Two of the main criticisms many so-called hardcore gamers have about the industry they love are a lack of creativity and the fact game developers now serve a master called corporate shareholders.
Truth is, they’re right. Seems like every developer cannibalizes whatever mechanic or look any best-selling game capitalizes on. A look at this week’s E3 trailers reveals as much (More on that in another blog/column).
And gaming is big business now. Like Hollywood, expect dumb sequels based solely on separating you from your money by capitalizing on your love and faith of a particular character or franchise.
In some ways, it shows how mainstream gaming has become. And there’s also a dark side to success, friends.
So, what to do? Lament? Turn off your consoles in protest? Hold your nose and game on?
That’s up to you.
As with movies, I look for the good parts where I can, support the independent visionaries where possible and keep an ear out for gems worth mining for. And hopefully that’s where I can be of some service occasionally.
This week, my main review is a game that symbolizes the good and bad of corporate influence on a title: Prototype 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3; Activision).
You play as Sgt. James Heller, an African-American soldier hell-bent on revenge due to the death of his family in a monster-infested New York City. He believes the hero of the first game, Alex Mercer, killed his family and Heller will do anything to kill Mercer within the quarantined borders of the Big Apple.
The two face off shortly after the game starts and while I won’t spoil the storyline, which is what is the real reason to keep plowing through the extremely repetitive gameplay, Heller is transformed by Mercer into another Prototype and told to go find out the truth about what really happened to his family – and New York.
Heller is an angry man and he will stop at nothing. When he talks to himself, the game writers offer some funny looks into the man’s character. And as he becomes more knowledgeable and powerful, by killing mutant creatures while hunting down key soldiers, scientists and political masters who are responsible for unleashing this nightmare on New York, Heller’s rage knows no bounds.
And that’s the main draw of this sequel. Heller’s powers, from shape shifting to giant bladed hands to wicked tendrils that can grab multiple targets and vehicles and smash them together in a type of black hole attack, are, as the box advertises, god-like. From soaring like a bird to running like Flash to smashing like Hulk, Heller is destruction incarnate.
While that can be entertaining, it also can get tired. The hunting and infiltration missions do add some fun to the mix, but ultimately become repetitive. It’s not often that I say a story-driven game goes on too long, because goodness knows in this multiplayer-mad, lack-of-story generation most titles toss plot aside like a used tissue, but Prototype 2 overstays its welcome. The story is interesting, but it drags out too long, an excuse for Heller to continue to power up his mutations. There needed to be more varied types of missions.
Prototype 2 looks amazing and has plenty of sizzle, which pleases the corporate side, I’m sure. But the art suffered in service to that. The game feels too mainstream, lacking inspiration to delve into different mission types.
There’s no doubt you’ll have fun tearing people, mutants and vehicles apart as Heller. But expect some tedium to set in as Prototype 2 becomes a game that’s fun to revisit in short stints rather than to consume for hours at a time.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5. Rated M.***
Here’s a quick look at another title currently available:
*Street Fighter X Tekken (360, PS3; Capcom): The stars of these two popular martial arts franchises do battle in a two-on-two tag team-based approach, so 1-4 players offline or 2-8 online can whoop each other’s butts over and over. You can play using Street Fighter’s six-button layout or Tekken’s four. If you’re a fan, enjoy. Newcomers, it’s definitely worth a look if you’re interested in buddy bashing gameplay.
Rating 3 stars. Rated T.
*Coming soon in future columns, watch for reviews of Game of Thrones, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Dragon’s Dogma and more.