Skip navigation

Prototype


Sandbox style games have certainly come a long way, haven't they? I mean, remember when earlier entries in the genre such as GTA 3 were lauded for their originality and open-world environment? Nowadays the open-world style of gameplay is a commonality. All manner of titles have capitalized on the sandbox revolution and with each entry into the genre it's safe to say that the envelope is pushed just a little farther. One of the latest examples of this is Prototype from Activision.

Part anti-superhero game, part mission based sandbox title, Prototype presents one of the most unique and memorable experiences you'll ever encounter. If you ever played Crackdown for the Xbox 360 then you should know what to expect right off the bat. Well, mostly what to expect anyway. In Prototype you run from one part of New York City to the other with a variety of missions in between. You can scale buildings, jump across ledges, survive massive falls, and use your superpowers to launch a full scale war on the streets below. It's riveting, exhilarating, and intense from start to finish. But what's it all about?

Prototype puts you into the hooded persona of Alex Mercer, a guy who used to work for a militant organization and wakes up having a really bad day. He's been infected with some type of virus that has mutated him, given him strange powers, and put him at the center of a series of unfortunate events. He's basically patient zero thrust into the spotlight with little to no knowledge regarding what has happened and why he's where he is. In order to piece what happened together he has to use his new abilities to consume key figures and weave together an intricate web of memories from his victims. Add to this the fact that the military has a death grip on the city and mutants are running amuck and you have a very intriguing story that will keep you glued and pushing for more answers.

But then again, story is only a small reason you'll be coming back to this title more and more once you pick it up. The true draw is the scope of the game and the gameplay itself which is addicting, hard-hitting, and downright brutal. With that in mind, on with the review!

Gameplay


As we've already discussed, Prototype is an open-world style game. That inherently means that most of the time you're free to do whatever the heck you want. It means there are mission available all over the place, side quests to busy yourself with, sites to see, items to collect, and you're free to bust stuff up as you see fit (by stuff I mean people and vehicles, there's really no environmental destruction here). If you've ever played any of the more recent Spider-Man games think of that style of play amped up like Crackdown with a little bit of GTA mission selection and you pretty much have a good idea about what Prototype has to offer.

The gameplay itself is where it's at though. Mercer is fast, he's furious, and you'll feel borderline unstoppable when you're traipsing around in his shoes. Sprinting up the side of a building, gliding from rooftop to rooftop, slamming hundreds of feet into the street below, picking up cars, through people at helicopters, and gallivanting around NYC is incredibly addicting. You'll spend the majority of the game just running around looking for things to see, people to kill, memories to unlock, orbs to find, and just plain having fun. Adding to the layer of depth for exploration is the fact that the city eventually turns into a warzone with some safe-ish areas and zones populated by either mutated civilians or the military. The game constantly evolves and keeps things interesting to say the least.

Speaking of evolving, Mercer also has the ability to power up and expand upon his arsenal. While this isn't necessarily something new, the way Prototype handles it is quite different. Rather than feeling limited to what you can do or having to really fight for a particular upgrade, the game throws experience points at you like you wouldnĺt believe and lets you run through the power-up system like a kid in a candy store. Seriously, there are more upgrades than you can shake a stick at. Everything from Mercer's ability to maneuver around the city to using vehicles, weapons, and combat skills is up for grabs. The nice thing about this is that there's such a vast quantity of stuff available that you'll be playing for a very long time before you hit the peak of what you can do.

This extensive amount of upgrading does have some drawbacks in the sense that there's simply so much of it. The button layout and combat is intuitive (I'll get into that in a second), but with the sheer amount of power-ups you'll going to inevitably forget what move you purchased a couple missions ago and how to do certain things. It takes a lot of effort to string together some of these combos and swapping between various combat styles with different moves for each takes a lot of memorizing. Still, if you stick with a set favorite you will be just fine. It's nice to know there's a load of variety here, but it's downright crippling at times there's just so much of it.

Now, the combat is arguably the main thing that drives Prototype. At any point during the game you can be discovered if you're not careful and it doesn't take long for a simple spotting to turn into a full blown war in the streets of New York. The fighting is fast and furious and Mercer's mutated abilities allow him to take on a wide variety of opponents. Granted you'll mainly square off against military forces, units in vehicles, grunt mutants, and super-powered mutants known as Hunters, but still, throw them all together and you have a tough fight ahead of you. The Hunters in particular are downright brutal and if you allow yourself to be cornered you're going to be punished for screwing up.

The action is driven to the point of insanity and you'll inevitably get an adrenaline rush by everything that's going on. Due to this craziness it's nice to know that the controls are highly responsive and intuitive and the fight hardly ever gets old. The lock-on system is user-friendly as well so use it whenever possible, you're going to need it most likely. Along these lines, since the fighting is so insane at times and the action can be frantic, the camera simply gets in the way at times. It's not very intuitive and requires a lot of manual control. Controlling the camera while being hit by rockets, pursued by tanks, flanked by helicopters, and triple-teamed by Hunters is a bit tricky as you'd imagine. You'll get more used to it as you progress further into the game, but there are points where the difficulty increases so much you'll want to put the controller down and step away for a few moments.

While the fighting in the game really does get the heart rate going, it's nice to know that there's some stealth elements as well. You can really approach some situations however you see fit. Is it better to go in with mutated blades a whirling? Or is the approach smarter if you disguise yourself as an enemy and slip in behind the lines? That last bit is also a smart way to avoid detection while navigating the city, though it's kind of funny that the AI doesn't spot a friendly who can run up the sides of buildings, jump 100 feet, and fly as Mercer.

Spiking difficulty and camera issues aside, the gameplay in Prototype is fast, smooth, and fun. There are plenty of missions and side missions to sink your teeth into and the Web of Intrigue events surrounding the story are entertaining to go through. The sheer variety and scope offered in this game is unequalled by other open-world titles. Activision has an outstanding release on their hands. Let's just hope that the property is successful enough to warrant a sequel. Prototype is the real deal and it's something action and comic book fans absolutely have to check out.

Graphics


Prototype is as brutal looking as it plays. Sure the title takes place in NYC and we've all played games centered around the Big Apple before, but Prototypes mutated spin transforms the city like none other. The city's teaming populace is soon overrun by mutated strands, powerful monsters, and the military. The streets are crowded with civilians, infected, and traffic like you'd imagine it would be in this type of setting. The scope of the game is particularly impressive and there's a great draw distance with accurate landscapes. Exploring the map is one of the joys of Prototype and you'll have a ton of fun doing it. As many pluses as there are in the game there are also a fair amount of negative aspects. From a design standpoint the title is rather generic and there are few elements that truly standout aside from the scope and brutality of the game.

Technically speaking the game looks decent as well with a smooth frame rate and high definition presentation. Limbs, blood, and all manner of grotesque things will fill your screen as you slice and dice your way from one corner of NYC to the other. The texture work is relatively boring and upon closer inspection the resolution isn't as sharp as it could have been. Put into the motion the game looks much, much better. It's just a shame that when you stop to check things out the fašade fades away. It's also worth mentioning that the cut scenes are just plain bad most of the time.

Sound


The sound effects hit hard, the voice acting is adequate, and the music fits the mood of the game overall. Prototype's sound direction is appropriate for the style of game that it is and if you crank up your system you'll undoubtedly appreciate the bombastic presence on the soundstage. Like the graphics it's not the most impressive aspect of the title, but the audio definitely fairs better than its visual counterpart.

Conclusion


Prototype is a blast to play. It's fun, rewarding, and stands as one of the better constructed open-world titles I have played in a very long time. With that being said the challenge spikes randomly at times and the presentational values of the game aren't as good as they could have been. This title will undoubtedly compare to Sony's inFamous, though I must say that this one is probably the more enjoyable of the two. It feels much more visceral and some of the elements are integrated better. If you own a 360 though, you don't have to choose between the two thankfully. Prototype is a great experience and it's one that lovers of Crackdown should try out, but it lacks some polish that could have really pushed it over the top.