Prototype Advanced Hands-On

Prototype Advanced Hands-On

The game is VIOLENT, but it's over-the-top enough to not be disturbing

To be honest, the first time I played Prototype, just prior to New York Comic-con, I was less than impressed. The game seemed to have potential, but really wasn’t reaching it. Well, what a difference 3 months makes, because playing the near-final Prototype at an Activision event this week was a completely different experience. From increased framerate to smoother controls to the full compliment of powers and abilities, it's clear that Prototype is far from being an early build of something greater.

The super-power fueled sandbox game is familiar territory for Radical Entertainment. The critically acclaimed but relatively low-selling Hulk: Ultimate Destruction showed that they understood what made Hulk great: smashing things. There was a whole lot of smashing in that game, in fact. One of the truly fun parts was the locomotion; you could go anywhere on the map, and constantly move without stopping. That has carried over into this new game, with new style added in. When sitting down to play or watching someone else, this motion, the unique way that main character Alex moves, is the first thing anyone will notice. It’s a unique cross between the “freestyle running” of Parkour and the sheer power of a behemoth. This gets better as you go, as you can purchase new moves to make Alex’s movement faster, stronger, and more fluid. The unique animations definitely stand out as well.

Helicopters are the new Zombies

Of course, this game isn’t just about running jumping and gliding around Manhattan. It centers around a mystery concerning the main character. He’s woken up with strange abilities and a lot of anger and wants to find out who did this to him. Throughout the game, players will discover people all over the city, during free roam and during missions, who fill out the “Web of Intrigue.” After consuming (yes, consuming, which incidentally is one of the coolest animations in the game, as the body trails behind you as you absorb it into yourself) one of these characters, Alex gains access to their memories, shown in a very cool cinematic, along with the ability to shapeshift into them and access any special abilities they might have. When absorbing a soldier, for instance, you might then be able to hijack and drive a tank or helicopter. Absorb a General, and you can call for some extra assistance. Consumption also gives a boost to Alex’s health, along with simply looking cool. Of course, you can’t eat every enemy, especially with both the military and the infected coming after you.

Dying To Play Video Games, Except Not
Dying To Play Video Games, Except Not
Bosses ratchet up the difficulty level considerably; expect these to take a couple tries each

Alex Mercer has plenty of combat options available to him. After a sort of preview mission, where you have several of the abilities you’ll acquire throughout the game, the game brings you back to just after waking up. These first two missions are very linear, with specific objectives lined up to take you from start to finish. After, however, the world opens up and you have a large Manhattan to explore. The scale of building sizes and the city in general seemed much larger than a lot of other recent games, a welcome change.

I was then skipped ahead by one of the Radical employees, getting to play a much later section of the game, when Alex has nearly all his powers, forms, and movements unlocked. The shear variety at that stage in the game was mindblowing. Everything is accessed via an easy pull-up power wheel, so changing on the fly was simple. The city at this point was divided into strict infected and military zones, with each group visibly struggling to maintain their areas and gain new ones. It was like being plopped into the middle of a full-scale war, only to find you are the most powerful weapon on the battlefield. That makes for a lot of action, a lot of violence, and a lot of fun.

Alex does his best Spartan impression, hijacking enemy vehicles

The other interesting aspect of the game is the shapeshifting. Several objectives throughout the game require Alex to go incognito. He eats someone that he needs to mimic, then uses that form to sneak past other foes. It’s a nice little sneaky respite from the hack and slash and adds a cool strategy element.

There has been a lot of talk of similarities between this game and inFamous for PS3, as both are super-power sandbox games with parkour movement styles and a degenerating city in which you fight a mix of people with similar powers and military scrubs. Having played both, I can attest that while the very general description is similar, these are still two very different games each with individual merit.

Prototype is definitely ready to fill the needs of those looking for a big time brawler. With a reported playing time of between 12-30 hours (depending on how many side missions/objectives you do), it sounds like it’ll keep gamers busy for awhile, but with how fun it turned out, that time is sure to fly.

Prototype ships for Xbox360 and PS3 on June 9th, 2009. It is rated M for Mature

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