There's plenty of obvious stuff a games studio is likely to stick on the To Do list when it first rolls-up sleeves to start work on a sequel. Changing the main protagonist, it's safe to say, isn't one of them.
That, though, is the drastic step Radical Entertainment has taken for the follow-up to 2009's Prototype. Alex Mercer, the morally confused anti-hero of the original, becomes the sequel's villain, his previous role filled by Sergeant James Heller, a character bent on revenge over Mercer for causing the death of his wife and child.
After the avoidable knots Sucker Punch tied itself in over the leading man in inFamous 2 – Prototype 2's very own nemesis – Radical's solution certainly seems a little cleaner. But then, a simple makeover was unlikely to have been enough for Mercer.
"There were a bunch of different things we wanted to correct," says design director Matt Armstrong. "We had a main character in Alex Mercer who wasn't always as aligned with his powers as we would have hoped. And also we had a story that tended to be very involved and convoluted, and was difficult to follow for players."
Where Mercer was passive, his motives oddly muddied and muddled, Heller is a single-minded avenger, wholly reconciled to the deadly potential of his superpowers.
While the bloke you'll be running riot with is the headline change, it isn't the only one. Indeed, the hands-off presentation of the game at Activision's pre-E3 showcase begins almost apologetically, with studio head Ken Rosman confessing: "[Prototype] polarised people. We took stock of all the feedback - the things that the reviewers saw were the same things we saw."
What we saw specifically, in awarding Prototype a creditable seven out of ten, was "a game of riotous, gore-splattering ultraviolence, and one that does a solid, and often spectacular job. The victims may be plot, atmosphere and the difficulty curve, but then great power always comes at a cost."
With over 2 million copies of Prototype sold and the full backing of a publisher not exactly famed for its indulgence, Radical ought to be brimming with self-confidence. But a sensitive ear and open mind to feedback are to be welcomed – so long as that doesn't dilute the studio's own vision for the game.
Happily, at this early stage (the code, we're told, is pre-alpha, with the game not out until next year), everything looks well on track. The very fact the studio feels relaxed enough to demo the game to journalists on the same bill as some of 2011's grandest titles is an encouraging indicator of that.
"From the outset we knew that we were working with something that was really solid," says Armstrong. "The first game we felt was something that we're really proud of, a diamond in the rough. So much about it that was really cool but it just had these edges that were never quite right, and so in Prototype 2 we're addressing them from the outset. We really started to understand what we had to execute on and everything started coming together very, very quickly so we're totally excited about this."