Revenge is a dish best served with cash. Specifically, Johnny Cash, whose unmistakable drawl sets the tone for Prototype 2's ultra-bleak trailer.
The Man in Black’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ "Hurt" accompanies cinematic live-action footage mixed in with graphics from the brand-new game, which immediately sucks viewers into the vengeance-driven world of Prototype 2. It’s a world that Activision is hoping to significantly expand beyond the game’s predecessor.
"The original Prototype was a hit among a core group of gamers, but stayed very niche," says Mick DiMaria, creative director at Los Angeles-based 72andSunny, the agency behind the campaign. "With Prototype 2 our goal was to tap into a broader audience by highlighting the storyline of revenge and emotionally connect with the game’s hero, James Heller."
A lot of the story comes across in quick bursts during the 90-second trailer. A bald-headed man you wouldn’t want to mess with appears to commit suicide by plunging off the top of a building. Over the course of his slow-motion descent, we see that he was once a soldier, but that he has come home to a city overrun with "Infected," and that his family has not survived. It turns out that this isn’t a suicide after all, and our hero has become more than he seems. We also get a glimpse at who might be responsible for that transformation, someone named Alex Mercer. You wouldn’t want to mess with him either.
"For Prototype 2, the story picks up where the original Prototype left off," says Justin Hooper, creative director at 72andSunny. "Only now Alex Mercer has taken over the infected red zone of New York Zero, and a new character, Seargent James Heller, has returned from war abroad to find that he has lost all he loved at the hand of Alex Mercer. This is the ultimate story of revenge."
Activision and Radical Entertainment, who helped develop the game, worked to stoke the core audience of the original game for the months leading up to the launch. They made several game trailers using some of the more impressive graphic footage from the game, teasing all the god-like powers of the game’s new hero. (In addition to not dying, Heller is seen brandishing a ridiculously large scimitar blade, which appears attached to his arm.)
Since the trailers heavily leaned on the game’s features, Activision gave 72andSunny free rein to do something else: showcase the story and the scope.
"We focused on the emotional part of the story and Heller’s reasons for revenge," says DiMaria. "We chose French director Reynald Gresset to direct the film because of his desire to shoot almost everything in-camera. He really captured all the realism and humanity we were looking for, but also the epic scale and integration of special effects—all within a very tight budget."