for the Xbox 360
I'm quite sure that all of you have heard of Prototype. In fact, I'm quite sure that most of you guys played it. Yet, and don't freak out about that, I find it to be one of the most underrated games of the current generation.
Prototype is a 2009 sandbox action game, released by Radical Entertainment. The guys at Radical are, while not the developers you would call critically-acclaimed, responsible for a handful of quality licensed games, including Scarface: The World Is Yours and The Incredible Hulk.
The initial hype for the game as pretty big as far as I've seen. The concept was relatively original and the trailers... those were fantastic. But then it came out and no one seems to be speaking about it anymore, an undeserved fate, if you ask me.
In Prototype, you play as Alex Mercer, a dead guy who, for some reason, awoke in the morgue and found out that not only was he alive and well, but he now posessed super strength and super speed. Not too interesting of a premise, eh? Well, apart from that, Alex's main gimmick is shapeshifting into other people and gaining their memories, abilities and powers. And, let me say, that's the best concept for a sandbox game I've ever heard.
Let's get one thing out of the way fast. The story is, while definitely not bad, lacking. It's full of conspiracy theories, Alex is always being irritating and the reveals are not what you would call "shocking". Is it a complete waste? No. The characters are pretty fun and I enjoyed some of the cutscenes which were very inventive and spectacular.
The gameplay in Prototype is based on three main sides: combat, stealth and parkour. I'll get parkour out of the way first because there's not much to say, really. You move around really fast, run up buildings, dash through the air. It's not as fun as it sounds... until you get the Glide ability.
Stealth is, well, a little screwed up. It doesn't really work and isn't that big of a part in the game. You can shapeshift into others which is fine and all, but you can't really give your true identity away unless you're doing something incredibly silly. You can jump 10 metres into the air in your military disguise right in front of your fellow soldiers but they won't notice. You can even kill one of them and, most of the time, they won't start shooting at you. I guess that in a game like Prototype they tried to minimalize the restrictions but it does take away from the whole shapeshifting concept.
However, stealth is fun. At least until you get the stealth consume ability which breaks the stealth mechanics. Usually, to consume someone you have to lift him off the ground and, I am not kidding, punch the guy in the soul. It is loud and there is a great chance they'll see you. The stealth consume, on the other hand, requires you to get behind your target and silently subdue them. The most ridiculous part is that it won't work when you're being watched meaning that you can't get caught. At all. Even if they're turning around while you're slowly devouring the soul of their fellow soldier. You won't get spotted.
Don't worry though, the combat has got you covered. It really works. Shapeshifting over-powering ass-kicking fun. Not only is the game gory as hell with total and complete dismemberment, you have (attention here!) FIVE different shapeshift-weapons that you cant turn your arms into, each of which have a ton of combos and are fun to use. I'm not gonna lie, the tentacle thing is a little overpowered but it doesn't really stop you from using other powers. You also have defensive powers (which you won't use since it's easier to run away) and types of vision (the point of which I failed to see apart from one campaign mission) as well as the ability to pick up weapons - surprisingly useful, by the way.
The enemies are nicely waried, ranging from the cannon-fodder military and infected guys to really frightening leader hunters and supersoldiers. The game does, however, get a little overwhelming at times with even the normal difficulty setting being a major challenge. It gets especially tough when tanks and choppers enter the battle, which reminds me - Prototype lets you elbow drop a tank. Yes, I'm serious.
At some point in the game, you get the ability to control tanks and helicopters which you will probably use to commit mass genocide. In fact, everything in this game is put there to let you commit said mass genocide. By doing absolutely anything you earn Evolution Points which you can then spend to upgrade your powers and get new combos. The combos are frankly ridiculous and, while you'll never remember all of them, make fighting even with your bare hands absolute fun.
The story is short so what do you do after the (surprisingly good) ending? Well, apart from the mandatory Blue and Purple orbs as collectibles, you have the Web Of Intrigue, to complete which you have to consume innocent people and get their memories. Which reminds me, another storytelling method of the game is, get this, slideshows with some voiceovers showing the memories of important people you've consumed. Believe me, the information there is not that interesting.
There are also additional events which are completely devoid of originality but are fun nonetheless. Apart from Kill and Movement (ridiculously hard races), you get to consume scientists, glide into the targets and, my personal favorite, participate in Military vs. Infected battles as either of the sides, at times even while in disguise.
The screenshots probably tipped you off but, if not, here's a shocker. Prototype doesn't look to good. However, it certainly looks presentable. The human and infected models are fine, the dismemberment looks awesome and the sky is absolutely beautiful. The city, on the other hand, is a load of boring especially when compared to the same city (NYC) from GTA IV. It feels unreasonably lifeless.
The voice acting is also a bit meh, especially the casting of Barry Pepper (Private Daniel Jackson from Saving Private Ryan and Dunn from Modern Warfare 2) as Alex Mercer. He is a good actor, sure, but he really tends to overact here. As a result, Alex is a bit whiny and annoying. The other characters are par for the course.
With all this in mind, should you get Prototype? Absolutely. It takes a little to get into the game and it's a little repetitive at times but the game constantly throws something new your way. The main advantage of the game is, despite all the things that it set out to be, Prototype works and it is damn good.