The original Prototype, which we gave a solid 8.0, spun a yarn in which a chap by the name of Alex Mercer lived a complicated life. Part hero, part villain, by the end his bad guy come good tale, while still a bit conflicted, resulted in us remembering him as a lovable rogue. Which makes the fact that he's the villain of the piece in next year's Prototype 2 a genuinely thought provoking direction in which to take the narrative.
Not familiar with Prototype? Thanks to some clever fictional scientists and a bunch of happenstance, Alex finds himself imbued with superpowers. He can transform his very being, taking on either the likeness of someone else or converting his limbs into destruction-dealing devastation devices. In a nutshell, it was a free-roaming, high-action gore-fest, in which you controlled an explosion on legs. While far from polished, there's no question about how much fun it was to play.
Number two, as you'd expect, is intended to improve on the good stuff and fix up the bad stuff, as well as telling the tale of a new protagonist - a Sargent James Heller. This new chap, infected by Alex Mercer himself, is rather peeved at Alex. Sgt Heller blames Alex for not only the fall of New York, but for the deaths of his family - and he's pumped up about getting revenge on the man.
So sets the scene for an all-new visit to "New York Zero", once again at the command of a crazily-powerful and powerfully-crazy protagonist.
There's more to the new game than just a new story, though, with develoepr Radical stating that their goal is to fill in the blanks in the game's combat system. By their own admission, combat in the original title was either very low key or all-out, with next to nothing in between. For the sequel, the ideal has been set at allowing players to approach combat as they'd like, ensuring that some scenarios play out "somewhat crazily" in addition to the stealthy and all-out variants we're used to.
A tool to assist players in finding a style that suits them is called hunting. Essentially a human sonar pulse, this ability allows James to detect what's going on in his environment; where a target is, who he should keep an eye on, who represents a threat - that sort of thing. It's very similar to the scanner in Prey 2, or the new survival instincts demonstrated in the new Tomb Raider game. The addition of this tool allows stealthy players to complete dangerous missions undetected, if they're clever, with puzzle-like layouts of sentries and targets that can be defeated without anyone noticing if the player is smart enough to figure out the pattern of subtle murder required.
Combat has been tweaked too, as a direct result of Radical's observation that players of the first title tended to find a super power that suited their play style, and then they'd stick with it - no matter whether it was suitable to the task at hand or not. A big part of the reason for this is that the power-selection wheel system was a bit cumbersome to use, so players accepted a slight loss in effectiveness if it meant not having to bother with it.
This power-wheel is still there, however you can now map two powers to buttons at any one time, allowing for considerably more diversity while in combat (without needing to hit the wheel), and a bit of strategy outside of it (mapping the powers you think will be useful). How it plays out is yet to be determined, but it sounds good and the demonstration we saw certainly seemed to result in considerably more chaos - which can never be a bad thing.
There are loads of other changes, too - some subtle, some significant. Things like the "web of intrigue", where you'd get flashes of memory when you consumed certain targets, has been tweaked to be more relevant, more revealing, and less confusing. More finishing moves have been added, like the satisfying turret slam (rip a gun off a tank, then use it to pummel the rest of the vehicle into submission). Using your shields strategically to deflect incoming munitions back at your enemy adds more strategy to the chaos, too, as does the ability to rip weapons off enemy vehicles and then use them yourself.
The visuals have stepped up a notch or two, too, bringing a more cohesive and more polished version of NYZ to your TV screen. It still doesn't come close to the richness of a tunnel shooter or other carefully crafted experience, but it's no longer horrible, which is a big stride in the right direction. As always, when being presented early code (in this case, the build we saw was pre-Alpha), our assessment of the visuals or other technical aspects is cursory - that sort of stuff can wait for the review. It's definitely looking promising though.
Basically, from what we saw, if you liked Prototype, this is already looking every bit the sequel you wanted it to be. If you missed out the first time around, and like having fun, keep an eye on this one.
Pros: Kicking helicopters.
Cons: Alex is the bad guy?