Kill it with fire.
Every once and a while, there comes a game which makes you question a developer’s sanity. Could there have been budget constraints? Was the initial design messed up and flawed? Did the story ultimately lead nowhere? Did the developer hype it up too much and simply overestimated the game’s potential impact on the world? Was the initial graphical vision simply beyond the gaming hardware of this generation? These, and many other questions, easily plague one’s mind when dealing with a disappointing release.
But those questions never really applied to Prototype or its sequel. Developed by Radical Entertainment, the first game delivered an immense scale of chaos and destruction, granting players incredible powers and a whole city to unleash them on. Granted, the overall open world aspect wasn’t revolutionary but it was a fun take on the superhuman/sandbox genre that many developers couldn’t seem to quite nail the formula for. Even Prototype 2, which wasn’t quite as good, was memorable for the small changes it added. These changes were apparent in the lighting system and the physics. From a gameplay and scale perspective, it wasn’t all that different from the original Prototype but it still had its share of problems on previous generation hardware.
This brings us to the awful “remaster” that Activision has pumped out for both games on current gen consoles.
Prototype 2 comparison. [left Xbox One, right PS4]
The release of Prototype: Biohazard Bundle was odd enough. It was simply released one day on an unsuspecting populace, like any true biohazard would. If you head over to Activision’s blog, you’ll find the publisher promising “full HD rendering, improved frame rate, and higher resolution textures and effects.” However, impressions coming out that day indicated that both games didn’t quite meet those promises. And by that we mean the Prototype: Biohazard Bundle is one big disaster after another.
Take the first Prototype which runs at 30 frames per second with adaptive V-sync enabled. This should naturally mean that the frame rate stays constant, especially when you consider how much more powerful the Xbox One is compared to previous gen consoles. Instead, the frame rate drops to the mid 20s. Why isn’t it locked, especially when the effects and textures don’t look all that improved in the remaster? It becomes especially bad during scenes with lots of action since things seem to slow down far too often.
Prototype 2’s remaster doesn’t fare any better. Though it has better lighting and physics than its predecessor, it’s still three years old. Yet here we are with frame rates in the mid 20s for both the PS4 and Xbox One versions. For crying out loud, Devil May Cry 4 released in 2008, making it older than both Prototype games, and its recently released Special Edition looks far better on PS4 and Xbox One with a more stable frame rate.
And for all the hype around “full HD rendering”, putting both games at 1080p resolution (but keeping the frame rate at 30 FPS), there’s very little else by way of enhancements. It’s especially disappointing when you consider that for how bad both games perform that the Prototype remaster still runs better than Prototype 2.
Could it get worse? Of course it can! On playing the previous gen versions for Xbox 360 and PS3, you’ll notice a distinct lack of screen tearing in the first game. This thankfully carries over into the remastered version. On the other hand, Prototype 2 suffered from quite a bit of screen tearing when it first launched on Xbox 360 compared to PS3. Frame rates were fairly abysmal even by 2012 standards. However, the Prototype: Biohazard Bundle’s version of the second game suffers from excessive screen tearing on both PS4 and Xbox One. The only possible reason we could think this is possible is due to horrible optimization but how in the world does the Xbox One version somehow perform even worse than the Xbox 360?
Prototype comparison. [left Xbox One, right PS4]
This makes us wonder exactly what Activision was thinking when it released the remastered bundle. Was it under strict deadlines? The bundle had zero hype and just suddenly released when it did so it’s hard to say. Did it devote little to no resources for the supposed “improved frame rate and higher resolution textures and effects”? If so, why advertise those to begin with? Why not just bill this as a straight port to Xbox One and PS4? Then again, the problem with that strategy is that this isn’t just a straight port. With the screen tearing and abysmal performance, it’s hard to recommend Prototype: Biohazard Bundle even over the original games. That’s even with the bump to 1080p.
Prototype is still quite playable as compared to its sequel but that’s damning with faint praise. Of all the remasters we’ve seen in the past several years, especially Saints Row IV: Re-Elected which did almost nothing to improve the base game, there are almost none which perform worse on PS4 and Xbox One. You could point to a few cross-generational releases and point out problems but there’s literally no other game out there which sets such an awful precedent for remasters.
What more is there to say at the end of the day? Prototype: Biohazard Bundle without a doubt one of the worst remasters we’ve ever seen, if not the worst. It serves as a reminder to all developers to think for more than 5 minutes before committing to current gen remasters. We can’t even fault the bundle for being overhyped since there was literally none – and even then it disappoints. Revisit the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions or just stick to the PC versions of both games instead.
Note: Analysis was carried out by Bill Smith.