"Prototype 2" Rips into Vegas

In a Las Vegas nightclub turned refugee camp, Activision offered the gathered gaming press attending the 2012 D.I.C.E. Summit a preview of its heavily anticipated summer sequel, "Prototype 2." Amidst the dark setting, CBR News spent some time with the game, a continuation of the 2009 hit "Prototype" which finds the player taking control of a new character imbued with awesome blood-borne powers and an open world in which to unleash chaos.

In the first game, Alex Mercer (voiced by actor Barry Pepper) wakes up on an autopsy table to find he possesses an array of powers -- shapeshifting, unbelievable strength, incredible endurance and the horrifying ability to consume both the forms and memories of people he encountered. After escaping from his captors, Mercer learns a virus has been unleashed in New York and a special Marine unit called Blackwatch is hunting him down. Along the way, dark secrets are revealed about the virus that both gives him power and threatens to destroy the human race.

Picking up one year after the original game ended, "Prototype 2" finds Mercer returning to the city just as a new outbreak unleashes genetic terror on the streets of Manhattan. Marines are dispatched with one Sergeant James Heller bearing a personal grudge against Mercer, believing him responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. When the Marine confronts Mercer in the first few playable minutes of the demo, he is given a gift in the form of Mercer's powers.

Over the course of the demo, we were introduced to Heller's powers, which, as the game and story progress, differ from Mercer's. Like before, the player can consume others, but Heller's arsenal also includes a new dodge mechanic and tendrils.

While the early part of the demo was quite choppy in its balance between playable action, quick time events and cinematic cut-scenes, the latter half proved much more satisfying, as the early missions reveal to the player more of Heller's unique abilities. Even the simplest aspects, like walking up walls and floating high above the city, are fun and invigorating. And, unlike Mercer, Heller can use Blackwatch's weapons, offering even more variety in your attempts to destroy the enemy.

One of the more interesting dynamics introduced in "Prototype 2" is a tracking pulse that allows the character to find his target over great distances. Realized as a discoloration of the landscape, this sonar allows Heller to find and consume his targets with ease once the mechanic is mastered.

A second demo, set later in the game, offered an opportunity to test Heller's full array of powers, including his tendrils, a spinning blade attack and the wicked bio-bomb. As seen in the abilities demo, Heller can inject enemies with the virus, causing them to explode and taking plenty of infected and Blackwatch causalities with them. Combined with the tendrils, watching a whole street filled with enemies get leveled by the attack was rather thrilling. Additionally, the tendrils allow Mercer to pick up tanks, infected and Blackwatch troops, offering the player a variety of tactical uses for the various objects. Between hurtling things, utilizing the bio-bomb and even a form of intimidation, Heller, in his suped-up form, is a force to be reckoned with.

Also, taking control of a heavy tank gun is pretty damned cool.

Like its predecessor, "Protoype 2" offers rather grisly and graphic gameplay experience. Its unique blend of horror visuals recall John Carpenter's "The Thing" while the "Grand Theft Auto" open world landscape offers plenty of opportunities to turn the streets red with blood. Of course, not everything in the game is geared toward destruction. At another demo station, one of the race-style minigames proved particularly challenging as your skill in utilizing Heller's jumping and hover abilities come into play.

While the sequel game may focus on Heller, gamers who have not had enough of Mercer's story -- and there are plenty who fall into that camp -- will no doubt be interested in the tie-in series from Dark Horse Comics which bridges the gap between the "Prototype" and "Prototype 2." The company was on hand at the event and offered a look at the first issue, "The Anchor," illustrated by Paco Díaz. In it, Mercer escapes north following the events of "Prototype" and attempts to let go of his powers and his anger.

Subsequent issues will spotlight a group of survivors and Heller himself. The series will be released bi-weekly at https://digital.darkhorse.com/ with a print collection to follow.

As for Heller, only time will tell if he will stop the virus or get his revenge on Mercer, Blackwatch and anyone else who stands in his way.

"Prototype 2" hit stores April 24, 2012. "Prototype: The Anchor" is available now.

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