Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year or more, you might have heard of this game called Prototype. I first read about this game way back in an old issue of Game Informer about a year ago. It had about 15 pages of info on the game, and I must say I was pretty impressed by the sound of it. A super-powered badass 'shapeshifter' running a muck in New York, YES PLEASE! I remember seeing the screen shot of the spikes coming out of the ground impaling several innocent pedestrians and instantly getting that comic-style feeling. This game is an open world sandbox-style adventure that borrows a whole lot of attributes from other genres. From shooters to fighting games and even a bit of role playing style leveling up, it really does have a little something for everyone. Watch this awesomely gory and beautiful opening cutscene to warm yourself to the glorious creation that is: Prototype.
This game plays identical to the Hulk game that was released on the 360 a while ago. It feels like it was skinned over it, literally. So many things are exactly the same. The charging of the jump, the flying jump kick you can take helicopters out with, the map, the transparency of items that are picked up. I believe it's the same developer that did the Hulk game, so that's most likely the reason. Basic controls here. You got your standard combo attack button (X), special button which ties into combos (Y), a jump button which can be charged (A), and a grab button which also throws objects (B). You also have left trigger to target, and right trigger to sprint. The bumpers are basically your menus to select which power you wanna use at the time. It's a fairly simple scheme that is standard in games these days, so you will feel right at home after a few minutes. The game progresses through 30 or so missions, with several side missions that are unlocked as you complete the main scripted missions. These "side" missions range from killing a certain amount of enemies in a certain amount of time, checkpoint-race style jumping (a la Crackdown) and even some cool mini-wars where you play on the infected side vs. the army. There is even a mission where you use the glide ability to try and land in a bullseye. These side missions will feel pretty common to those familiar with open-world games like Crackdown, Hulk, GTA etc. They start out pretty easy, but some of the ones towards the end were really tough. That's the case through most of the game. It gets hard, I mean haaarrrdd. Some of the missions took me 10-20 lives to pass. It's nice that the game gets progressively challenging, but DAMN I was having a tough time on certain parts. If anyone would like help following this review, feel free to ask. All in all it was about 13 hours of gameplay. For some reason mysteriously my game save erased after about 8 hours. The only thing I could think of was I accidentally started a new game and it autosaved under my current gamesave. It sucked, so be careful if you do decide to play it. Continue is under new game on the main menu and I think eager button mashing to get the game started resulted in the game restarting and saving. It could be a glitch but I googled and couldn't find anyone with the same problem. Maybe it was one too many Newcastles.
Let's start with the things this game does well. For starters, the premise and storytelling transfers over to the gameplay very well. The developers did a really good job of making you feel like a badass super-human. Some of the most fun to be had during the game is actually just navigating the makeshift scale of New York. You can sprint and jump up buildings with ease, jump off of gigantic buildings and land unscathed, it's just an awesome feeling. With so much scattered about the world, there is nothing that really hinders your path of travel. Have 30 cars in the way of where you want to go? No problem! You simply just hold the analog stick in the direction you would like to go, and Alex will do the rest. Running into a car for instance, will just send Alex flipping or hopping smoothly over it to continue sprinting. Later in the game you can unlock several jumping upgrades and even a glide ability which lets you soar like a flying squirrel. Couple this glide with an upgraded sprint and air-dash, and you can really pull off some amazing maneuvers navigating-wise. The aforementioned melting pot of genres is also fresh, innovative and well done. So many sandbox-style games focus on only certain aspects, and really skimp on others. Take GTA for instance: Sure the driving is pretty decent, but in my opinion the movement, animation and gunplay is downright atrocious. This is where Prototype is quite polished. The shooting and gunplay is very fun. The sounds and power that the weapons deliver is both realistic and exciting. The vehicles, (various tanks and helicopters), control well and their multiple weapons carry the same sounds and satisfaction. Everything was given good attention in the development, and it really shows. Pretty cool stuff as far as super powers go too. As the game progresses, you will gain some awesome tools of destruction. These abilities include giant claws, huge Thing or Hulk-like hands, a giant scythe for an arm and several defensive abilities like a shield and even a pretty cool looking armor suit. A mix of the two, (defensive and offensive) abilities is usually needed, especially for the latter end of the game as it gets quite tough. Consuming enemies is pretty cool as well. At any time during play, you can consume any enemy anywhere on the map and shapeshift in and out of their disguise. This consuming is the means by which you refill your life as well. Once you upgrade your health, and it is at full capacity, you can unleash "devastator" attacks that are downright awesome. They are a charged move that drain a bit of life, but once performed, go into an animated attack like Alex raising spikes from the ground that unleashes fury to the surroundings. Much of the intense moments or boss fights are spent consuming to refill your life, and performing these attacks over and over. This ties in well when you infiltrate bases or when you are trying to get strike teams and enemies off your back. Many times you will have to flee and once you are out of sight you can disguise yourself and be in the clear. There is also people and enemies scattered throughout that make up whats called the Web of Intrigue. These individuals play out a small movie that ties into the story when consumed. Although it's not executed perfectly to tie into the story, it's kinda nice if you really want to delve into the past of Alex.
Most of the bad things here don't hinder the experience that much, but there were some poor design choices that cannot be overlooked. They're gonna stick out like a sore thumb. For starters, the flick-style aiming can be extremely frustrating. Often times you will target the most random of objects, like an infected water tower, instead of one of the 5 tanks and helicopters that are pumping ammunition into you like it's going out of style. Often times there is just too much Chaos. The alert system is WAAAAAAAY to strict. Sometimes you can waltz through bases and military zones and not be bothered, other times you step the wrong way and a strike team and who knows what else will follow and blast at you from one side of the map to the other. It's a shame because the stealth aspects of the game, like sneaking into bases, or shapeshifting into disguises and the like are pretty cool! It's a bummer that the policing system is so finicky. I suspect a patch will be released to mellow it out, or at least it should in my opinion. There is also a few enemy types that are just annoying and frustrating, particularly the hunters. Which molest you with attacks that drain 80% of your life and never give you a second to breathe. These hunters start to appear everywhere during missions and sometimes they just shouldn't have been there. In fact, many of the attacks from a variety of enemies are too strong and feel really out of place. I mean, one second you get hit by a tank shell and a missile at the same time only to have a smidgen of your life gone, and then you get punched or body-slammed and you are near death instantly. I mean, c'mon, you're supposed to be this superpowered badass right?
I guess in a nutshell the game just feels a bit unbalanced at times. The game controls great for the most part, although there is a few camera problems here and there. There is also quite a few balconies that really defeat the navigating awesomeness as you get stuck running in a vertical-square on them instead of ascending the building. Small gripes here for the most part that could have been easily balanced or fixed. The graphics are not amazing, but they aren't that bad either. I would have liked to see a little bit more environment destruction, especially on buildings. Other than that I think most reviewers have been a little too critical on the cosmetics of this game. Often times the action is so fast paced and chaotic, you won't even notice the subtle blandness of the textures and environment. Who wants to stop and sight-see when you can slice people up like a wood-chipper anyway? Not me!
Achievement whores should stir clear of this one. A few are downright ridiculous like no dying once during the game, or beating the game on hard difficulty. I had trouble on Normal, I can only imagine how Hard would be. Another small gripe was the orb's that are scattered throughout New York are tough to find as they kind of pop in graphically. You can't really see them until you are right next to them. A sound or hint as to when you were close would have been nice. I also have the same gripe as I did with XMEN Origins: Wolverine in that the opening cutscene was so amazing, and the rest were so horribly animated.
All in all I had a good time playing this one, and I think that's what the developers were going for. While I was a teenie-tiny bit let down by the hype, it was still worth playing. Things got a little repetitive and drawn out, but there is plenty of gameplay and longevity to be had here if you really dig it. As always you know I love me some blood and gore and this one didn't disappoint! Co-op would have been SO awesome on this one, but maybe the developers just didn't have room for another badass. Give this one a rental for sure. It's fun, gory and deep and if open-world mayhem is your cup o' tea, sink your teeth into this one for sure. If you enjoy it, give Hulk a play through as well and you will be amazed how similar the two are. If you do pick it up, give us a shout in the comments and let us know what you think!