Last week in Las Vegas during the DICE summit, Activision invited people to check out the first hour of their upcoming Prototype 2. This was complete and unfettered access to the experience, hands-on and with no one telling you what you could and couldn't do. As it turns out, the game takes care of most of that for you. Throughout the first 15 to 20 minutes of the game, you're driving newcomer Sergeant James Heller through a training course, learning how the controls work and seeing his horror of a world unfolding in front of him after the man who apparently killed his wife and daughter infects him with the same Blacklight Virus that gave Mercer his powers.
Unfortunately, the promised Mercer vs. Heller "Murder Your Maker" storyline that was teased when the game was announced back in 2010 never surfaced during this first hour of the game, and Heller actually looks like he's going to work hand-in-hand with Mercer to discover what Blackwatch and Gentek are doing, and why the Blacklight Virus has broken out in NYC again. Mercer makes an appearance only at the beginning of that first hour, luring Heller into the Red Zone at the center of the viral outbreak, infecting him, and sharing memories with him to let him know the truth.
Beyond that, Heller is on his own, tracking down officers in Blackwatch and absorbing their memories, and linking up with a Father Guerra in Heller's old church. Guerra provides Heller's moral compass in the first part of the story, urging Heller to show restraint while searching for the truth, and Radical promises that Heller will have several confidants and aides along the way, to Mercer's lone sister Dana from the original Prototype lending him a hand. Heller also has new abilities that extend beyond Mercer's in some cases, like his Viral Sonar hunting ability that sends out a pulse and returns a signal that can be traced back, and his Bio-Bomb ability which he gains access to later in the game.
But while the game still follows a super-powered human in New York City, the real changes are under the hood. Radical took the things that didn't work from the first game and sanded off the rough edges, leaving a very polished gameplay experience behind. Gone is the unwieldy upgrade system that used massive amounts of XP to allow Mercer to unlock his abilities. The UI has been upgraded as well, making the screen much cleaner and easier to read. It's also much easier to control Heller than Mercer, and accessing the much improved (and slimmed down) radial wheel of abilities is much more intuitive. One reason is that the game runs in the Titanium 2.0 engine, a step up from the original Titanium engine that powered Prototype and Radical's The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.
The original Prototype had the unfortunate timing of coming out right after inFamous, and hopefully when Prototype 2 comes out in late April, they won't have the same problem. Both games are well worth playing, and while you won't have to have played one to enjoy the other, you'll miss out on the impact of the full story if you skip the original. Pick it up on the cheap and play it for the next couple of months before the sequel hits.