Radical Entertainment shifts formula for Prototype 2
One of the most difficult things Ken Rosman had to do after taking over the management of Radical Entertainment was finish playing Prototype. “It was hard to the point of no longer fun, for me,” the studio head said in an interview. While acknowledging that many fans of the game, developed by the Activision Blizzard–owned Vancouver studio, enjoyed the difficulty, Rosman found it frustrating. “If I want to be punished, I’ll call my mom,” he joked.
Rosman spoke with the Georgia Straight in Radical’s log cabin, constructed in the studio’s lofty communal space on Terminal Avenue. The sequel, Prototype 2 (Activision; PS3, Windows, Xbox 360; rated mature), is set for release on April 24. “I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved,” Rosman said. “I think it’s incredibly fun.
Like the first game, published by Activision in 2009, Prototype 2 is an open-world action game set in New York City. A virus is rampant in the metropolis, turning its citizens into grotesque, violent creatures. That same virus turns the main character into a shape-shifter who can morph his arms into weapons and take on the skills, abilities, and even memories of the people he kills. “If there’s a star of the intellectual property,” Rosman noted, “it’s the virus.”
Alex Mercer, the protagonist of the first game, becomes the antagonist in the sequel. Rosman said the decision was made in part because Mercer was so ambiguous. There was a disconnect, he explained, between the Mercer who was soft-spoken and sympathetic toward his sister in cut scenes, and the Mercer who then proceeded to “slice and dice every other sister and brother and parent in the city”.
“By the end of Prototype, you’re left with the question of, is he a good guy or a bad guy?” Rosman said. In Prototype 2, Mercer is an enigma whose motivations are revealed as the new leading man, James Heller, tries to exact revenge for the death of his family.
Rosman said feedback from both press and fans provided a clear picture of what worked in Prototype and what didn’t. Unfair combat, according to him, was jettisoned. “While there is a small group of gamers that love getting shot in the back of the head,” Rosman said, “90 percent of gamers don’t enjoy getting shot in the back of the head. We knew we had to fix that.” For those players who appreciate a challenge, the difficulty level can be adjusted. “If you want to play on ‘Insane’, it’s still there,” he added.
The powers manifested in Heller by the virus are similar to those wielded by Mercer, because they were fan favourites. But the progression of those skills has been modified so they are delivered through the narrative. And the game has been crafted so that certain circumstances are best met with specific powers. A Hammerfist is better for taking on a fleet of tanks, for example, than the Blade.
The ability to run, parkourlike, through New York also makes a return. “We knew we delivered a locomotion experience you couldn’t get anywhere else,” Rosman said.