So first off I have to admit that probably more than any other game coming out this year, I was truly excited about Prototype. I just thought the concept was fresh and that if they could pull off all the stuff they were promising it would be an awesome, awesome experience. With that said though, anyone who knows me knows that with games I really like when it comes time to review them I am really hard on them because I expect so much, so never fear that I will sugar coat it or just tell you its good when it its not. After spending countless hours with Prototype, I have to say that by far this is the MOST fun game I have played in a long time and that says something. I mean I have played and reviewed some pretty awesome games over the past few months, but I haven’t enjoyed playing any one of them as much as this one.
The most fun I had playing a game all year.
By now you all know the plot. You are Alex Mercer, a super powerful shape-shifter that is part of some huge government conspiracy and you seem to be the key to it all but for some reason you can’t remember any of what made you the way you are. You are searching for answers and whether through stealth or brute force you will find them. There are so many amazing components to Prototype that I almost don’t know where to start. I guess I will start with the story itself. The story is told through the normal pre-mission cut scenes that we are used to in most games but they are also told through this concept of the “Web of Intrigue”. The “Web of Intrigue” is composed of bits and pieces of memories that you acquire by consuming certain individuals. The story is complex and widespread and therefore there are lots of people with small pieces of the puzzle and if you ever want to see the “big” picture you will have to know what they know and well there is truly only one way to do that and that’s by consuming their biomass and making them a part of you. But don’t feel bad for them because trust me, none of them are innocent. The game also features several moments of Alex talking to an “unknown” individual who he seems to be telling his story to.
When I think about about Prototype I think power and lots of it, but not the uncontrolled kind. Now lots of reviews are saying that this game will remind you a lot of Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and I don’t completely agree. At the core Hulk was a basic smash em up, an incredibly fun one, but a basic smash em up nonetheless. In Prototype, their are lots of times where brute force will need to be used but sometimes its just easier to use “disguise” and sneak in unnoticed. The bottom line though is that just about anything you want to do you have the ability to do and I don’t know that any game has ever delivered that amount of freedom in a way that the player truly feels like they could really go anywhere and do anything and oh the things you can do. To make sure I hit all the points I want to hit let me work in sections.
He is ugly, but make no mistake he is VERY dangerous.
The gameplay in Prototype is like what you would get if you mixed the precision of a symphony with the violence of a train wreck. The game is mission based but the player at anytime has the ability to ignore the mission or just not start one and go into free roam, where they can just explore NY and how Alex fits into all of it at their own pace. There are plenty of side events to keep you busy, whether its consuming a certain amount of targets in a set period of time, racing against the clock to hit all the checkpoints while jumping across rooftops, fighting with the infected to keep the military at bay, or one of my personal favorites the glide missions. In these side missions, you get a target point that you then have to use Alex’s exceptional speed, leaping, and gliding ability to land within a certain amount of feet of the target. And that is only a few of them you can definitely spend hour just exploring to get acclimated to all your skills, in fact on more than one occasion I have had to force myself to actually go do a mission to move the actual story along. When that happens then you know you are playing a game that is really special.
He should have known better.
The controls in Prototype are not hard to learn at all but devastatingly effective. Alex can access any of his powers through a quick press of the L1 button which temporarily slows down time to allow you to make a quick change to a more effective weapon. You can also use the D-pad to pull of a quick change depending on the category you are in. So if you are in the powers category, you can quickly tap one of three directions on the controller and switch from either the whipfist, musclemass, or hammerfist. The game also features a very easy to use targeting system that allows you to target enemies quickly and easily. The actual controlling of Alex is effortless, you will feel like you are the baddest man on the block, the first time you jump a few hundred feet from one building to the the next you will know what I mean.
All can pick up and use any weapon in the game that is used against him such as guns and rocket launchers. Alex is a shape-shifter and while you can use other weapons his most devastating weapon is his own body that he can transform into the three awesome weapons I mentioned above. Each one has its own times where they are useful, the whipfist allows you to shoot out this long hook looking thing that can easily slice your enemies in half (though I like to use it for taking down helicopters), the hammerfist turns your hands into the hammers looking things that can be used to smash and bash even the most well armored enemy or vehicle, and then there is musclemass which isn’t truly a weapon. Musclemass allows you to focus your energy and increase your strength and power immensely, so it is good to have in an fight against some of the tougher enemies. The thing to remember here is that your entire body is a weapon, use it.
He so wishes he stayed home this morning.
This is by far the coolest looking thing you can do, well I mean besides jumping hundreds of feet and gliding all across NY. As Alex is a shape shifter, he can not only turn parts of his body into weapons he can also turn himself into other people, anyone in fact. By using your “consume” ability you can absorb the biomass of any character you come in contact with in the game. In fact there will several times where its the only way you can get into certain buildings, such as military bases that will house objectives or even better characters who have abilities that you need, is to consume the commander of that base and become him. So while Alex can do a lot of things, he doesn’t know everything such as how to drive an APC or fly a helicopter but there are people who do and if he can consume them then he will know to. There is nothing more awesome than leaping a few hundred feet onto a helicopter, absorbing the pilot and then using his copter to inflict some serious pain on his compatriots.
I have to admit I thought that you could only consume and become certain target people but that is not the case, anyone you consume you can turn into. So by now you could figure why its important to be able to consume key military personnel, but its also good to consume regular people too, why you say? Well because when you are spotted they will come after you with everything they have and while for the most part I love running up buildings and taking the rooftops from place to place, when you are getting chased by helicopters being up high is not the best place to be. At this point you have two options, you could stand and fight and try to use the whipfist to bring the copters down or throw an object like a building’s air conditioning units at them which are both pretty effective I have to say. However, there are other times when you are racing across the rooftops, your health is low and standing and fighting is not an option because while Alex is hard to bring down, he CAN be brought down. In those cases you could simply jump down from whatever building you are onto the crowded streets below, shape shifting into the last person you consumed while falling, and simply meld away into the crowd. Now if that doesn’t sound awesome wait till you do it.
*Consuming people also restores your health.
Prototype features a very robust upgrade system which allows you to do everything from increase how fast Alex can run and how far he can jump to unlocking some highly effective moves called Devastors. It also gives you the chance to modify some of your other capabilities such as your disguise and consume ability. So when you first start off there is only one way to consume someone but as you upgrade you can do things like stealth consume which allows you to walk about behind an unsuspecting victim and quickly and quietly absorb them, this is great when you are on a military base and you don’t want to cause a fuss. But my favorite upgrade for your disguise ability is by far “patsy”. For this to work you have to be already disguised as a military personnel, then you can actually falsely accuse someone else of being you and let’s just say that it won’t end well for them and this is a great when you need to create a distraction. There are a LOT of upgrades and to get them you need Evolution Points or EP. To gain EP, you need to accomplish objectives, complete side missions, consume people and things, and of course destroy things like tanks and helicopters. I really like the EP system because there are a lot of upgrades and you need a lot of points but it doesn’t make it hard to collect enough points to buy what you need. This is even more important because there are some missions that you can’t start until you have bought certain upgrades.
What Could Have Been Better?
As always I am an equal opportunity writer and just because I just told you all the things I liked about the game doesn’t mean I won’t tell you what I didn’t. First, there is no cover system no again every game doesn’t need a cover system and when you are as powerful as Alex you might not but it sure would keep you from dying a little less when you set of a full alert or are in the middle of an intense battle and you will be in the middle of some frustrating battles (all I will say about those is be smart, when you are that outnumbered brute force DOESN’T work, divide and conquer is your best option).
I don’t know if this a complaint but you might start to feel like Alex has almost to many skills that you can’t use them all. Lots of places will say that the graphics could have been better and I will admit that with some of the minor enemies and people on the street it could have been BUT when you are doing that much graphics rendering everywhere else and the fact that sometimes their will be literally hundreds of people, both infected and not, that you can directly interact with and consume I really cut the guys at Radical some slack. I mean what it would have taken to render the minor enemies and people to a high level is pressing what is technically possible while having only a short initial install and short load times. I am sure that they could have done it but they would have paid for that overhead some place else and to me personally I don’t mind at all. As fast and as far as Alex can move to not have any kind of graphics loading like what is usually seen in the Spiderman games is an achievement. There could have been a few more types of side missions but this ain’t GTA. To me if you are harping on that its because there isn’t a whole lot not to like and you are just looking for something.
At this point you have heard what I think of the game, I really liked it. For me I run this site so people can read solid critiques of games from someone that doesn’t have an underlying agenda. As you heard me say before the game is flat out fun and everyone here at ZKG loves it. It’s just a whole lot of fun to play and it has the mark of all really good games, you will not be mad you bought it. The games has so many “oh snap” moments I stopped counting. There are lots of comparisons between Prototype and inFamous and I have been asked several times over the past week which one would I buy. Well to be quite honest, inFamous is an excellent game and has just become the fast selling IP ever on the PS3, but for my money I choose Prototype. Prototype doesn’t feel like a chore to play at all and as I sit here I can’t wait to get home and play some more. Even without multiplayer which inFamous didn’t have either, I give Prototype 5 out of 5 stars.