The original Prototype was an open-world game attempting many things in its annihilated vision of New York, but for most people it has been symbolised by one solitary instance: a hooded man repeatedly launching into flying kicks at helicopters. This is the most striking image of Prototype, and it's persisted long after the forgotten narrative justification as to why these rotorcraft deserved such a thorough punting.
To the people who fondly remember the empowering feeling of boot slicing through steel, I bring you good news: you can still attack helicopters with flying kicks in Prototype 2. It is positively encouraged, even, though it does take a good few hours to unlock.
Hectic firefights are much easier to navigate now, and a cheeky dodge mixed with some powerful new tendril attacks ensures more efficient and graceful crowd control. Cottoning onto the fact that everyone likes that steady climb towards new bells and whistles, the game also ensures you're never far from unlocking some new trinket or whizzy biological upgrade for new protagonist James Heller.
As you hit the game's second area, for instance, you'll unlock the Arm Blade and gain the ability to launch into a swirly-whirly carnage pirouette, one that cleans out an area quicker than playing the One Direction album in a heavy metal club. Even later than that you'll get the Whipfist, which allows you to yank helicopters out of the sky - just in case you fancy a change from all the flying kicks, you know?
The more observant will have already noticed that most upgrades seem to be about giving your appendages varying combinations of pointy blades, but for those with a sneakier inclination there's also the new Biobomb, which allows Heller to inject foes with a virus that forces them to rupture open in a nasty tentacle explosion.
Movement in the air feels more vertical than horizontal, and gliding in Prototype 2 consists of 10 seconds of blissful soaring before a premature drop back to solid ground. There is some skill in perfecting your graceful ascents and falling-brick descents, and learning when to eke out the glide or hammer your in-air dash gives you a certain buzz.
Radical is happy for you to muck about in their infected city as much as you like, and by consuming the right enemies you get access to even more ludicrous upgrades. The upgrade menus are, without a doubt, the real star of the game.
Sadly Heller never becomes anything more than a cipher, a virtually anonymous marine in a sea of unrecognisable tropes as indistinguishable as the masked NPCs he routinely gobbles. His gruff posturing, especially during the game's bevy of pre-rendered cutscenes, ensures he comes across as ridiculous, and the master plan he slowly unravels over the course of the game is as dense and indecipherable as Alex Mercer's original conspiracy plot.
There have been plenty of advancements to the genre since we last saw Prototype, and this sequel offers some noticeable improvements to combat and a neatly-managed breadcrumb trails of unlocks and goodies. But that's just not enough. Heller might be able to absorb the minds and organic matter of anyone he touches, but Prototype 2 still lacks a heart.
Virgin Media verdict:
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