Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Megabits column: Prototype 2

Megabits of Gaming contributes a monthly column in Charged Middle East – a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games magazine that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics.

Each month, Megabits takes a look at a new release in a gaming franchise and considers how its evolved over the years and what makes it great!
Here’s the latest of the articles from the June 2012 issue. For more about the magazine, check out its Facebook page after the jump.

As Open world games are certainly not a new phenomenon. In fact they date back several decades, spawning such cult classics as Braben and Bell's Elite (1984) and The Legend of Zelda (1986). 
By the time you read this, Prototype 2 will be the latest of these free-roaming games to put the power of choice into your hands. The follow-up to the 2009 superhuman slash 'em up, has been well received, earning high review scores and praise for its revamped graphics, improved plot and boasts enough special abilities to make even Superman feel a little inadequate.
The very nature of an open world - or sandbox  - game is that you have freedom to go wherever your heart desires. Arguably no other game this generation or any other captures this as successfully as Prototype 2 because of the mutant powers bestowed upon our hero.
The sequel to Radical Entertainment's 2009 superhero epic sees the return of that infernal contagion to the streets of New York City, a virus that once again threatens to wipe out the populace. Rather than controlling the hooded - and very moody - Alex Mercer from the first game, the protagonist this time round is war veteran Sergeant James Heller who returns home to find his family has fallen foul of the epidemic. Fuelled by his desire for revenge, a distraught Heller decides to track down Mercer who he's certain is behind the latest outbreak. The two clash but it's the good Sergeant who comes off worst, and he finds himself infected too. It's not all bad though, as he now sports some pretty nifty blades where his hands should be and can shoot tendrils out of his stocky frame. Oh, and he can leap buildings and fly too!
Heller is hellbent on discovering the true source of the virus and getting even with the Gentek scientists, Blackwatch bad guys and his arch rival Mercer.
Not only are you in a vast city where you're not penned in by invisible walls, but your powers allow you to climb, glide and slice anything and everything. Want to evade an enemy? You could swallow them whole, gain their abilities and earn yourself a little extra health. Or how about chopping them in half with your ridiculously-powerful mutant claws? Or running away... vertically, up a building and then leaping from the summit and into a helicopter hovering nearby? The possibilities are endless.
Choosing certain missions or completing them in a specific order allows you to upgrade your character as you see fit and power up when and how you desire.
Although there is a mission structure, the amount of freedom and choice in open world games has ensured they've remained one of the most popular game types over the past decade. Since the start of the century, the emphasis on the sandbox has been immense, with developers all keen to tap into this popular game type.
Grand Theft Auto III (2001) was hugely significant, taking the popular series into three dimensions for the first time and becoming the yardstick against which other open world games would be measured. Arguably it was superseded by its sequel Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004), which boasted a huge open world playground spanning several cities and huge expanses of  countryside.
And there have been plenty of other examples since then. Whether it was cybernetic crime caper Crackdown (2007), surviving a nuclear blast in Fallout 3 (2008), or roaming the fantastical world of magic and monsters in Fable II (2008), open world adventures all manage to reel us in. Just look at the combined success of Saints Row 2 (2008), Assassin's Creed II (2009),  Borderlands (2009), Red Dead Redemption (2010) and one of the highest-scoring - and best-selling - games of 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
They're all about the locations, the atmosphere and the freedom - and consistently reside at the top of the sales charts. Prototype 2 may not be the biggest or the best open world game but it continues a proud legacy and, just like its protagonist with all those bad guys, will consume hours of your life.