When the original Prototype was released in the summer of 2009, it quickly emerged as a rather unique sandbox game, combining the traditional open city environment with a vast array of violent superpowers and a zombie outbreak. The ability to stalk, kill, and then assume the identity of important enemies was an innovative twist that rewarded players who made the effort with extra experience and plot background, but players were also able to simply cause mayhem and chaos should they choose a more direct path through the game.
With Prototype 2 due for release in the Spring, we were given a glimpse of what fans of the series can expect during a live demonstration at GAMEfest. Former protagonist Alex Mercer is still on the run but replaced in gameplay terms by ex-US Marine Sergeant James Heller, who has himself become infected with the Mercer's variant of the Blacklight virus that devastated Manhattan in the first game. Heller is determined to hunt down Mercer to avenge the death of his family, who lived in Manhattan, and were killed when the infection spread across the city. Although ex-Army himself, Heller is consumed and driven by rage, leaving him no less willing to kill, maim and obliterate the vast numbers of military personnel charged with cleaning up the streets and eliminating the infection.
Among the key gameplay features we were shown, the ability to leap entire buildings and glide for short distances returns for the sequel, as do side missions and the levelling system, although we've been told that improvements have been made to both. Heller can now have 2 powers activated at once, giving players the option to mix and match their abilities to suit individual situations, or simply to cause as much devastation as possible. There was certainly plenty of that on display during the presentation, with Heller shown dive-bombing explosively into groups of enemies, as well as ripping the turret off a tank before slamming it back down and destroying the entire vehicle. Compared to the first Prototype the game still looks superb, with a constant frame rate unaffected by the chaos on-screen, and nice textures and shading effects on display throughout the demo. This is certainly a game made for the fans of the original, and the combination of super powers, zombies and carnage will no doubt appeal to those tired of the saturated shooter market after Q4.
After the demonstration GameGrin spoke to Dave Fracchia from Radical Enertainment:
GameGrin: Obviously Prototype was a big hit for the studio, so what are you hoping to achieve from the sequel and what has the approach been?
Dave Fracchia: You're right, we sold over 2 million copies of the first game at a time when the economy was quite depressed and things were tanking, so we had that success to build on. But we also spent quite a bit of time going over all the reviews, external, internal and user blogs, to see what fans and critics really liked and also what they wanted to see more of. So we really had a chance to improve on that first game, by doing things like rewriting the graphics engine which has improved the fidelity of the game world quite a bit. It also allowed us to go back to realising what the story was about, the virus and the fact that it impacts everyone quite differently. But the tie-in between our new character Heller and Mercer gave us an intriguing new storyline, we wanted to build on that power fantasy and we really want to be THE over-the-top action game. We also really wanted to improve the non-combat stealth side of the game, giving the players the ability to control the pace at which they play the game. Everything in the new game is going to be bigger, badder and better.
GameGrin: You mentioned during the demonstration that one of the key things you've introduced is the ability to drop civilians once you've accidentally picked them up, was that a major issue that came back through the reviews and user comments?
Dave Fracchia: There was a dichotomy of opinion, some players didn't seem to care but others voiced the opinion that if they wanted to be moral in some way, while there wasn't much you could do to mitigate the damage caused by your area attacks it would be nice to have the option to just drop a civilian that you'd accidentally picked up (rather than have to fling them across the street as in the first game). It was something that the fans wanted and asked for. It's also proved to be an effective design decision, because implementing the ability to drop civilians will also give players the option to pick up and drop other objects, so you can now stack vehicles and use that to your advantage when enemies are attacking. There are a lot of cool things that came out of it.
GameGrin: In the original Prototype the end stages of the game had a lot of obstacles between you and carrying on the story, with missions such as stealthing onto bases, having to consume particular commanders and the side missions. How have you improved the variety in gameplay for the sequel?
Dave Fracchia: We've made a few big changes. One was increasing that stealth capability as seen in the demonstration. We will still have infiltrations; we will still have times when you have to get hold of the key disguise or even find the 'Web of Intrigue' memories. We've also tried to balance the unlocking of particular missions until later in the game. Another large factor is the combat; part of variety comes from using your powers and staging that use. We've improved the way in which you unlock and purchase new powers, the player can now choose to focus on particular abilities that they prefer, while we've also increased the variety by making particular types of enemies more vulnerable to particular attacks, which will require the players to use strategy and planning to overcome difficult missions or areas. We also want players to have more chance to predict and dodge powerful attacks. In terms of the non-combat elements; unfortunately I can't tell you about some of the missions during the story but I can promise a lot of twists and turns that will arise from the non-combat abilities and gameplay..
GameGrin: So when can we expect to see Prototype 2?
Dave Fraccia: It is out April 24th 2012. It is on the 360, PS3 and PC.