E3 2011: Prototype 2 Interview – We Talk New Mutations With Radical Entertainment's Chris Ansell

Richard Walker

Central to the relative success of Prototype was its remit of providing 'the ultimate power fantasy', and for some, the game really hit the mark, giving players unbridled freedom to wreak havoc on a massive scale. However, Radical Entertainment knows it can push the envelope further for the sequel.

And so that's exactly what the developer plans to do, with a new hero in Sergeant James Heller, who willingly accepts his powers, embracing them as a means to an end. As he works his way through the Green, Yellow and Red Zones of New York Zero, Heller will march ever closer to a final showdown with the previous game's hero, Alex Mercer who he blames for killing his family.

Having watched a staggering presentation of Prototype 2 at E3 2011 - check out the preview here - we managed to creep into the inner sanctum of Activision's huge booth, where we found Radical Entertainment's Director of Studio Marketing, Chris Ansell, who was more than happy to answer some of our burning questions and tell us just how epic Prototype 2 is going to be.

What were the major improvements over the first Prototype that you wanted to incorporate for Prototype 2?

When we finished the first game, we had a really clear road map from scouring forums, from reading the reviews and internal feedback from the team as to what we really wanted to bring forward into a sequel. What we wanted to sharpen up, what we wanted to discard and where were the barriers to fun? I mean, it was often a case of three steps forward, one step back and some of that is down to our design decisions. We also wanted to have a really compelling, epic story that was well told this time. Our first game had a conspiracy-based story, which was really cool in theory, but I think if you played the game in drips and drabs, it was easy to forget where you were. So, if you think of something like Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, if at any time you were to hit pause during that movie and ask the viewer, “what is Indiana Jones trying to do?” they know that he's looking for the Ark of the Covenant. In a similar fashion with Prototype 2, we're looking to have a very big story, but a comprehendible story that makes sense, where you can understand the motivations of the main characters.

A big new feature is a new main character, a new protagonist called Sergeant James Heller, who has returned from the war in Afghanistan, fourteen months after the initial outbreak happened in New York City. Alex Mercer is the one who released the virus into the city, so Heller basically blames him for the death of his wife and daughter, and the destruction of his city. And so Heller's motivation grows as the plot develops throughout Prototype 2, so our goal is to have a really huge epic showdown. For us, if we could have Prototype 2 be the most epic showdown of 2012 in a video game, we'll be really stoked. Prototypes don't normally fight other prototypes, so we loved the idea of that and I think gamers will as well.

In Prototype 2 you have the Green, Yellow and Red Zones that have a low, medium and high level of infection respectively. Is it safe to assume that you'll start in the Green Zone and gradually unlock the Yellow and then the Red Zones as you progress?

Maybe! (laughs) There's a certain order to how we push the players through the three distinct zones. In the first game, you could access all of Manhattan straight away, which sounded really cool in theory, but there's something to be said for having unique zones that you want to look at over the horizon and think, “wow. What's happening over there?!” and have that match the story and drive you through. We also wanted our artists to have the chance to theme up and really work on the graphics and rendering, the look, the feel, almost the taste and touch of those three distinct zones, so that they feel very different. Even the way that the Blackwatch military interact with civilians and the way that they interact with you will be very different from zone to zone, and already we're seeing some very cool civilian or ambient pedestrian behaviour as they have kind of knock-on effects with each other throughout the three zones. That's been pretty fun so far.

You've some very strong antagonists in the Blackwatch military presence and the variety of mutated monsters, but are there any other antagonists we can expect to see in each of the three zones?

We've got all sorts. Obviously, the virus has evolved and Alex Mercer has evolved. We're bringing back some of the enemies from the first game and enhancing and augmenting them. We've got a full system of dismemberment, so now if you think you can take the leg or the arm, or cut through the torso of a larger enemy, you probably can. When you do that, there's actually gameplay built into it, so as some enemies get more difficult, the less limbs they have. So, we're looking to bring back a lot of the favourite enemies from the first one, augmenting them as well, and we've got a lot of new enemies. We've got a really cool enemy that we're still creating a name for – we're calling her 'Tiny' right now – and it's a seven to eight storey-high beast. It basically rips everything up wherever we drop her into. We know we have got to bring a whole range of enemies for players to interact with, but another key thing is having enemies with specific weak points to create a more tactical element to the combat than Prototype 1.

Are you able to pick up limbs and throw them back too?

I'm happy to announce that you can! (laughs)

When we saw 'Tiny' in the demo, it's health bar has the name 'Behemoth' by it. Is that going to be a potential name for it?

'Behemoth' is really a working title. We had that title in place for a while, then we saw that inFamous 2 has a character called the Behemoth – this happens all the time – and we were like, “oh my god! We have to start all over again!” We'll have a pretty cool name for her soon.

Will there be any surprises for Prototype 1 fans to discover in Prototype 2?

A lot of aspects will be surprising. With a new character, comes a whole new suite of powers, and some of the powers we're showing off and revealing right now, but we've got a lot of stuff still to reveal. A lot. Right now what we're really showing is the Bio-Bomb that lets you infect enemies and they basically get transformed into a living human bomb. At that point you can actually pick them up and throw them to location X so that you can get away with what you want to do in location Y, as you've caused a distraction. We've also got a new tendril power, which is like a bludgeoning force and it lets you actually string larger enemies up by their limbs, so you can almost put them on hold as you turn your attention elsewhere and then come back to them. We're just trying to give you more tactical abilities during combat, so not every mission requires you to approach it with a melee-based approach. There's other more intelligent ways to solve problems and I think that's an area that players will really appreciate.

Can you explain in a bit of detail how Heller's abilities will be upgraded in Prototype 2?

Yeah. We've got upgrades of your actual arm powers that are really cool, and you'll actually see visual changes as you power-up Heller's arm or his tendrils and then new moves are unlocked with that. We've also got a new system called 'Mutations', which are somewhat like perks and let you customise your character with a limited number of slots where you can equip all kinds of cool and funky power-ups, so your prototype will be very different to a friend's prototype. We're really trying to increase the sense of customisation and ownership over the player's own version of James Heller. It's all really cool stuff.

Will multiplayer be making an appearance in Prototype 2 or will it remain a resolutely single-player experience?

We had a question to ask ourselves when we finished Prototype 1 with our team, which was: do we decide to split the team in half and divert focus somewhat, and try to make a great single-player game and maybe a great multiplayer, or do we combine the entire team and just focus on knocking it out of the park for the single-player experience? And it was an easy call. I think multiplayer these days really belongs more in the FPS realm or in MMOs or sports games. We've seen amazing examples of multiplayer in games like GTA IV, but it's great for about a week and then it's pretty empty out there. We'd rather put the effort into making the single-player just incredible.

With a year or so left of development time on Prototype 2, what are the core elements that you're now looking to really nail in that time?

For us the key overarching aspect is really delivering on that promise again of this game being the 'ultimate power fantasy'. For you to be a shapeshifting badass and then within that there's many sub-points. We want to make sure our story and characters are really compelling, and we're already feeling great about that. We also want to ensure that the range of powers bring lots of new stuff for returning fans, as well as bringing powers that just excite a whole new audience as well. We're also looking to improve things like the presentation. We had so many cool things happening in any one second of footage in Prototype 1, but it happened very quickly, so now we really want to have the camera slow down and celebrate these awesome moves you're doing in cinematic ways. Early tests are really knocking our socks off. We're like, “whoa!” I mean, we had that already, but we weren't really showing it, so now we really want to show it and pay off the big moves. Those are just some of the cool things we're looking to bring.

Are you thinking ahead to future support for DLC and the like in Prototype 2 or is it too soon to be talking about that kind of thing?

We're certainly thinking about it, but we just can't announce much right now.

Finally, if you could have any mutant power, what would you have?

I love Nightcrawler from X-Men, so if I could go invisible and do stuff like he does in the opening of X-Men 2 when he's in the White House... That's one of the coolest scenes of all time! So, probably something like Nightcrawler with teleportation and vanishing; that'd be pretty cool!

Prototype 2 is being genetically engineered in time for a release sometime in 2012.

  • I had some fun with Prototype 1 but cant say the sequel gets me too exited. They would have to make him twice as powerful with twice the destruction and better side missions to keep me entertained.
  • thats brilliant somebody's sticking 2 sp 2 many people are turning g8 sp games it 2 shity mp ones
  • Eh. I still need to try Prototype 1.
  • @2 Ur right about that!
  • I loved Prototype 1 and was my first platinum. I can't wait for this and I'm so glad that they aren't tacking on some form of shitty multiplayer like most games.
  • I was a huge fan of Prototype and I'm really looking forward to this sequel. The only thing I'd ask for is a better quality story, which they've already said they're working on providing.
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