Prototype (Xbox 360)
Posted by Guest Writer on Thu, 18 Jun 2009.
Alex Mercer awoke one evening to find his body was changing. No boys and girls, he wasn’t going through puberty - he had been infected by a peculiar strain of mutated D.N.A which allowed his body to morph into a series of forms. Sounds kinda cool, does it not?
Well Mr.Mercer doesn't seem to think so, and attempts to escape the secret science facility only to be shot at by hordes of military. Alex manages to escape by using his new found ability to jump over a particularly high wall, but what next? He can’t seem to remember anything and now he’s all alone in the Big Apple with the military very close behind. A few days after his escape, and with the military still hot on his trail, a virus breaks out that is very similar to his current mutation and leaves the military pointing fingers at you. Unfortunately this virus creates other super beings that also start to come after him. Tough break but I guess it’s all in a days work for a military prototype.
Published by Activision and developed by Radical games, the same combination that brought us open world games such as Scarface and the Incredible Hulk, Prototype is a free roaming sandbox title that gives you full third person control of Alex Mercer, the aforementioned military test subject. You don't know much about Alex initially because his memories were erased but that’s ok, as we discover very early on that Alex can absorb the memories of others. That’s right, absorb.
This isn’t a Good v.s Evil thing like Fable or InFamous. You absorb people to gain skills, and you'll sometimes spot a tag near a person indicating that they have knowledge about you and your development as a weapon, or maybe plans for the city in which you currently reside. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means you do what needs to be done, which is not a bad thing because it’s a hell of a lot of fun doing it. Once you unlock a few extra abilities by doing this, especially the free running power, the city becomes a playground and its citizens are the toys which you have to break in order to get the newer shinier toys.
You quickly develop your claw ability which gives a basic increase to your melee damage but in my opinion it becomes obsolete when the other abilities start to roll in. The morph ability, another early one, lets you take on the form of the last person you absorbed which is useful for avoiding the military by disguising yourself as one of their own. it's also worth buying up the free running moves, because travelling around the city can be so fluid and feels great when you cover blocks in seconds, and the glide ability which is particularly fun and very useful later on.
You can carry out missions and side missions to purchase new weapons, and will probably do so because you never seem to have enough resources to get everything you want. You'll probably feel compelled to do all the side missions so you can buy all of the powers, which I thought was quite good as usually I can never be bothered to do all the side missions.
As well as powers, there are also four guns and two vehicles you can drive/fly round the streets in. You have to liberate them from their military drivers but it’s all in the fun of the game and they’re good to drive/fly and avoid the common sandbox problem where vehicles feel like they’re made of lead with the manoeuvrability of a brick outhouse.
As fun as the game is to play, and don’t get me wrong- it is a very, very fun game to play, I just couldn’t help finding lots of problems with it. Considering it’s supposed to be a next gen game the graphics are a little dull, monotonous and weakly textured compared to what other games are doing, especially the likes of GTA and inFamous where the graphics are always crisp despite the game being free roaming. This is disappointing.
The difficulty increases in the game were catastrophic - you can jump from from cruising along, easily able to take on anything to being killed instantly once you pop out of hiding. I’m all for an increase in difficulty but the level by which it steps up goes off the chart with each increase. Things only get easier once you start to increase your powers again, but then the difficulty spikes up again with cheap tricks like a gas attack that lowers your health quite rapidly, or a troop that can see through your disguises and can somehow fire three shots at you at once. Another little thing that bugged me was the fact that you could fly around disguised and the military would see you, but they wouldn’t do anything.. presumably because there are so many other people flying around New York at noon on a Sunday and you blend into the background! It’s only once you use a physical attack power that people start to take notice, which is hardly a realistic reponse.
As far as the main storyline goes, it’s very generic. Experimental subject escapes with no memory, eventually remembers family are in danger, tried to save family with the help of a secret guy who appears from nowhere, etc. The slack voice acting deson't make it any less generic, and I was left in the position of not really caring about the story at all. I find myself wanting to skip supposedly crucial cut scenes because I wasn't interested in what they had to say.
In summary, when I play Prototype I don’t see a next-gen game - I see a game that is very fun to play, held loosely together by a nice little story and has some side missions thrown in for decoration. The basic gameplay system is brilliant, but the rest of the features seem to have been pulled from ‘Sandbox titles for dummies’. it's definitely worth a play, but if you can avoid buying it by borrowing it from a friend or renting I’d say that’s a much better idea.
- Review by Scrunchie