Activision’s open-world mutating shape-shifter comes to life in the highly destructive Prototype. Assuming the role of the hunted, and the hunter, Alex Mercer gears up to tear through the New York City.
The open-world action genre gets another entry with Activision’s latest, Prototype. Developed by Radical Entertainment (Crash: Mind over Mutant, Scarface: The World is Yours) Prototype approaches the genre with its own violent moxie. Prototype offers gamers a great excuse to become a highly destructive, shape-shifting killing machine, and if anyone know sandbox styled violence, it's
Rewinding back to '05, Radical released their first sandbox-styled, beat-em' up title with The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Anyone who enjoyed running around as the superhuman Hulk will immediately notice the similarities in Prototype. Radical has borrowed a lot of the gameplay mechanics and concepts from the Hulk by transforming the Hulk's philosophy of destruction into their own super-hero, or more appropriately, anti-hero. Much more then the Hulk, Prototype takes beat-em' up action to a whole new level with a deep storyline, mutating powers, and unrestrictive nature. It's safe to say, if you enjoy blowing things up and feeling like a super-powered comic book hero, then you'll be hooked into the sadistic nature of Prototype.
Introducing Alex Mercer
In Prototype you play Alex Mercer, a genetically mutated man without a memory. Starting off in a whirlwind of action, Radical plays with the timeline and eventually puts you into a place where everything can start make sense, the beginning. The tale of Prototype fades to focus as Alex awakens from death. Alex realizes something is different as his body is transformed into a shape-shifting being with amazing powers, and that's just the start! For the rest, well, he doesn't seem to remember. Struggling with his amnesia, Alex questions his surroundings, the people he contacts, and even his own human mortality itself. In a quest for answers, Prototype will take you all over NYC as you face down your demons and unleash them. The plot line isn’t overly original with a standardized list of cliches, but it has its moments of interest. For what Prototype wants to accomplish, the “who am I” storyline does the job, or at least it gives us a good excuse to annihilate everything that moves!
Absorbing the Past
The goal of Prototype is to find out what exactly happened to you, and then make them pay. Investigating the truth behind his curious case isn't easy, and Alex will have to fight off an insurgence of enemy soldiers and mutated beasts while studiously searching through the memories of his victims... and searching through their memories is exactly what Alex does. See, Alex has the anomalous ability to absorb other people’s bodies by taking their life force. This feature is a web of intrigue that is gives Alex a little big of incite into his situation from the person who he absorbs. These packages are thrown together like flashbacks and are a nice diversion from the normal cut-scene mission progression from the main storyline. Mashing these two layers together helps keep the game fresh, and it also gives the player the option to jumping further down the rabbit hole if they so choose. By using these memories, and clues from a few selective NPCs, Alex puts the puzzle pieces together which leads him into a climatic battle for humanity.
It’s Parkour Time
With the city of New York as your playground, Alex can quickly pounce around with his adaptive parkour skills. His agility is crucial as you will do a lot of running up buildings, and jumping rooftop to rooftop. Thankfully, the acrobatic parkour moves are done automatically, or with a few button clicks. Like other titles, the fluid motion of crossing a city is effortless Prototype might play a little loose in its controls, but this is compensated with the ease in Alex handles. The more you upgrade Alex the more distance you can cover and agile you will become, and trust me, these are some abilities that you will come to relay on a great deal. The idea of Parkour might becoming a little overdone in gaming at the moment, but when you break down the situation it wouldn't have worked any better. Prototype controls are refined and effortless to use. Besides the occasional missed jump, or blocked camera view, you'll won't be cursing the controller any more than normal.
Put up Your Claws!
Alex is a power-house, although he will face some stiff competition in Prototype. Be prepared to always be outnumbered with the enemies using a combination of tactics to try and get you down. The military will use locaters, tanks, helicopters, heavily armed personal to break your will, and if that wasn’t enough there are the mutants. These mutants, taken from your own DNA are massive beasts that have the same nimble agility as your character with equal power. When you first meet up with these beasts you will quickly learn that running away is a good thing. This mutant DNA also spreads on the street and can infect the normal citizens of the city, these zombie-like moaners are nothing to be concerned about, especially when you have Blackwatch Special Forces breathing down your neck. As the game progresses the enemies will grow in strength and size, and so will you abilities. The balance is near perfect in Prototype will only a few difficult sections. Any experienced gamer will have no problem finishing Prototype, and for those having a problem, or who need more of a fight, Prototype's difficulty can be adjusted.
Under the Hoodie
To combat all these opposing forces Alex can be upgraded until you is a behemoth of annihilation. Before you get into the hands on action, Alex can take a more outsiders approach by taking the shape of an enemy and inheriting his skills. Like the film, The Matrix, Alex can learn how to fly a helicopter, or increase his efficiency with a rocket-launcher by absorbing a specially marked person. This lets you hijack the enemy’s weapons and turn them against them. This is most useful when taking down establishments like a Blackwatch outpost, or a Hive outbreak. This feature might seem like an add-on to Prototype, but it turns out it is quite useful. At times when your fists can answer all the questions don’t be afraid of backing down and using a modern mechanical weaponry to do your dirty work.
More than taking on the shape and abilities of NPCs, Alex’s very own limbs turn into dangerous weapons. The first ability Alex acquires is a set of razor sharp claws that can latterly rip a person in half. From the claws can increase your powers by transforming your hands into rock hard Hulk-like fists, a razor sharp chain-link weapon and more. All Alex’s abilities can be upgraded in seven different aspects (Powers, Movement, Survivability, Combat, Disguise, Vehicle, and Weaponry). Upgrading is done with XP that is given out for completing missions, or simply causing havoc. XP is graciously given out in Prototype, so don’t worry about saving up too much. Some powers are more useful then others and remember to think about movement as much as destruction.
What else to Do?
Outside of the games main objective, Alex can keep busy with a number of side-missions. Side missions are unlocked when you complete other missions and can be activated at anytime. For the most part these side-missions are nothing to write home about, but the do offer a nice diversion from the main plot. These can go from subjectively related mini-games like destroying a outbreak hive, or absorbing a number of people under a time limit, to orb racing and free-fall jumping. The best feature included in these missions are the XP rewards which is broken down into three rating bronze, silver, and gold which give a higher XP rewards for the higher difficulty, and best yet side-mission can be replayed at anytime. So if you just want to hop into Prototype and try to beat your previous scores of play one type of mini-game, you can. The only absence that would have been nice is leaderboard support for these events, or any type of multiplayer features in the game. If Radical's up for a Prototype II, let's see so co-op mayhem, or hive vs. human modes.
Examining the graphics and sound in Prototype you will be pleasantly satisfied. Prototype does an admirable, all-around job that gives Prototype its own distinct style in an overcrowded market. The graphics don’t have a too much detail, and NYC has been done better in the past, but given the size of the city, the amount of characters on the screen at once is amazing. Better yet, even with all this action going on and hundreds of NPCs being bumped around the frame-rate never budges. Plus, Prototype doesn’t need to load, only when starting a new missions which is a nice touch.
Mercer himself is a great example of fluid animation and clever design ideas as he jumps around the city and transformers into his various killing states. The character design never becomes too outlandish and this goes for every aspect of the game. Even though its a sci-fi roots are unrealistic, Prototype does its best to keep the world grounded. Also notable is the size of the city and the huge amount of NPCs running around at one time. The civilians are actually fairly varied, and when you throw military and mutated monsters into the mix, Prototype’s world comes alive. Really, Prototype is an excellent showcase for the gaming hardware and what you can do in action titles. I specially liked how the city transformers as the outbreak spreads. The further you progress in the game, the more peaceful city of New York ends up like a riot act of infected monsters. The atmosphere in Prototype is excellent and it only gets accelerated the more you play.
The audio also does an excellent job providing lots of background radio-chatter, loud explosions and cool monster sound-effects. The soundtrack seems to get lost here and there, however you’re focus is always hell bent into the action. The voice work by Berry Pepper (Alex Mercer), and the other NPCs pump out their lines with conviction. Besides have a more intensive soundtrack, you really couldn’t ask for more. Best feature yet, Prototype supports DTS!
Prototype featuring the shift-shifting menace Alex Mercer is the new Hulk! Bigger, stronger, and faster; Prototype offers up an action packed dose of straight-up entertainment. Punch-drunk with power, you will love the sense of satisfaction of bulldozing through a horde of enemies while scaling the cities buildings effortlessly. Like fuel on a fire, Prototype is one of the year’s most unforgiving action titles that is a must have for fans of open-world action games. Prototype lives up to, if not surpasses all the hype. If you own a Playstation 3, or Xbox 360, check out Radical Entertainment's Prototype.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 06.19.09