Prototype is a single-player, sandbox game similar to that of Spiderman II or The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. You control (what I assume is) the protagonist, Alex Mercer who has been infected with a virus that gives him super-human powers. The virus has also spread across the city of Manhattan hence undead zombies roam parts of the city too. After the tutorial, the game begins with the 18th day of infection showing Alex Mercer atop a building discussing his past experiences – This is basically how the storytelling works: Explain what happened on day XX (with a bit of mystery to keep the player interested) then complete that mission in a ‘flashback’. As you progress, you eventually reach the 18th day.
You begin the game as a very confused Alex who has lost his memory while also realizing he can do things that nobody else can. What happens next? Exactly. Your aim is to find out your past, what happened to you and who did it to you. As the plot unravels you are treated to a more indepth explanation on how the virus outbreak has occurred and get to know the players in this plot. The ‘Web of Intrigue’ (databank of memories) feature involves collecting memories from NPCs – apart from acting as collectibles in the game, these memories further define the history of the outbreak. There are no twists or surprises in the story that I could not predict and you may sometimes get a little confused because of the number of names being thrown around (since you may not even care for the characters it will be difficult to remember their names).
The character development of the game was extremely poor in this game. You get teased with a little bit of history between Alex and his sister but that’s it. It ends up with mainly her telling you what to do in your next mission or what’s going on. Prototype really does not give you any reason to care for the characters. Why I use the term ‘extremely poor’ is because of the potential there was in this game to develop its characters more effectively. The ‘Web of Intrigue’ could have aided in telling character backgrounds or impressions based on the different perspectives of various NPCs. Instead, most of these (131) ‘Web of Intrigue’ nodes discuss the outbreak.
The story is one that is not particularly memorable and seems like an overly used “get revenge on whoever did this to me” plot.
The graphics are not that close to today’s standards. The building models are very undetailed in their texturing looking like something from the old Half-life engine. There are some other goods and bads, for example: the trees especially, look horrible without anti-aliasing activated while the blood looks good and seems pretty well animated. To endure the graphics I maxed out the anti-aliasing setting (4x) and that was when it looked a tad better. The animations when using devastator attacks (kind of like ultimate moves) are done superbly and actually make you feel like you are watching it in the movies. Apart from that, there is nothing spectacular in Prototype in terms of the graphics. However, I must also stress that there is a LOT of chaos that can occur on your screen at one time and because of the level of graphics, there is hardly any effects on the FPS so it is possible that this is the reason the graphics are not of such great detail.
The music falls short for me due to the repetitive “hostile/agro” theme that plays when your disguise has been compromised or you are discovered and everyone goes hostile against you. Maybe because I lacked the patience to go stealth for every mission, I heard this theme so often. There also was a bug with the PC version that made it so the cinematic sounds got (unberably) fuzzy as you played the game which kind of annoyed me as the fix causes problems later in the game. The sound effects are satisfactory and give you the appropriate feel of depth when playing the game i.e. you can hear the wind whistle as you fall 90 storeys as a human bullet.
Your main power is the ability to consume living creatures and by consuming them, they become ‘a part’ of you. This both enables you to gain their physical appearance, their memories (if they are relevant to the history of the virus outbreak) and regenerates your health.
We first look at the powers you are given: Offensive, defensive, sensory and disguise powers.
The offensive abilities allow Alex to morph into different weapons and will definitely be the first thing you find cool in the game. Each weapon having differing efficiencies against each unit type. You can smash, slash, dice and more. Defensive abilities can be used in different combinations with the offensive abilities giving a sense of variety in how you choose to take on different enemies. With the ability to disguise yourself as anybody in the game, you will be having fun with this power for at least half an hour because ’anyone’ ranges from policemen to old ladies walking down the street.
Another aspect of Prototype is the ability to pick up and use weapons. Although there are very limited weapon types in the game (RPG, automated rifle, machine gun, grenade launcher), access to this was a well thought out feature. These weapons can sometimes be tremendously helpful in missions especially since your powers lack range and homing capabilities (do not ask me how a grenade launcher is homing, it just is). For those of you that disagree about my statement on powers lacking range, I can definnitely say that it’s way harder to hit the helicopter with ‘that’ power than with an RPG.
You can also hi-jack vehicles in prototype. No, this does not mean a cab or some motorbike like in GTA. You are limited to hi-jacking tanks and helicopters only. Although it is faster to travel through the city (will touch on this next) without using vehicles, the advantages of taking a tank or a helicopter is the firepower that you are armed with. Take out swarms of enemy tanks and helicopters with a single tank – because I guess the other tank drivers don’t know how to spam-click while strafing.
Super-human parkour and freerunning is a large aspect of both the travelling and combat system of Prototype. Using combinations of different techniques you will be able to both dodge bullets and (literally) glide across town. The fact that I have mentioned before, it is faster to travel by foot than take a helicopter across the city lets you have an idea of how fast (it feels) you are travelling. This is what kept the game exciting for me and my ‘WASD’ fingers in constant action.
The final major feature of this game would have to be the Evolution Points (EPs). You obviously do not start with all of the above abilities or do with some limitations. You earn EPs and use these to buy upgrades or new abilities for Alex. There are a couple of ways to collect EPs, one of which is just by playing the game’s missions. Throughout the city there are Blackwatch HQs (humans) set up and Hives (zerg?). You do not really get to choose good or evil but you do get to destroy either (or both) these landmarks for extra EPs. You may also attempt challenges or gather up collectibles all over the city (Spiderman II or Hulk, anyone?) to get EPs.
Easy, easy, easy! Way too easy for a serious gamer.
Whenever you are discovered in the middle of a HQ, if you have memorized the parkour combinations you will be out of there in a second. Once you are somewhere unseen by them coppers (lol), you just switch disguises and you are fine. What kills me is that the authorities KNOW they are looking for Alex Mercer (a.k.a. Zeus – unharmful spoiler) and believe me, I scouted the entire city and found not a single person wearing such a catchy RED and black jacket let alone anyone with a hood up. Yet, somehow you can walk the streets and even right up to the authorities without them bothering (too much GTA influence).
Boss battles are not hard at all. Nothing requires much skill except just mashing buttons. If your life gets low there just always will be people running around for you to consume them for life which can be done over and over again. After getting the ability to grab someone while you are running, regenerating your life without getting hit is a breeze. So bosses are just normal enemies with crazy attacks and lots of life (also defined as TEDIOUS and not difficult).
The only thing that seems difficutl towards the end of the game is stealth. Oh wait, no it isn’t! You can trick the AI easily – But to avoid spoilers I will leave it at that.
I finished the game in 10 hours which taking into consideration that I was not even rushing the game. Throughout the game I had nothing persuading me to do the challenges. I never felt the need for more EPs and all of the challenges were repetitive (especially the killing ones).
Well, when you finish the game and if you aren’t a stat-whore you would not have completed all these achievements, so this would be the last thing to do. Once you start doing some of the challenges or tried looking for the collectibles you realize “the missions have already given me enough DPs to purchase the skills I want and I have been given this ‘New Game+’ mode [start game with all powers unlocked] cause I completed the game!” so there really is no point of finishing up the challenges or hunting down the collectibles (again, unless you are a stat-whore).
The story-line is also not something that can’t be summarised in a single paragraph so I had no urge at all to start again.
Prototype aims to follow successful games like GTA and Spiderman II by being a sandbox game. This is cleverly done in the theme of this game with an ongoing war between humans and zombies showing the progressive destruction of Manhattan. However, what made these games memorable were the storylines that grasped us into the worlds. Prototype does not effectively immerse players within its world and hardly persuades the player to explore the city at all. Anything outside of the linear missions are repetitive thus are not attractive to players. There are however, several gameplay mechanisms that make the game exciting and packed with action. For an average gamer, the main challenge will be learning and perfecting the freerunning skills which can (and usually must) be used in every situation of the game.
Say, isn’t the theme of this game familiar? It seems to be the new take on becoming a superhero. Get revenge on whoever gave you super-powers? What happened to getting a costume to fight crime as a town vigilante?