Whether it was running up the side of skyscrapers, tearing pedestrians in half or shoulder-dropping tanks into smithereens, the first Prototype seemed well aware of what it could offer, but was far less confident about what it wanted to be. It had more violent ideas than a teenager's zombie script, but underneath the delightfully grisly surface the execution felt like a mess; an incoherent and unattractive game that was wrapped up in a confusing and po-faced story.
The sequel expertly fixes all these issues, but manages to create a new problem in the process. In an effort to make things feel streamlined and consistent, Prototype 2 seems oversimplified. It's notably prettier, but frightfully vague - and not the storming sequel we've been holding out for.
The improvements are many, and immediately enjoyable. The protagonist is brilliant, the story isn't awful, and the script and voice acting are both top-notch. Taking a leaf out of Fallout's book, Prototype 2 decides to play the apocalypse for laughs, augmenting itself with some much-needed humour. The narrative never dips into full-on spoof, but seems sharp, self-aware, and remarkably witty.
Prototype 2 knows that it's a mix of other ideas, and isn't ashamed. The leaping strike of your claw weapon is a shameless imitation of X-Men's Wolverine, for instance, but it's gory enough to always lift a smile - and makes the 12A efforts of Hugh Jackman look as brutal as a fistful of buttercups.
The way weapons work has been greatly refined, letting you equip two mental arm-types at once while also having access to a few other key abilities. The biggest change here is the shield ability, which you'll now find permanently mapped to RB. Tap it just before you get hit, and you'll also be able to counter most attacks, and even deflect incoming rockets.
Keeping the pop-up radial menu strictly for main weapons ensures that you spend less time faffing about, and also gives some of the smaller powers a better look-in. Stuff like the excellent Bio-Bomb ability is neatly slipped in as an option after a grab. Pick up a victim, infect them with the virus, and then hurl them to create an imploding mess of rubble and goo. Every weapon delivers a unique flavour of mess, and we struggled to set upon any one favourite (see Will it Blend?, right).
It's all prettied up to a delightful degree, but those who played the first game will be familiar with the action. You'll slice through infected beasts, destroy tanks and helicopters with your fists, and sneak into bases wearing a fleshy disguise. The stealth parts have definitely been handled better, particularly when it comes to making an escape. Wipe out a whole squad within a blink of an eye, and you can often shape-shift without running away. If you've ever wanted to feel like the T-1000, this is as close as you're likely to get.
Guards are less likely to freak out this time, too, which makes sneaking around bases an absolute doddle, albeit often to the point where it simply feels silly. Leaping over stuff barely triggers a reaction, and neither does repeatedly running up walls. They might not be smart, but at least Blackwatch are sexy. The evil military corporation have had a full makeover, which means they look a lot less generic this time. This new sense of visual identity is drilled all the way through the game, and can even be seen in the city's design. Prototype 2's New York shrugs off the legacy of the first game's cardboard kingdom, and feels a lot more like an actual place.
You've got decent reasons to start exploring it, too - completing side missions and hunting collectables down will let you choose a new perk for your character. The 20-odd hours of extra missions aren't as interesting as they perhaps could have been, but a minor boost in attack range is still more exciting than a chunk of XP, and the repetitive nature of the quests is partially concealed by each having new dialogue and voice acting.