Prototype was one of those games - you know the ones. You've had a ****** day at work, you roll home and you'd throw it on to goof around in a world where you're a god. Some of those games involve you being a benevolent god, or at worst ambivalent - in Prototype though, you were evil incarnate, and the game was happy to let you be that.
If it had a flaw, it was that the story struggled to motivate the player, primarily because traditionally games don't put you in the shoes of the 'bad guy' - and so they fell back on human concerns, like helping out Alex Mercer's girlfriend. As if this new god cared about the petty machinations of a woman who on first (and last) contact seemed 'pretty whiny' (my words).
Prototype 2 tries to rectify this. It starts by wiping the "Mercer Virus" from New York City and then reintroducing it again - a second outbreak, it calls it. Then it puts you in the shoes of Sgt. James Heller - a member of the United States Military. This is designed to peg Heller as a good guy - especially as New York City is occupied by an evil private military company named Blackwatch. He's returned to his home city to find his wife dead and his child missing - and he blames Alex Mercer for their deaths and vows revenge.
This doesn't quite gel for me. Based on the information available to Heller at the time, taking revenge on Alex Mercer is a little like the town of Springfield burning down the observatory to prevent death from comets.
Nevertheless when his entire squad gets killed while patrolling an infected area - and then Alex Mercer shows up - Heller takes this opportunity to take revenge. He runs up to Alex Mercer and slits his throat, which is what anyone might do if confronted with a man can literally punch people in half.
Alex Mercer turns around and punches Heller, but leaves him roughly intact... I can't keep this up. You get it right? They tried to make the story better, but they failed pretty spectacularly. Why doesn't Mercer punch Heller in half after his throat is slit? Later on you find out it's because he liked the cut of his jib and wanted to turn him into a superhuman wrecking machine. Seriously.
Along the way we connect with a latino priest (I felt they missed an opportunity to call him 'Padre', but they make use of every other chance they get to have him mix Spanish and English) who is also a revolutionary freedom fighter. When he runs his course we wind up with two female helper bees - both of whom Heller treats like **** - and we find Heller making many of the same mistakes that Mercer did - but somehow still maintaining a position as the good guy.
This is despite the fact that while playing I'm able to do whatever I want as James Heller. I can run up walls. I can leap up tall buildings in a single bound. I can throw cars at helicopters, punch people in half, turn my arm into a whip and whip people to bits, call in infested monsters which will literally kill anything and everything nearby and also assume the form of any person near me (by way of a process which also kills them).
I regain health by absorbing anything near me - be it monsters, Blackwatch baddies or just regular citizens of NYC. I suffer no penalty for murdering anyone near me, and later in the game I gain a 'Mass' bar which I use to unleash devastating attacks which, after levelling up, can be used to kill nearly anything I fight.
On more than one occasion I spent time between 'Missions' running around eating people to gain mass before a big fight, like some sort of jacked-up cannibalistic MMA fighter. I wasn't punished for this - though after enough time it became apparent that eating the pmc guys was marginally better for me than eating civilians.
To the game's credit, I never felt like any of this was beyond me - the game controls wonderfully, and whether you want to or not you feel utterly connected to James Heller's actions. Still - the first game managed this flawlessly as well, which means Prototype 2 simply brings more attacks and enemies to the table.
The game looks ok, but really it's more 'impressive' than 'pretty' - there are stacks of enemies/victims on screen at once, all of them moving somewhat independently, and only very rarely did I see the same enemy twice.
Better is the game's audio efforts. Heller's attacks make an awesome impact on his targets, and they paid a great amount of attention to how his many blade-style weapons sound when hitting various things in and of New York. There's an eerie soundscape when you enter heavily infected parts of the city, and you get a great feeling of tension when the Blackwatch throws everything it's got at you.
This is best subverted when you have the power to bat them away like flies - you hear the same sound of impending doom but you no longer feel the same panic, making you feel unstoppable. All of this is helped by the background music's not-so-subtle nods to Lux Aeterna - the haunting song from Requiem for a Dream (and like a billion trailers thereafter).
All of this means that Prototype 2 is a bit of an enigma. It's a story-heavy sequel to a game with a pretty forgettable story and the story it has is almost laughably bad. It abandons the concept of being a supervillain, but never burdens you with the responsibility of being a good guy and ultimately, it brings almost nothing new to the franchise.
Ultimately it's fun for a lot of the same reasons that the first game was fun - falling short by trying to rectify flaws which never really existed. Fans of the first game will enjoy the opportunity to cavort about NYC as a beefed up Carnage style character again, but it's similar enough that you could save yourself some money and just play Prototype again.