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Published: Thursday, 5/31/2012

GAME ON

Prototype 2 takes parkour to new heights

BY TOM FISHER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Prototype 2; Score: 4 stars; System: PS3; Genre: Open World Action; No. Players: 1; ESRB rating: M (Mature) Prototype 2; Score: 4 stars; System: PS3; Genre: Open World Action; No. Players: 1; ESRB rating: M (Mature)
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When I reviewed the first Prototype back in 2009, I stated that it was my new favorite way to travel. Nearly three years and countless games later I can finally stop looking for a better one. Activision's Prototype 2 is now the most incredible way to traverse an urban environment.

Parkour is a fast-growing urban pastime where "free runners" make their way across a cityscape with a sort of gymnastic flair. They jump for railings, swing through open windows, and vault and spring from one obstacle to another, turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones. It's made its way into several video game titles already. Brink, Assassin's Creed, and Crackdown as well as a few others have included aspects of parkour into their mechanics. But nothing compares to Prototype.

As you sprint through the now militarized New York Zone you will literally leap over almost anything in your path. Even buildings offer little resistance. You'll simply run up the side, leap to the top and jump off the other side. But everything that goes up must come down. And you'll come down in spectacular fashion. You can glide, which will allow you to travel farther in less time and is rather exhilarating. Or you can fall unscathed to the street creating a Volkswagen-sized crater in the sidewalk. And lastly you can use your momentum as a weapon and attack bad guys with devastation.

In the first Prototype we followed the arc of Alex Mercer, an unknown who is infected with a mysterious virus via a government entity known as Gentek. The virus gives him superhuman abilities but turns others into hideous mutations. So Mercer decided to use his powers to destroy Gentek. In the sequel we have a different protagonist and a different side of the story. Our hero this time is a former war vet named Sgt. James Heller, who has returned home to find his family murdered. The government tells him it was Mercer who is responsible and he makes it his mission to take Mercer down.

During your first meeting, Mercer tosses you around a little bit and kicks your tail quite handily. Then he infects you with the virus, endowing you with his awesome powers and the game begins in earnest. He gives you a little bit of information before he darts off and you'll spend the rest of the game not knowing who you can trust.

PT2 has spectacular graphics and animations. Perfectly rendered and near movie-quality, they help to tell the story in an engrossing way and keep things interesting. Every skyscraper, back alley, or plaza feels like it's the only place like it in the whole city. The voice acting is top notch and showed the proper emotions and brought the characters to life.

The structure of the game will have you completing side missions and complementary quests as you try to accomplish the main task at hand, which is killing Mercer. The more you play and complete these missions you will receive points that upgrade Heller's abilities with things like hand swords, giant claws, or powerful tentacles. You can also add certain moves which will make the boss fights a lot easier.

The one downside, if you can call it that, is that the combat is a tad on the easy side. Not that you won't fight some serious monsters or hordes of soldiers but rarely will you have to worry about being outnumbered. Heller's powers allow him to take out pretty much any adversary with little to moderate effort. In fact most conflicts seemed like chores that I had to complete in order to get back to the free running.

There is a bit of stealth involved as players will have to "consume" certain people throughout the game in order to gain intel. It's a grotesque process whereby Heller grabs someone, envelops him in a cocoon of tendrils and assumes his victim's form. As a result he gains all of the memories from that person and replenishes a portion of his health meter. A simple button push toggles between assuming Heller's form and that of his latest meal, which will often be required in order to gain entry into a particular area.

Prototype 2 builds beautifully on its previous success, clinging to the facets that made the first game a huge hit. As a superhero game it ranks up there with the best of them. As a parkour experience this game will have you soaring.

Contact Tom Fisher at: tfisher@theblade.com.



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