would like his skills to evolve.
The combat itself is fast, frantic and a whole lot of fun. As you play through the game you’ll come up against all manner of infected, some in packs and others so large in size that they block out the sunlight. Combat mainly involves you smacking the enemy with your arsenal of aforementioned powers, seeing you find numerous, inventive ways to take down many enemies, such as using the excellent Black Hole attack which sees Tendrils sprout and pull enemies into the centre, causing a devastating crush-like attack, taking down many enemies at once.
There are other ways to defeat the enemy of course and many times these less subtle techniques are essential. For example, during one mission you have to infiltrate the enemy and are therefore unable to break your cover. In this instance you’ll be required to use a grenade launcher or rifles to take down the infected, and no matter how tempting it is to use your other attacks, doing so alerts the enemies to your presence.
It has to be said that both the combat and non-combat abilities gained throughout the game are fantastic, however they wouldn’t be much use without the presentation to glue it together and in this respect it’s a big hats off to Radical Entertainment. Throughout the game you’ll be greeted with high quality story telling, all shown with wonderfully presented cut scenes. It’s certainly compelling viewing and even though there is an option to skip this and return to the action, such is the quality here that you’d be a fool to miss out.
A lot of effort has gone into the story and presentation and it shows. The new art direction provides some stunning character models and environment textures, while the game is full of vibrant colours, stark contrasts and a bustling city with people live their lives as best of they can, despite the desperate circumstances which those, especially in the Red Zone, find themselves in. The presentation is certainly a welcome improvement over the first game and it makes the experience all the better for it.
There is certainly more to do in the open world of NYZ than follow the missions, be it just wandering around blowing things up or by accessing the Blacknet terminals which will give you access to side missions to further improve Hellers skills. In these special missions you’ll come across all manner of objectives, such as discovering lairs which you can destroy, giving you all the more reason to get those claws out.
Away from the single players game, you’ll also be able to take part in special RadNet missions which are included as part of special pre-order copies of the game. RadNet provides you with 55 Events, Challenges and Rewards. The Events and Challenges allow you to compete against friends, with new one set being released each week following the arrival of the game. The challenges seem to be based your performance in game, while the Events are already decided and carry titles such as Collateral Damage and Recovery, but are as yet, unreleased.
The original Prototype was decent enough game, however like many new IP’s there was certainly room for improvement. Thankfully then, Radical Entertainment went back to the drawing board and what the studio has come back with is a compelling, accomplished and highly polished sequel. This could quite possibly be the surprise hit of the summer.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: PS3)
You can order Prototype 2 from ShopTo here.