[PROTOTYPE], from now on referred to as Prototype, was released by Radical Entertainment on June 9, 2009 for PlayStation 3, PC, and Xbox 360. Radical Entertainment is best known for Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and The Simpsons: Hit and Run. This review is for the PS3 version of the game, which I played through to completion on normal difficulty, completing around half of the side missions, and unlocking most of the powers.
Prototype is an action based open-world superpower game. While some may call it a superhero game, given the main character, it is more a superantihero game, and that word is just too long. Regardless of the motivations, the main character, Alex Mercer, is immensely powerful and can be amazingly fun to play.
The basic premise of the game, while perhaps a bit cliche, works fairly well within the confines of the game. Players control Alex Mercer, the titular Prototype, as he is something more than human, and the only one of his kind. A deadly infection has broken out in Manhattan, and the military has declared a quarantine. In a rather fun intro, players control a fully upgraded Mercer, experimenting with several of his powers, before the narration begins a flashback to the chronological start of the game, as an amnesia-stricken Mercer wakes up on a slab in a morgue, and flees for safety. Due to spoilers I will leave the plot specifics at that, but basically Mercer is out for blood and revenge. The plot unfolds through the course of the game in same rather bland, and almost boring cutscenes, and in the much more interesting Web of Intrigue scenes. At the core of Mercer’s power is the ability to consume the biomass of any human to restore his health, and in the case of certain individuals, gain pertinent information, and/or skills. These scenes, called ‘nodes’ on the Web of Intrigue, play out in vivid, quick cutting flashes and snippets of memories, hinting at things, revealing twists, or providing useful information. I personally loved the Web of Intrigue scenes, and felt they did add quite a bit to the immersion in an otherwise bland character, and somewhat generic plot (outside of a few notable twists).
So the big question in any superpower game is “How good are the powers?”, and frankly Prototype has some of the most fun powers I have seen. Simply by holding down R1 you enter the free running/parkour mode, which sees Mercer fluidly running through traffic, automatically hopping obstacles, cars, etc, and even running straight up the side of a skyscraper. Add to this the super strong jumps, and later a glide ability, and you can move around New York quickly, and in style. Then there are the offensive powers, each of which has several unlockable upgrades/moves. From giant hulklike fists, to wolverine-esque claws, to a crazy whiplike tentacle of biomass capable of snagging helicopters from the sky, the powers are varied, and over the top, making for a fun, if crazy experience.
In addition there are defensive powers, such as a full body armor, and a giant shield, that when in free running mode, plows through obstacles, instead of hopping over them. Lastly is the aforementioned consuming of people, which lets you disguise yourself as any NPC and makes infiltrating military bases considerably easier. In addition to the main consume ability are stealth consume, which as it suggests is a stealthy alternative, and my personal favorite ‘patsy’ which sees the player pointing at/wrestling with another soldier and claiming that he is the shapeshifter, causing the soldier to be shot down. Also there are special moves, known as devastator attacks, that are deadly and have a huge area of effect, that can only be activated when your health is past its maximum, or almost depleted.
These powers, when they work are loads of fun, and make the game a blast, however there are several notable issues. First, the targeting system is finicky at best, and at times seems almost like yet another enemy, in an already crowded fight. Second, the stealth consume has a tendency to break immersion, as I once stealth consumed some 30 soldiers inside a military base, with no one noticing, even when there was only one soldier left. Also, while free running at top speed, it can sometimes become to difficult to control his movement, especially when attempting some of the racing side missions.
The missions in this game are somewhat weak. Most of the story missions consist of “Kill X”, or “Destroy Y”, and while there is some variation, it leaves a lot to be desired. In addition to this there are 250 different collectible orbs scattered throughout the city that grant you EP (Evolution Points, to purchase upgrades) as well as going towards trophies. Missions, and side missions both deal out a good amount of EP, which is the currency for unlocking upgrades for Mercer, which is a plus. It is nice to become very powerful very quick in a game, and the sheer amount of EP and side missions thrown at you makes achieving that objective very easy.
I found however, that after doing so many of the same missions, I lost interest in the side missions, unless I absolutely needed the EP for upgrades. Another issue I had with the game is the difficulty. One minute you can be overpowered and on top of the world, and the next the difficulty spikes like a professional volley ball player and you find yourself struggling just to stay alive. This can be extremely frustrating. Another minor frustration I had was that despite being a super-powered badass, sometimes it was far easier to finish a mission just by hopping into a tank and blowing things up. Also the AI is somewhat flawed, in that you can drop off a skyscraper in front of them without alerting them, but other actions cause all hell to break loose in half a second. Another issue with the game, is that it can throw too many things at you all at once. In one fight I counted 4 tanks, 3 helicopters, and an innumerable number of infected enemies and soldiers, as well as several of the powerful Hunters. While this certainly can make the game fun, at times it is simply too much going on at one time, and begins to make the game frustrating when it should be more fun.
Another minor note, there have been a few glitches that crop up. First, although I believe a patch has since fixed it, some PS3 users, myself included, found that we had ‘insufficient space’ on the HDD, despite having more than enough. After a slightly convoluted fix, of downloading and deleting something it installed properly. Additionally, I had one infinite loading screen error, where I waited for 5 minutes, and it just would not load. Outside of that I have encountered minimal errors.
To sum up, the game is a lot of fun. It lacks polish to some degree, and certainly has some issues, but the core experience is simply exhilarating and over the top. Like a real sandbox, the core is fun and freedom, but there may be some minor irritation, and you might even stumble across a small deposit left by a neighborhood cat, but ultimately the game is fun, and that is what matters. With that being said, I recommend anyone who is a fan of sandbox games, or super power games at least give this a rental.
-The Big Man