I know I’ll catch flack for the amount of times I make this reference, if not from the publisher directly than from the readership, but this is Hulk Ultimate Destruction all over again and I’m pretty okay with it. The game is all about massive, senseless destruction, and it’s done well. The ability to tear a helicopter in two never gets old, and there’s plenty of ways to mix-and-match the violence through concepts like tearing weapons off tanks and attack choppers to keep things fluid, and cause ridiculous amounts of explosions and death.
+The scope of the destruction is nearly unparalleled, and something I’ve been sorely missing in gaming for a while now.
+The amount of options presented for messing things up, and making it look cool are absolutely stunning.
+The revenge story of the game is a classic one, and the concept of making the original game’s protagonist the villain in part 2 excites me on many nerd-levels.
-The story gets a little convoluted by the time the ‘villain’ of the story is recast for the third time.
-There are two moves in the game that over-power all others, rendering anything else you might conceive of using useless.
Remember back in 2005 when Radical created the single best Hulk game of all time? Ultimate Destruction was a fantastic game because it allowed you to wreak ungodly amounts of destruction upon a city swarming with innocent civilians and a never-ending tidal wave of US army troops that would never, ever give up on their futile attempts to stop you. It was one of the best examples of a game just being pure, mindless fun, and time and time again I’ve had discussions with my friends regarding a potential sequel to that game. Radical, in their infinite wisdom, have finally provided it, though without the Hulk as the main character this time, replacing it instead with their own property: Prototype.
Let me be perfectly clear: I did not enjoy Prototype. The original game was boring, still mindless and full of destruction, but it didn’t strike any of those emotional connections to smashing that Hulk did. Perhaps it was because of the unfortunate timing, coming out alongside of Sony’s PS3 exclusive inFamous, which, in my opinion, was the far superior game. Whatever it was, that magical element was missing, but Radical has found it for the sequel and even managed to kick it up a notch.
I remember reading once that if a game is going to revolve around a core mechanic that element needs to be as much fun the 100th time as it is the first time. It’s a challenge that Prototype 2 seems to take personally. Things like the one-hit kills on tanks are going to be repeated about a billion times by the end of the game, because it’s the clear choice for plowing through endless waves of attacking armies (the alternative being hitting it with rockets, which takes at least four hits, or pounding at it with your first, which takes significantly more time), but Prototype 2 manages to keep it fun each and every time. From the outside, maybe not so much, I know that having friends over during my time with the review unit people would get upset seeing that animation even three times in the span of 30 minutes, but when you’re actually sat down with the game, you’re pretty okay with ripping a tank in half by the barrel and then smashing it Hulk-style, destroying it in a single blow, even if it’s something you’ve already down a million other times within the last hour.
The story to the game, from what I can piece together, revolves around a revenge story where the main character, James Heller, seeks out revenge against the original game’s protagonist, Alex Mercer, who he holds personally responsible for the death of his family. The opening is simple enough, and it’s pretty bad-ass, with Heller being a knife-wielding super-soldier spurred on by his hatred for Mercer, exploding out the back of an APC at the top of the game to go toe-to-toe and hand-to-hand with Mercer… surprisingly holding his own for the most part until Mercer decided to pull the auto win of “I’m god, remember?” and infect Heller. Thus, the game starts fresh, a new character, a new story, a new angle on the world and the infection. Mercer does what he can to bend Heller to his side, pitting him against the armies and corporations sent to eliminate the virus, and its patient zero, but as things progress they also get rather convoluted regarding who is in the right, who is in the wrong, and who you should be fighting.
If I’m being 100% honest, and that’s something I’m oft inclined to do in reviews, the story doesn’t mean much to me. The concept, at its core, was great. The tag line “kill your maker” was a cool tag for a classic revenge tale, but when the perception of Mercer is changed by the game’s storyline for the third time, I gave up entirely on following along anymore. Killing Mercer minions, killing the US military’s troops, or shadowy corporation’s super-soldiers all feels the same when you’re dropping 20 stories down on top of a group to explode into a series of razor-sharp tendrils.
The only thing that kind of breaks the gameplay aspect, which is what I would love people to focus on, because really, the story might be Oscar-winning and I might never know, is the fact that about 3 hours in you’ve unlocked two attacks that render all else almost completely useless and make every boss-fight laughable. Early in the game you unlock the ability to launch a tendril attack that, when charged, spews a ball of muck at a target then explodes outwards, securing several pieces of collateral that then implode inwards and do physical damage. In the case of groups, it means pulling an entire squadron together, Katamari-style, into one big ball that detonates on impact. That alone felt pretty broken, but when you learn the dive-bomb move, that lets you drop like a smart-bomb into the middle of any combat situation and devastate about a city-block-wide radius with tendrils that shoot up from the ground and spear everything around you… well there’s just no stopping you… like at all. Seriously, the boss fights, no matter how complex or what strategies you’re supposed to be using, can all be won with a combination of these two moves. Drop on top of them with ‘dive bomb’ then leash them with the tendril implosion; rinse and repeat until health bar depleted.
It brings me back to my original point though: if you know your character is going to be doing one action over and over and over and over again, you need to make sure that’s enjoyable. Radical has a knack for it, and I don’t know why they ever tried to branch out away from it, to try and make games more complicated than Hulk Ultimate Destruction. Give me the option to tear cars into boxing gloves, surf crushed cars like skateboards, dive-bomb-explode full city blocks, tendril mass groups together and implode them over and over again… that will never grow old.
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher.