1. Hiatus
2. RIP, Satoru Iwata
3. Let there be Robot Battles
4. Regarding pixel art!
5. 16-bit Star Wars
6. Goodbye, Spock.
7. James Randi Retires
8. More Star Wars on GOG
9. gives you DOS Games
10. Ralph Baer, RIP.
1. Quickie: Impressions June 2014
2. Quickie: Penny Arcade Episode 3
3. Quickie: The Amazing Spider-Man
4. Quickie: Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
5. Quickie: Prototype 2
6. Quickie: Microsoft Kinect
7. Quickie: X-Men Destiny
8. Spider-Man: Edge of Time
9. Quickie: Transformers Dark of the Moon
10. Quickie: Borderlands GOTY
1. Musings 45: Penny Arcade and The Gripping Hand
2. Movie Review: Pacific Rim
3. Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph
4. Glide Wrapper Repository
5. Movie Review: Winnie The Pooh
6. Musings 44: PC Gaming? Maybe it's on Life Support
7. Video Games Live 2009
8. Movie Review: District 9
9. Musings: Stardock, DRM, and Gamers' Rights
10. Musings: How DRM Hurts PC Gaming
Main Menu

X-bit labs
The Tech Zone
Twin Galaxies


 Log in Problems?
 New User? Sign Up!

Reviewed: Prototype
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: July 9th, 2009
Page: 2

Prototype isn't your normal superhero game - partially because it's as much an antihero game as a superhero game, partially because it isn't saddled with any of the baggage of a preexisting superhero franchise and canon to follow. You start out as Alex Mercer - a guy with no memory of who he is, who only knows his own name because when he woke up one of the lab techs about to do an autopsy on him mentioned it. Manhattan is currently quarantined by the military because some idiot let loose a biological superweapon - a virus that turns most people it infects into ravenous zombies, and a special few people into something even more deadly. Alex has vowed to kill the people responsible for turning him into basically a walking weapon, and that's where the powers come in.

Remember: Alex is nowhere close to being a traditional "hero" type. His motivation is revenge, pure and simple. There are some plotline points relating to his making a few huge mistakes, but ultimately he's got these powers, focused pretty much on killing and destruction, and that's that. Military, civilian, zombified infected civilian, tank, helicopter, walking mutated monstrosity... doesn't really matter. If it gets in his way, his first reaction is to kill it.

Alex's powers in context of the game they fall into three categories: stealth, survivability, and raw destruction. The primary power for the game, storyline-wise, is the ability to "consume" enemies (or bystanders). Consuming lets Alex memorize and shape-shift into his last (human) victim's form, while also absorbing their memories. A side quest for the game involves running around Manhattan, chasing down people who have some connection to the conspiracy that created Alex, and consuming them to get their memories - short, 15-30 second video clips of some pivotal event or other to shed light on the background and gain information on the ongoing military operations in Manhattan. Taking someone else's form also allows Alex to blend into crowds, evade the military, or even impersonate military personnel to get into secure locations. A secondary side benefit of consuming is that it heals Alex and, once his health bar is full, adds to his pool for "devastator" power attacks. Certain powers - the ability to use guns and RPG's with proficiency, and the ability to hijack military tanks and helicopters - can only be acquired by consuming certain military personnel and gaining the memory of their training on how to use those guns or pilot the vehicles.

On the survivability front, just like the previous titles to use this engine, are upgrades like faster movement, faster/higher jumping, air dashing, "gliding" (a replacement for web-slinging), a larger health bar, and so on. The basic idea here is simple: the more punishment Alex can take, and the quicker he can get around the battlefield, the more damage he can do back to the enemy. There are also a couple of extras to play with, such as armor (which increases damage resistance but significantly reduces Alex's agility) and a shield that will block a certain amount of damage before it collapses. Since they are so visible the armor and shield, as well as the more serious attack powers, can't be activated while Alex is in disguise.

The final set of powers are the raw attack powers - things Alex can do to one or both of his arms that make for vicious and murderous weapons. There are claws, a gigantic sword arm, wrecking balls, and a sort of extensible "whip" tentacle that can be extended or swung in a circle. Each has their place in the game cut out for it; the claws are for mowing down groups of normal enemies, the blade for taking on big semi-solo brutes called Hunters, the wrecking ball perfect for pounding through the armor of vehicles like tanks and helicopters, and the whip quite nice for either clearing out smaller foes in a wide range, or for latching onto helicopters and getting in close to hijack them. The game designers obviously wanted to give players a lot of options and let them figure out what works, what doesn't work, and what is most fun on their own.

There are also plenty of enemies to kill, though they're one point on which the game begins to show its flaws and get repetitive. Alex Mercer is pretty much a side of the conflict to himself, helping whichever side he deems appropriate according to his existing goals at the time. The other two sides are the military - ranging from simple grunts up to elite "black ops" style forces and "strike forces", which will converge whenever Alex blows his cover (attacking a military facility, letting military personnel survive in a fight for too long, or just causing too much mayhem on the streets) - and the "infected" which range from simple zombie-like humans up through titanic leader "Hunters" that take immense punishment. Alex also has the option to raid the sides' various bases; military distributed headquarters offer experience both for sneaking in and consuming key personnel for skills, and for simply destroying the building. Infected "hives" offer just the fun of blowing up the building, usually by tossing cars at it or lobbing missiles from a hijacked military vehicle.

Unfortunately, for all the fact that it's a wonderfully expansive sandbox, the underlying world - and missions - are simply not that engaging. There are rewards in all the weird little places - corners/tops of skyscrapers, undersides of certain cross-street bridges, etc - for "evolution points", which are traded in for power expansion in the game. There are the usual fedex-style "go here, take this, kill this" style missions for which the player gets a storyline reward and access to the next chapter. There are the usual Spidey-style "challenges" such as target-gliding onto a precise position, going on a rampage and killing X number of enemies within a time limit, or negotiating a ridiculously over-complex obstacle course of rooftops in an obscenely quick manner. Graphically, meanwhile, you're not staring at a rich and vibrant world - you're either in a concrete jungle, full of military vehicles ready to pounce the moment you do anything other than walk around quietly in the crowd (making exploration a pain and a half), or you're in a red-tinged concrete jungle, watching zombies eat people while other people walk by seeming not to notice. In fact, the "civilians" in the game seem to notice almost nothing, and half the time don't even run away while you're consuming someone right in front of their eyes. It's vaguely disconcerting, realizing that there's so little AI devoted to them that one can almost safely ignore the idea that Mercer is consuming human beings for food and literally just start seeing them as walking health packs.

The final straw is really the "lock on" system of combat - it does prevent the game from going into Spidey-3 style "spazz fighting", but locking onto distant enemies - and boy, do those helicopters love to play this game - can be an exercise in frustration, making the camera either swing around in a vertigo-inducing spin, or else getting "stuck" and holding Mercer to the side of a building. The camera also has a tendency to zoom in and out, making it far more difficult than it should be to gauge whether a flying kick - your primary method of attacking helicopters or the traveling, annoying "virus detector" drones that summon strike forces merely by getting too close to them - is going to connect or fall short. There's also the fact that after completing one kick, Mercer inevitably falls all the way to earth. When you're fighting a helicopter off the roof of a 30-story building, and then wind up falling to the street, there's a certain frustration factor that builds up.

The bottom line is that Prototyle might be engaging for a while, but like many sandbox-style titles, there's only so much life in it before it's going to get really, incredibly boring and old. Give it a rental, play it for a weekend, and that's about all you'll probably need from it. Maybe they'll do better with the sequel - and you know there will be one, because this is obviously an attempt to start a brand new franchise and there's plenty of room for another story about Alex Mercer.

Added:  Friday, July 10, 2009
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

Previous Previous (1/3)  1 2 3   Next (3/3) Next

[ Back to reviews index ]

Home :: Share Your Story
Site contents copyright Glide Underground.
Want to syndicate our news? Hook in to our RSS Feed.