Misunderstood menace Alex Mercer returns to infect a new human with super powers in a third-person slaughter-fest Prototype 2: Radnet Edition (Activision and Radical Entertainment, rated Mature, reviewed for Xbox 360, $59.99).
This sequel to the 2009 game stars war veteran and former Marine Sgt. James Heller as an nearly unstoppable, profanity-spewing killing machine who is looking to destroy the evil forces, and his creator, who have turned New York City into a virus-infected, war zone.
A free roaming metropolis broken up into three regions (Red, Yellow and Green, determined by the level of mutant chaos) greets the player who must visit each and stop Mercer and the biological weapons experiments of Gentek.
These zones are littered with scared civilians and busy bioresearch scientists, sprinkled with Resident Evil-style monstrosities and locked down by soldiers and a black-ops military unit named Blackwatch.
After Heller learns of the death of his wife and daughter, he decides he has nothing to live for and goes on a suicide mission that turns him into a super mutant.
In the finest traditions of a Mature-rated comic book, our friend mixes the strength and unchecked power of the Hulk (he can climb up building and jump enormous distances) with the berserker rage of the X-Men's Wolverine (you bet this guy has shiny claws), destructive webbing tendrils of Spider-Man villain Venom and unforgiving grotesque attacks of Spawn and The Darkness.
His collection of powers also allows him to: glide like a vampire bat around the city; use a sonar ping to hunt persons of interest; drop from above and create a mini eruption of deadly spikes on the ground; turn his upper appendages into Final Fantasy-sized blades; use super fists to pummel, summon and control a pair of creatures called Brawlers; swing a massive, organic whip; and plant biobombs in victims that do some very nasty things to the human body.
He can also drive tanks, pilot helicopters, pick up and use weapons, tear apart aircraft and vehicles, and unapologetically mow down anyone or anything in his path with any found objects or armaments.
Additionally, the piece de resistance of his powers is the ability to absorb other humans' biomass (with their memories) as each dissolves amidst a red, gooey-tendril bear hug while Heller envelopes them.
Like the previous game, our hero can assume the form of his latest absorption (from a Chinese woman, to lab-coated scientist and street hooligan) in a skill that never grows tiresome.
It helps allow him to enter secure Blackwatch areas, crack into the secure BlackNet communications network and hide on the streets as a civilian while his enemies search for him.
All delivered, a player reaps 12 to 16 hours worth of unimaginable, dismembering destruction upon a civilization while exploring an open-ended Big Apple loaded with story progressing missions and side quest to enhance powers and mutations.
The player will find the action comparable to Sony's Infamous, except without a conscious, as he unleashes his inner beast with little regard for life.
As a member of the testosterone-loaded demographic, it was hard not to smile when jumping from a building onto an airborne helicopter, tearing off its rocket battery, jumping away and letting loose on the craft and jumping down to take out any nearby tanks.
Especially exhilarating was entering an infected lair, wiping out a colony of the zombie-like masses and destroying large, infected pustules — that squishing sound is permanently engrained in my nightmares.
It's a game to be admired for its chilling, lifelike cut scenes and an action-packed graphic design lifted from the developers own The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and tweaked by the urban decay of Batman Arkham City
However, beware, Prototype 2 is a disturbing plunge into the land of gratuitous violence and gore that desensitizes a player to care neither about its characters or story.
I am still deciding if my virtual, mass-murdering tendencies require a closer look from a therapist.
Note: The Radnet Edition provides a code that taps into online extras for Protoype 2 leading to a weekly treasure chest of challenges and rewards as a player checks in. Specifically, five sets of six challenges (requiring a mini-game mentality to conquer courses or kill bad guys quickly and creatively) each with completed sets unlocking behind-the-scenes videos, mutations and character skins along with special content, all released through the first week of June.
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