Prototype is an open world action game from Radical Entertainment, the studio that brought us the excellent Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and in many ways this game is Hulk’s spiritual sequel. Throughout its protracted (and oft troubled) development cycle, Prototype rose to become one of the most hyped games of 2009, with promises of unrestricted freedom, unlimited choice and unparalleled high action combat. Now finally released, it’s time to see if Radical delivers on these promises.
Prototype’s mission statement was laid out like this: make the player the ultimate badass and let them loose in Manhattan to do as they saw fit. The main conceit here is that you play as a shape shifter who goes by the name of Alex Mercer; a character that we are told can “consume and become anyone”. He also has a number of abilities from vicious claws, to a defensive shield and later on, a vision mode that allows the player to see who has been infected by the virus that is spreading through the city. Alex can “hyper parkour” over any object, run over walls and even glide through the air… like a squirrel. Consuming particular soldiers even allows him to gain the ability to pilot helicopters and drive tanks. Beyond that taking the form of a soldier grants Mercer access to airstrikes and the very entertaining patsy. This particular action involves outing a nearby soldier as the chameleon and watching with grim satisfaction as his teammates gun him down. The combat continues this sadistic trend… a single claw sweep rending not just your target, but anyone unlucky enough to be caught within a five foot radius of your blades. However, the satisfaction comes not just from the bloody mess Mercer’s wrath leaves behind but also from how he controls. One of Ultimate Destruction’s main criticisms was that, when fights became particularly intense, it became a battle not just with your enemies, but with the camera as well as everything got lost in the chaos. In Prototype, every time you lock on or switch target and every time you call up the power select wheel, the game slows down. This gives you plenty of time to assess the situation dodge an incoming rocket and choose the power best suited to dealing with whatever is attacking. It also allows for some spectacular moments, though more by accident than design. For example while running down the street, I locked on to a tank in the distance, as the game slowed down, a rocket shot past me and hit a car- which exploded just as I flipped over it. It was a real wow moment and the beauty of it is that these moments are unique to each player as it’s completely unscripted and more down to chance than anything else. If there is one problem with the controls it is that, with a move list as diverse as Prototype’s, it was inevitable that some would end up with awkward combinations. Pressing X and B at the same time requires real manual dexterity and can be difficult to pull off in a pinch. However the majority of commands are relatively simple and after a few minutes getting to grips with the nuances in control, you’ll rarely find yourself doing something you didn’t intend.
Proof that Mercer is worse for your lungs than smoking
It would be very easy to write this review, focus solely on the action mark it a nine and call it a day. However, Radical have attempted to give us something more than simply just an open world and a character who can break apart tanks with his bare hands. While the story is your typical government conspiracy cover-up + protagonist with amnesia, the game offers up an interesting mechanic in the form of the web of intrigue. At any point during the game, both on missions and in free roam, you may encounter a person marked with a symbol.