Archive for November 12, 2010

Prototype Review

Posted: November 12, 2010 in Review
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Prototype Review

The superhero genre has always lent itself fairly well to mixing with other genres, but perhaps the most underused combination is that with sandbox games. The last great success was perhaps Activision’s game of Spider-Man 2 which featured the entirety of New York, a limitless range of ludicrously over-the-top superheroics to be performed and the voice of Bruce Campbell. Sadly the next two attempts were flawed, with both Ultimate Spider-Man and Spider-Man 3 lacking in the fun department, although playing as nemesis Venom in Ultimate was fairly good fun. Now it’s time to prove once and for all that superpowers and sandboxing go hand-in-hand, and the result is a stonking good experience.

You are Alex Mercer, a man whose day begins by waking up dead with a ludicrous amount of deadly new powers and a craving for blood. With no idea who he is or what happened to him, Alex must work with his sister Dana to piece together the puzzle of his past. Complicating things slightly is the fact that New York is currently experiencing a slight zombie outbreak.

To start with, the city of New York is utterly massive and teeming with things to find, see, do and complete. However, this being a game based around the concept of destruction, you’ll probably spend most of your time blowing the shit out of the city and sniggering to yourself. It’s not a criticism – hell, it’s always bloody good fun – but it does seem to lessen the overall experience that there is literally nothing else to do apart from mindlessly slaughter anything and everything.

Alex himself is a fantastic protagonist – emo hoodie aside – and the feeling of genuinely fluid movement allows the player to really become immersed in the game world with ease. Alex can leap, sprint, run up walls, backflip, roll, do up to two extra jumps in mid-air, transform his and, later on, hijack tanks and helicopters. You really get the feeling of actually being a force out of control, which is why aimless killing fits so well with the rest of the game.

There’s a pleasing variety of main missions and side quests thrown together. Side quests see you forced to push your control of Alex to the absolute fore, with objectives ranging from killing specific targets with specific weapons, running a race across rooftops, using the glide ability to sail down onto a target and a massive free-for-all brawl between the military and the infected. Main missions also see a wide range of things to do, from sneaking inside military installations to protecting convoys and just plain ol’ blowing the hell out of everything within a time limit. There’s a much larger scope of activity on offer here than in, say, GTAVI and you can always be guaranteed to have a good chuckle at leaping into a helicopter and using it to destroy your pursuers before flying away.

Adding an extra option onto the violence and carnage is the stealth ability. Alex can consume literally anyone take on their appearance, allowing him to calmly walk inside a secure building, select a target and stalk them before consuming them in total silence. It’s a small feature, but it adds a slight option onto the usual murderous spree and helps to shake things up a bit.

It’s a fairly lengthy game and if you want to complete everything, you’re looking at putting in over twenty hours at the very least. It’s also highly replayable, with three difficulty options and the ability to restart the story from the beginning with all the powers you gain by the end. There’s an impressive scope of things to keep you coming back for more long after you’ve finished the story.

The downsides are the same as they are for most sandbox games – there only seems to be a set way of doing anything and any action you choose will inevitably result in carnage and death. After a while it does get a bit tedious to constantly destroy everything – even after you finish, there’s no way to use Alex’s powers for good and battling the zombie-spawning hives doesn’t seem to actually abate the spread of the virus.

Still, if you want an open world game with a superpowered protagonist that manages to combine paranoid conspiracy thriller plotting with zombie apocalypse and simultaneously lets you watch a city slowly get overrun by an infection, you could do a lot worse than Prototype. For anyone who has a slight problem with nothing but merciless slaughter, however, you might want to stick to Imagine Babies.