When I was young I climbed to the top of a great mountain, I was told that if I could answer the question of the old man who lived at the top, he would explain to me the meaning life. After losing all of my crew on the great trek I made it to the top, freezing and half dead. I stood before a man who looked like a cracked out version of Santa Claus, and he said to me, “child what would you call a kid made by The Darkness and GTA?” I stood in silence for a moment and then answered him with my best guess. “Prototype?” He smiled at me and said correct.
That really is the best way to describe Prototype, it takes the grittiness of GTA, and the story elements and crazy powers of the Darkness and then amps it up to a thousand. The game first starts out letting you have a taste of the powers you’re going to have, you get to destroy pretty much everything for about five minutes before the story really begins. The whole premise of the game is that you wake up moments before Dr Cutty is about to do a Y cut on your chest and from there you figure out, “hey I have the coolest and most badass powers ever!”
For the first time ever I am going to start off with what I hate just to get it out the way. First off was the graphics, the game when your in battle looks great, cutting a zombie in half never looks bad, but when the game zooms in, the graphics lose their appeal, the characters look rough, and jaggies are everywhere. The second thing that didn’t work were some of the boss battles, you would usually be in a closed off building, and at first it would be one on one, but then they would get a good 30 allies, which if it was an infected boss meant you had 4 or 5 hunters wailing on you. What most of these fights would turn into were you running around in a circle picking up anything that wasn’t bolted down and throwing it at the boss till he was dead. The last major complaint I have is that there really aren’t a ton of different enemies, there are different classes of the two major enemies, the military and the infected, but they are for the most part just buffed up versions of the weaker guys.
Ok so now that the doom and gloom is over let’s get into the positive stuff. On a technical standpoint the game runs great, I’ve had a dozen big dog like hunters throwing cars around, while a group of tanks fires death at huge groups of zombies, and helicopters zoom around trying to keep up with me, and in all of this there wasn’t a single time that I noticed any kind of slow down which was a real treat in this game. The city also looks like New York which makes it all that much cooler when I throw a truck into the side of a building, each district and area of New York has its own look and feel, just like the real city, it’s very clear that the team worked hard to recreate it as best they could. On top of this Alex is a very cool character, all his weapons scream badass, and later in the game when you get armour you pretty much become the coolest looking character of 2009.
The games two highest visually points defiantly come from the death animations, which can be anything from slicing someone in half, to punching a hole through their body and then literally sucking them into your body. The last is the devastation moves, which are your super moves that you can only use once, these are massive, and look amazing. There isn’t much to say about sound in this game, music takes a back seat, the voice acting is good, and the cries of death are always nice to hear. One big point though is the nasty noise your guy makes when he sucks someone inside of him, it’s both disgusting and OH SO amazing all at once.
But let’s talks about what’s really important, the gameplay. Prototype is a lot like The Darkness in this department as well, the game is nothing amazing, it’s not going to change anything in gaming, but by god is it fun. I remember in The Darkness just walking around impaling people with the snake arms, and I was having that kind of fun with Prototype. I still love just going to the top of buildings and walking off just to see him smash into the earth below sending anything near by flying, and then walk away like he stepped down from a curb. Sometimes I would find a poor New Yorker wearing a suit, suck his ass up, and then use that body as my main body, I think I’ve used the suit wearing disguise more times than I’ve actually played as Alex. Other times I’ll make my way into an infected zone, and just walk around, helping people out by punching and throwing the zombies away, wiping out whole crowds like they were nothing.
That’s not to say that the weapon powers that they give you aren’t fun as well. All of them are melee based and all have a different style to them. The claws are used to slashed quickly and move out. The Fist are there to punch with a lot force, the whip does a little of everything, and the sword is all about flow. You’ll find that as you play you won’t discard one power for the next up and forget about the others, you’ll be constantly switching up to take on different enemies, or to just play the game differently. One minute you may want to slash through a crowd while the next you’ll be running up the side of an 80 story building only to pull out your Fists and drop like a missile onto some poor enemy below. It’s clear that Radical put a lot of effort into their combat, making sure that each power was balanced, and fun to use.
On top of the weapon powers, there is also a pretty deep upgrade system in the game, you get exp for pretty much everything in the game, and you can then use that exp to unlock new moves, new powers, or to make existing ones that much better. One of the first things I found myself doing was upgrading all of my claw moves, which I am so happy I did, because one of the first moves you can buy is this real nasty one, where he’ll stab his hand into the ground and about 15 feet in front of you a massive column of spikes will explode up from the ground, destroying tanks, or impaling anything within its area. Other examples of things you can upgrade is your running speed, how far you jump, or even glide. In addition another key aspect of the gameplay is the ability to consume people and monsters.
As I stated before these look amazing and sounds even better, and it’s the main way you get your health back, all it requires is that you grab someone and just hit “Y” and he’s suck them up, but be careful; do this in the middle of the street and you’ll freak everyone out, which usually will attract the attention of the military, which then will turn your quick bite to eat, into a full on war. However the stronger infected like the Hunters require that you beat them until near death before you are able to consume them. Thankfully though the game gives you the ability to stealth consume, which means you need to get behind someone and then consume them, this won’t freak out anyone or alarm the military, it’s a great way to get health back if your evading capture, or to sneak into the military bases.
The actual game is broken up like other open world games, there is a main story to follow but scattered on the map are lots of side missions and mini games for you to do that give you more exp to buy new things with. Some of them are really fun, like teaming up with the infected to hold off an army of military troopers, or seeing how many zombies you can send to hell in a tank. The Main story on the other hand is far more interesting, the story is actually really good, and will be the main reason you say to yourself “just one more mission.” Story elements are told by consuming key figures and seeing fragments of their memories, each one taking you one step closer to the truth. These memories are managed in what is called The Web Of Intrigue and it’s from here that you can see which people you’ve taken, and how their connected to others. It’s cool to watch and puts a new spin on how to tell a story, there are however some more traditional elements like going to a friend’s hangout and getting missions from them.
Before I end this I feel the need to just gab about how badass this game makes you feel. It’s easily its best selling point. When I can literally run across cars leaving deep impact spots where I run, or toss them out of my way like a toy it makes the game experience that much more fun. Running through a crowd and just sweeping someone up and then stomping their face into mush right as I suck them up, never gets old. And how can a game be bad when I can give an old man the peoples elbow from the top of the Empire States building?
As I am writing down these examples more keep popping into my head that I just feel I need to say, stuff like just running up the sides of buildings is a blast, but combine it with jumping from building to building, or flipping off of it so you can get behind a pursuing helicopter, for the sole purpose of sending your whip into its tail so that you can hijack it and use it to blow the tanks and men into little pieces of metal and flesh is what every 12 year kid inside of us has always wanted to do. The last thing I would have to note is that Radical should be given a hand for the work they did on areas of the city that are becoming infected, but aren’t fully yet. It’s very cool to just walk through, see the hordes of people running away, see car crashes happen as motorist try to get away, see the military take careful shots as they move through the crowd towards the zombies, and then see the zombies and hunters and god knows what else coming slowly forwards.
In the end Prototype has some problems that stop it from being talked about in the same sentence as GTA, it’s kind of like Uncharted, the base is there for an amazing game, they have a winning formula, but they just need time to perfect it. I am willing to bet a lot of money that the next Prototype blows this one out of the water, and cements the series as a heavier hitter. However until that time this Prototype is a lot of fun, you’ll never feel more like a badass and you’ll never have a bigger smile on your face.