STAFF REVIEW of Prototype (Xbox 360)

Monday, June 15, 2009.
by Adam Dileva

Prototype Box art The best way I could start to begin to describe Prototype is to compare it to some other games, and quite a few come to mind; Spiderman 2, Incredible Hulk, Grand Theft Auto 4, and even Crackdown. Mixing different elements from these titles and combining them with a comic book style feel and very frantic action and buckets of blood seem to be the best way to start getting an idea of what this title is about.

You aren?t bound by good and evil moral choices in Prototype, as Alex Mercer, you are going to get to the bottom of what happened to by any means necessary; if that means throwing tanks at choppers, cutting numerous enemies in half, shape shifting to mimic anyone in the city, or even glide across the skyscraper tops, then that?s what needs to be done. Alex has vowed revenge and will do anything to get to the truth of what has happened to him and the city. You don?t play the heroic good guy; you play the guy that will do what it takes to get answers. Simply put, Prototype?s franticly fun gameplay truly makes you feel like your character is insanely powerful and can do almost anything.

You are Alex Mercer and you wake up in the morgue with no memory after being pronounced and assumed dead. As you wake; you learn about a strange virus that is starting to take over New York City and that you now possess some extreme new powers. This on top of not being able to remember anything and you have your main plot line. This is simply the beginning though, as Alex starts to learn more about what?s happened to him and becomes more and more lethal.

As Alex does what he can to restore his memory and find out what has happened to him, you?ll constantly be fighting in a middle of a war between the infected and the military. To regain memories, you need to find people that are involved with what is going on and consume them, sequentially absorbing their memories as well. Piecing together different fragments of memories is done through the Web of Intrigue and this is how you generally find out about the main plot rather than getting a standard cutscene after completing a mission. It?s an interesting take on revealing the plot line, but not having that instant gratification after finishing a very difficult mission can be somewhat of a downer when all you want to do is find out what happened.

The story telling is done in a very cinematic way you might see in the movies. The game starts essentially at the ending with Alex telling someone his story and what has happened. As you get to each story arc you then get to play that memory section from the story, essentially learning everything in order trying to play to the end of the game, where you begin.

Gameplay starts by instantly putting you into the heat of some major action with all your abilities unlocked and with you being a massive powerhouse that can clear anything in your path. The beginning of the game can be a little misleading as once you are done the 10 minute tutorial with all your skills intact, you then begin the actual storyline 18 days previously from the beginning and have none of your upgraded powers or skills.

Traveling around the city is so simple and sometimes fun and rewarding just to glide and jump around the city; much like it was in Crackdown. Upgrading your run speed and jump prowess makes traversing the city even easier. It doesn?t take much effort to get to where you want to go, as holding the Right Trigger will have you jump over walls, hop over cars, and even run up the side of buildings; this along with jumping and gliding makes getting where you need to go simple and enjoyable.

As you defeat enemies, complete missions and evade strike teams, you will earn EP which is evolution points (experience in most other games). These points allow you to purchase upgrades and new powers to help you along your quest to find out what has happened to you.

The amount of powers alone is simply astonishing, as there are many more moves and skills that I thought would ever be possible. The downfall to this is that once you have a huge amount of new skills you can use, the repertoire of moves that you need to memorize can be quite daunting. Eventually you?ll have so many moves that you won?t remember half of them; so you?ll basically be playing with the same way mostly throughout the game, possibly using some of your newer more powerful moves.

When you absorb certain military personnel you will also gain their knowledge of how to drive tanks, fly choppers, or even boost your efficiency with different weapons. While hijacking a vehicle you are left almost completely vulnerable. To get into the vehicle you need to do a small button minigame and while doing this any bullets or rockets can knock you off and deplete your health. Luckily you can easily regain health by consuming anyone nearby, but it still can become a nuisance when you need to get into a certain tank or chopper and simply can?t until you clear all the small marine grunts or mutants out of the way first.

Combat is generally straight forward, as you can lock on to enemies by holding the Left Trigger and it will actually lock you onto the most perceived threat nearby. Flicking the right stick while locked on will change your target and it generally quite easy enough to choose the exact target you want (other than when you are in a massive crowd of infected)

Once locked on you then use basic melee combat with the ?X? and ?Y? buttons and different combinations will do different move sets. This coupled with your every expanding move list opens up many attacks that can be chained together for some very devastating moves that can even clear a whole block of enemies near you.

You won?t be fighting with just your fists though, as you are able to change your arms into a giant blade, huge hammers, sharp claws, and even extending tendrils. Each style of claw has its own move sets with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each type of claw style has its own situations that they are best suited for and switching between them is almost instant.

You even gain defense skills as you progress like shields and armor. The armor boosts your defense drastically but the downside is that you are unable to run up buildings and glide away. Using your arm as a giant shield is a great way to block bullet fire but once it?s broken, you have to wait for it to recharge before using it again.

The sheer amount of skills and upgrades almost goes past overkill, because there are so many skills and moves that you simply won?t remember them all or even how to do them without going back into the menus and looking. It really depends on how you look at it, as having a huge plethora of skills at your disposal is cool, sometimes bigger isn?t always better. Luckily the new move sets do keep the somewhat repetitive missions slightly fresh.

Staying out of combat is also sometimes the smarter choice, as having multiple strike squads called on you along with Hunters chasing you throughout the city can become overwhelming very quickly. This is where Alex?s shape shifting abilities come into play. A person that you consume allows you to become and use their appearance on the outside. So while jumping in from the top of a skyscraper and destroying everything in your path as Alex is an option, sometimes just walking into the military base disguised as a commander is easier and quicker.

While consuming someone in plain site will obviously arouse suspicions, you are able to stealthily do this as well and take their body when no one is looking for quicker access. There?s even a Patsy skill where you can accuse any military soldier as being you in disguise, hopefully setting the military on alert, but for the wrong person.

Getting out of combat is needed to complete missions and doing so can be done in a few different ways. You can try and simply try to bolt over tall buildings and lose your pursuers that way, you can simply destroy anyone following you before more reinforcements are sent in, or the easiest way being; switch to someone else?s body once you are out of sight and they won?t have any idea it?s you.

Even when you have completed the main missions, there are a huge amount of side missions for you to try and complete and earn medals on. These can be races that have you going through checkpoints, gliding objectives, killing as many people with a certain power or vehicle in a set time limit, or even missions that will have you fighting alongside the military to wipe out the infected.

Each mission has a certain goal and you can earn bronze, silver, or gold medals which will in turn net you higher EP rewards. Should you want to just explore around the city, there are hidden orbs all throughout the city for you to find almost identical to Crackdown. Unfortunately you are unable to see these orbs until you are standing directly beside them, so unlike Crackdown, it?s much harder to see them from afar and go on an orb hunting run.

Even when you want some downtime to just play around in the city, you have to always watch your back as the military is always looking for you and the mutants will try tearing you apart without question. If you destroy a military base or an enemy Horde base, it will reduce the threat area in the city and will incapacitate them for a short time and leave you alone for a short while outside of missions.

Where there are many positives to the game, there were a few glaring negatives that need to be addressed. The main issue I felt was a disassociation with Alex as a whole; yes you feel badass and he?s cool cause of his powers, but as a character, I didn?t feel much connection other than the typical ?I?m going to get to the bottom of this? type of revenge.

With the majority of the game being a little repetitive mission wise, it was discerning to finish a long or difficult story arc and get no real answers or even a cutscene. Unfortunately the story itself is generally pretty short if you were able to jump from point A to point B, but it feels very forced to prolong the revealing of the story itself. Instead of a steadily gratifying reveal, you basically need to get to the end for everything to happen almost all at once. Half way through I just wanted to finish the story but was forced to do a lot of errands and missions that felt designed to artificially lengthen gameplay.

As mentioned before, the other issue I had was trying to remember the plethora of moves and skills and how to perform them all; and because your move set is restricted to what your equipped weapon or power is, it just added for another layer of complexity. It all depends on how you look at it, as someone else could say this has massive depth, but again, bigger is not always better. Someone casually playing or picking it up after not playing for awhile will have a hard time remembering and grasping all the moves.

The only other issue I would really nitpick on would be the lack of bosses. You feel massively powerful and throughout the whole story, you only fight a handful of bosses. When you do face a boss, it feels almost forced, though the frantic gameplay of the rest of the whole title will almost make you forget this. Also be ready to die?a whole lot, as some of the missions scaled up in difficulty almost too quick; the checkpoint save system definitely helped not having to retry missions too many times over.

What Prototype does do well is the mobility of Alex and being able to get to where you want quickly and easily with enjoyment. You will also feel like a complete badass as you throw tanks and hijack choppers and these frantic moments make you forget about the repetitive enemies and mundane missions.

The amount of chaos that will be happening on the screen at one time can be quite impressive, and with a solid and constant frame rate when the action reaches an insane level, it is simply satisfying to play. You will feel extremely powerful and once you nail the more complex controls, it is very gratifying that can be enjoyed in a short play session doing side missions and events or a longer one trying to get Alex his revenge on who did this to him. If you enjoyed Spiderman 2 or Crackdown?s gameplay (especially for the free roaming) then Prototype is a must; if you want to simply destroy anything in your path and feel absurdly powerful, then get ready for some of the most frantic and gratifying combat you?ll experience without having to worry about all those moral choices.

- While having 100 different moves is awesome, tryign to remember them is not. A quicker way to remember them other than having to pause and go in the menus would be helpfull.

- Please don't insert trash quests and missions just to artificially lengthen the game, I don't want to become bored having to arbitrarily finish something just to progress the plot when it's not needed.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.4 / 10
Visuals: 7.7 / 10
Sound: 7.9 / 10


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