There's a certain joy that comes with wreaking untold amounts of havoc in the giant sandbox of an open-world action game. And few games in the genre afford the opportunity to cause as much carnage as "Prototype 2."
The follow-up to Radical Entertainment's 2009 hit, "Prototype 2" again turns New York into your own personal playground, its citizens little more than ants to be squashed beneath your army boots. Or sliced into pieces. Or smashed into bloody bits. Or consumed whole by the monster that Sgt. James Heller has unwittingly become.
Indeed, Heller is not your typical hero. Motivated by the need to avenge the death of his wife and daughter, Heller sets out to find and kill Alex Mercer, the protagonist from the original "Prototype" and cause of the virus that has turned New York into a war zone. But Heller's first meeting with Mercer leaves him infected by that very disease, turning him into the same super-powered killing machine that he has sought to destroy.
Progressing through the story and completing missions grants Heller access to new skills and abilities. Before long, you'll be leaping over buildings, gliding across entire city blocks and unleashing powerful attacks that can wipe out dozens of enemies at one time. Not even tanks or attack helicopters are a match for Heller once his skills begin to evolve.
Missions generally fall into one of a handful of categories and involve basic elements like assuming someone's identity in order to gain access to a locked facility or destroying lairs full of infected creatures. The lack of variety in these missions is disappointing, but the freedom you have in completing them more than makes up for it. Leaping down on your target from high atop a skyscraper and laying waste to countless foes using Heller's unique skill set is devilishly exhilarating.
Visually "Prototype 2" is an extremely visceral experience. Blood flows freely as you slice and dice your way through hordes of infected and enemy soldiers. The act of consuming another person to regain health is especially brutal, as are Heller's special attacks, which often end in a flurry of severed body parts. The audio presentation is every bit as gritty as the graphics, with Heller dropping obscenities as often as he drops bad guys.
"Prototype 2" isn't likely to appear on many game-of-the-year lists, but that doesn't mean it isn't fun. Like so many of those summer popcorn movies that draw the masses into theaters, "Prototype 2" is a delightfully guilty pleasure.
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 ($59.99)
Rating: M for mature