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Blood, butchery and a delightful dearth of subtlety

Screen capture from Prototype 2

Prototype 2

Developer: Radical Entertainment

Publisher: Activision

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Classification: M

REVIEWED BY CHAD SAPIEHA

Prototype 2 is the sort of game in which one can rip off an enemy's arm in a deluge of blood and gore and then use it to beat its former owner to death.

To say Vancouver-based Radical Entertainment's latest open-world adventure lacks subtlety is an understatement.

But that's sort of the point.

The action is set in a modern day New York that's come under quarantine after the spread of a man-made virus that turns its victims into murderous mutated freaks. Our hero is Sergeant James Heller, a burly soldier whose wife and daughter were killed in the outbreak. He's looking to take revenge on the mutant suspected of starting the epidemic, a shape-shifter named Alex Mercer (protagonist of the original Prototype).

However, things go sideways when Heller is himself transformed into a mutant and armed with a range of super powers that evolve over the course of the game. He soon begins questioning the origin of the virus, and where his loyalties lie.

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That's all one really needs to know about the story. Its purpose isn't to realistically examine the perils of weaponized viruses or gaze into the soul of a grieving father and husband, but instead act as a skeleton over which to drape the game's meat: A relentless parade of wildly over-the-top action sequences in which players run straight up the sides of buildings, pick up and toss vehicles like cardboard boxes, and bloodily "consume" enemies to restore health and gain new powers.

As I said, it's not exactly a study in nuance.

However, it can be entertaining in a manner akin to brazenly brutal Hollywood action movies.

The merits of watching a set of thick, bloody tentacles spawn from a man's body to create a deadly web of dismemberment may seem dubious to some, but the game's philosophy of spectacle over substance will likely work for its intended audience of hard-core players (myself included), the members of which are likely long since desensitized to the visceral ferocity of Mature-rated interactive entertainment.

That said, even these players may take issue with the game's repetitive nature.

It seems each new task set before us is essentially the same quest of epic death and destruction, the only variable being the villains and structures that become the subject of our aggression. Wanton violence of the safe, virtual variety can be a blast, but the trick is to keep the devastation fresh and surprising.

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If there's anything about Prototype 2 that is understated, it's that our hero is a black man – a rarity in a medium that's at least a little notorious for offering naught but fair-skinned champions. Radical Entertainment draws little attention to his skin colour, save perhaps one early scene in which an antagonist taunts him by emphasizing the word "bro."

And that's fine. It's enough that our leading man isn't yet another cookie-cutter Caucasian. That he's an equal-opportunity avenger who merrily murders every foe he encounters, regardless of race, gender, or creed, is a bonus.



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About the Author
Game and Gadget Reporter

Chad Sapieha has been writing about video games and consumer gadgets for the Globe and Mail since 2003. His work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and Web sites across North America, and he has appeared as an expert on television and radio newscasts. More

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