Prototype Hands-On & Dev Walkthrough

Prototype Hands-On & Dev Walkthrough

Wolverine wasn’t the only in-development game shown off at Activision’s press event just prior to New York Comic-Con. He was joined by a game that while not directly comic book related at its genesis, definitely has comic book influences at its heart. Now, Prototype is also getting a lead-in comic book miniseries from WildStorm, who seem to be snatching up more video game comics by the second. We’ll have more on that soon, but first, the game.

Alex has been working with A-Rod's trainer a lot. OOPS! Spoiler!

Prototype is developed by Radical Entertainment, best known for the fantastic Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. This game was originally conceived as a spiritual successor, using the same Titanium engine, and focusing on how the character moves through the world with unstoppable motion. The similarities pretty much end there, however, as this character, Alex Mercer, wants to do much more than just smash.

The playable demo we had at the event took us through three of Alex’s forms. One had claws that extended in Venom-style tendril attacks, similar to some of those seen in last fall’s Spider-man: Web of Shadows. The next was pure brute strength, with enormous stone hands/arms extending from Alex’s body. This played most similarly to The Hulk, and even kind of looked like he had the toy Hulk hands on, just much bigger. The third form had Alex going Baraka of Mortal Kombat style, with two massive blades taking the place of his arms. Each form definitely played differently, and the potential for lots of customization is there. There are some moves, like the glide and dash, that are for movement and available no matter what form Alex takes. While our demo was linear and forced Alex into his various forms to go with the plot and enemies we’d be battling, we were assured that real-time switching will be available in the final game, selectable via a “power wheel” brought up using the left bumper on the Xbox 360 version we played. The D-Pad can also bring you to your last equipped powers.

One of the new features shown for the first time that night is Alex’s absorb move. He can absorb anyone, from civilians to the toughest foes, though the more powerful enemies will need to be worn down first. Through this absorption, Alex recovers health, gains abilities, and fills in parts of his memory in the “Web of Intrigue,” a timeline of sorts that shows how he got to the morgue with these new powers. There are over 130 of these memory nodes. In addition, abilities like disguises (to make Alex look like enemies and infiltrate), and useful skills like helicopter piloting and air-strikes (from consuming helicopter pilots and army generals, respectively) are available, so this absorption move is an important one.

Alex starts in a morgue... then things get worse

The island of Manhattan is the only locale in the game, but it’s a large (though not quite to scale), and every part of it is available from the very beginning. They chose NYC for the crowds and the impact they can have on the story. An infection is spreading through the city, and infected zones are handily marked with red circles on your map, while military zones are blue. When you’re in the infected zones, you’ll see a grimy, cloudier environment. The military zones host bases that Alex can access and upgrade his character. They are also destructible, and if you destroy a base you’ll gain quite a few evolutionary points (for hand to hand combat, movement, and some special moves).

The campaign is averaging about 12 hours for “good players” and 20 for beginners in current focus tests. There are sidequests and collectibles to expand the base campaign. While we saw a pacing described as “110%,” there will be an ebb and flow to the game so adrenaline doesn’t need to be pumping constantly.

First impressions of the game were honestly mixed. While, I had fun once I got the hang of things, it wasn't as easy to

Absorption won't always look pretty

jump into as many other games. After the frenetic pace of gameplay and ease of executing advanced moves in Wolverine, the less intuitive controls were definitely felt here. The sudden, forced switching of forms definitely contributed to this; when I got a second chance with the game and just wandered using one form for a more extended period, I had a lot more fun. The potential is there for a great time, but all we saw was the potential, not really the execution. The gradually developing story and the variety of play will probably be a great boon to the finished game, but it was a hindrance here. Still, the hands-on experience did serve its ultimate purpose: I came out of it more intrigued and interested in playing the final product.

Prototype is due out June 2009 for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC and will likely be rated M for Mature

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