Radical Entertainment’s Design Director Matt Armstrong began his career in the video game industry over 13 years ago working on the seminal classic Final Fantasy 7…as a QA Tester. A few short weeks of this was enough to convince Matt that his future lay more in the creative arts, and he soon found himself working as a 3-D modeler, texture artist and animator before eventually finding himself drawn into the world of game design. Since then, Matt has worked in senior design positions at Blitz Games, Rockstar Games and Radical Entertainment, culminating in his current role as Design Director for PROTOTYPE 2.
Fun Fact: I have been told that Matt has a serious and disturbing obsession with the Mass Effect franchise and into double figures for the combined number of times he has completed them. Matt is also bravely weaning himself away from this addiction by sticking to a strict, doctor-prescribed regimen of fine Canadian beer.
With a dude as fun as this, you KNOW I was gonna ask him a buttload of questions about the upcoming Prototype 2!
The first game’s story puts you in the role of Alex Mercer, a man who wakes up on a mortuary slab about to be dissected by men in Hazmat suits. Mercer then breaks out of the secure facility in which the autopsy was about to take place and emerges into the heart of Manhattan with no memory of who he is or how he got there. A violent encounter with a clean-up squad of Special Forces sees Mercer repeatedly shot, seemingly without effect. This is only the first sign of Mercer’s burgeoning powers, but he quickly begins to display other incredible traits including the abilities to run vertically up the side of buildings, absorb people for their memories, change his physical form into that of the people of he’s consumed and transform his arms into a wide variety of organic weaponry.
As New York begins to fall victim to a deadly virus that turns millions into hideously mutated monsters and a mysterious military force named Blackwatch commences open warfare against the infected hordes, Mercer uses his new-found abilities to cut a murderous superhuman swathe through the city in search of knowledge about himself and his own role in the ongoing chaos and carnage. Mercer eventually comes to the devastating realization that he was in fact the person responsible for unleashing the virus onto the city. The game closes with Mercer thwarting Blackwatch’s last ditch plans to detonate a nuclear weapon in the heart of Manhattan, but his reasons are unclear. Did he do it to save the city, save himself or maybe just to ensure the survival of the virus itself?
While it’s been three years since the launch of the original game, we’ve actually only been working on PROTOTYPE 2 for two years. In terms of the tasty tidbits, all I can say is that all is not as it seems in the world of PROTOTYPE 2, and there are some truly massive surprises in store for our fans.
It’s certainly safe to say that Alex Mercer will be returning and playing a pivotal role in PROTOTYPE 2. As for other characters from the first game, you’ll just have to wait and see.
We rebuilt the Titanium 2.0 engine from the ground up for PROTOTYPE 2 to allow us to deliver truly competitive visuals without losing any of the elements that made the first game so iconic. In the end, the Titanium 2.0 engine has allowed us deliver far higher fidelity in terms of physics, special effects, dismemberment and character and world detail while still delivering the enormous crowd scenes and epic battles that fans loved about the first game.
James Heller means a few different things to PROTOTYPE 2. As a soldier who lost his wife and child to the virus while he was serving overseas, his grief and anger is something that is very easy for players to understand and relate to. He also represents a far more self-directed and driven personality than Mercer did in the first game. As an experienced soldier, Heller is very much used to finding himself in highly stressful life-or-death situations and acting decisively.
Finally, Heller reinforces the fact that the true star of the PROTOTYPE games is actually the Blacklight virus. The virus really is the heart of everything that happens in the PROTOTYPE universe, and it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to tell completely different stories based around how the virus affects completely different protagonists.
The Tendrils were very much a product of internal brainstorming at Radical. We knew we wanted to bring a really iconic and meaningfully different new power to the table for PROTOTYPE 2 – something that made people sit up and take notice. In the end, the Tendrils have really delivered on that goal and they’re definitely one of the things I’m most proud of and excited about in the game. The emergent physics properties of the Tendrils mean that you never see the same outcome twice and that means that the end result is always unique, unexpected and enormously fun.
Ha…absolutely not! – Ken would kill me. Just kidding…he’d probably just maim me a bit. But in all seriousness, we’ve got exciting plans for PROTOTYPE 2, but we’re not quite ready to talk about it just yet. However, I can say that you should definitely stay tuned for more info on this front because exciting news is just around the corner.
I’ve always been an obsessive gamer with an interest in a very wide range of genres, so my influences come from all over the place. In terms of specifics, I’m certainly a huge admirer of what the teams at Rocksteady and Ubisoft have done with the Batman and Assassin’s Creed games, respectively, but I also love the kind of avant garde thinking that underpins games such as Catherine or (going back a few years) Killer 7. I’m also a fan of the Mass Effect games because of the strength of their storytelling and the very clever design decisions that allow them to deliver such compelling narratives.
The idea for PROTOTYPE 2’s three zones occurred almost organically from an exploration of what the post-PROTOTYPE world would look like. This led us to a kind of “three ring” approach to the containment of the virus.
The outer ring is the Green Zone. This area is the closest thing to normality in the world of PROTOTYPE 2, but it doesn’t take long for you to begin noticing the heavy Blackwatch presence in certain parts of the city – military helicopters flying overhead, tanks rolling down the city streets, watchtowers on urban rooftops, and heavily fortified military bases reveal that this is where Blackwatch has drawn the line where they will not allow the virus to cross.
Closer to the heart of the original outbreak is the Yellow Zone. This previously pleasant suburban neighborhood has been transformed into a sprawling, overcrowded mass of makeshift shanty towns. It’s within this zone that Blackwatch and Gentek (the scientific arm of Blackwatch) find themselves with a free hand to conduct a wide variety of deeply unethical experimentation on the captive populace.
Alex in the Red Zone
At the very heart of our world is the Red Zone. This area is what used to be Manhattan, but it’s now a devastated wasteland of shattered skyscrapers and enormous viral outgrowths. Oh, and it’s also swarming with vast quantities of grotesquely mutated bloodthirsty Infected monstrosities; some the size of a normal human being, and some the size of a three-story building.
NOTE: This isn’t the full story…to read the rest of my funtacular interview (INCLUDING which zone Matt thinks he’d survive longest in AND if there’s going to be a Prototype 3), head over to Dread Central!