In this serial Johan looks back on fallen game series that deserve a second life. Why does this particular series deserve to be resuscitated? What went wrong the first time? And how can we ensure that it will be a success this time?

It’s Friday, June 12, 2009. You walk out of the cinema and onto the street. Blech. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, what a movie. You really don’t have to see the third part that is still on the schedule. You put in your earplugs and get on your bike. You happily hum along to Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me”, the hit of the summer that is blown into your ear canal.

At home, you pull a Coke from the fridge, grab some snacks, relax on the couch and turn on the season 2 finale of Breaking Bad. You still wonder what exactly the meaning of that burnt pink teddy bear is, but as you sink into your own thoughts you are startled by the rattling letterbox.

You saunter into the hallway and grab a package from the doormat. What is this? You can’t remember ordering something, but your name is actually on it. Enthusiastically you tear open the package. Oh yes, it is! Totally forgotten.

In , or just plain easy “Prototype”, we play as Alex Mercer, a shapeshifter with a memory like a sieve – he wakes up in a morgue, where he was almost autopsied. Mercer doesn’t remember much, but soon finds out he has some funky new powers.

He can transform himself into all the people he comes into contact with. In addition, Alex discovers that he can “consume” other people – completely absorb them. This is also a mechanic to regain health. A few light bipedal snacks and our protagonist can take it again.

In addition to transforming into other people, Alex can also transform specific parts of his body. He can change his arm into the sword that you can find on the box art, or conjure up a shield out of nowhere. The further you get in the game, the more powers you unlock. He is also super strong anyway – Alex easily lifts a car above his head, and then throws it away for tens of meters.

You will soon have access to the entire city. You run through the streets and jump and fly from building to building. It’s not the first time that Radical Entertainment has made a sandbox game with superpowers – they were previously responsible for The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Here they’ve provided some inspiration for Prototype anyway, a few of Mercer’s moves are almost identical to the Hulk’s.

Rough Edges

Although the game received universal praise for its gameplay and story, there were some things to criticize about the super sandbox. The main problem, in my opinion, is that the setting was a little too much of the same. All gray buildings will come out of my throat at some point. They also had some problems with the controls, which did not always do what they were supposed to do.

Apart from that, it was a terribly cool game in my opinion. He scored an average of 8, but the biggest reason for gamers to skip this gem was not something Radical could do anything about – Sucker Punch came out with inFamous the month before Prototype came out!

Besides the fact that inFamous was a PlayStation 3 exclusive and Prototype multiplatform, the two were quickly compared. Both had a morally ambiguous character with superpowers in a pretty dark sandbox where you could climb on buildings and fly around the city. It doesn’t even matter which one was better – a similar game released less than a month earlier can never boost sales.

Despite everything, the first Prototype was quite a hit. Enough to announce part two just a year after the release! In 2012 the time had come. As James Heller, you hunt down the protagonist of the first game, Alex Mercer, who Heller says is the cause of the death of his wife and child.

The game was not badly received, partly due to a more polished experience, but was still slightly less than its predecessor in a number of areas. The story was disappointing this time, Alex Mercer as the bad guy didn’t quite click and the fact that the game was set again in New York didn’t help either. It felt like more of the same in general.

The numbers of the sale were unfortunately disappointing for Activision. Shortly after the launch, it was announced that the Radical Entertainment was going to downsize. They would function as a support studio for other Activision Studios from then on. For example, Radical contributed to the development of Destiny.

Remasters

In 2015, the two games were quietly released for the PS4 and XBOX ONE, as a “remaster”. I put “remaster” in quotes, because the games had not improved very much. Sure, the transition from 720p to a double sharp 1080p was appreciated, but almost everything else remained the same. Textures, shadows and draw distance were identical to previous generation consoles.

In fact, the frame rate had even deteriorated. Where the original games usually managed to reach 30, the “remasters” were 5 to 10 frames below this standard. All this resulted in a nasty aftertaste for Prototype fans.

Radical Entertainment is unfortunately not what it once was. The studio is now simply too small to handle a full game. It might be an idea to have it done by another studio. It has to stay in the Activision stable because they still own the IP.

In my view, Treyarch is a good candidate. They are now working on the finishing touches at Black Ops 4, but as far as I’m concerned they can just get started with Prototype 3 after a short break. They also have quite a bit of experience in the superhero genre themselves, with several Spider-Man titles under the belt. They even released one of the (in my opinion) best superhero sandbox games ever with Spider-Man 2 from 2004.

So … A capable studio, a better story and a different setting (LA? Boston? Somewhere outside of America?) Is enough to make part 3 a success story. Since the problem was not with the gameplay and Treyarch can come up with some fresh ideas, I have full confidence in it. Maybe in the meantime, they can also patch the Remasters to win back some goodwill from the fans.

What do you think?

Would you get a potential Prototype 3? Why, or why not? And which game series would you like to give a second chance? Let me know in the comments!

All parts in the 1-Up serial:

Sunday, August 19:

Sunday September 16:
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

Sunday October 21:
Super Monkey Ball