Prototype


By: Alan Bell    On: Xbox 360
Published: Monday 15 Jun 2009 10:00 AM
 
 
 
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Prototype puts you in the shoes of Alex Mercer, an everyman who for some reason wakes up on a slab at the county morgue. Why is he there? How is he no longer dead? What's going wrong in the city? What's going wrong with him?!

Prototype is the latest sandbox game to come out of Radical Entertainment - developers of the awesome The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction game from 2005 (along with more recent titles Scarface and some Crash Bandicoot games). The premise is relatively straight forward - navigate the free-roaming city environment, complete missions (both story-based and side missions) to progress. Earn Experience Points (EP) as you do, which you can then use to improve your various abilities and increase your effectiveness at taking down the bad guys.

It's in Alex's abilities that Prototype stands alone - sure, on the surface, the premise of having incredible super powers that enable your character to obliterate foes en-masse sounds pretty similar to Sucker Punch's inFamous, but the gameplay starts off quite differently from that title, and then continues to diverge from there.

For example, to get to higher ground (such as the top of a tall building) in Prototype, the player simply needs to hold down R2 and Alex will run right up the side of the building. Alex's offensive abilities are also markedly different and built around Alex transforming himself in various ways to enable him to more effectively combat the various foes he'll encounter. Turn your hands into blades, a la Edward Scissorhands, for example, and you'll tear to pieces (literally - it's very gory) any humanoid that strays into your arc. Turn your fists into hammers however and your humanoid chums will fairly easily evade your swing but tanks and other armored vehicles will be pulverized by a mere glancing blow.

Alex has a great deal of ability when it comes to interacting with his environment too - you can pick up almost anything and, thanks to the simple targeting system, you can then chuck that something at something (or someone) else with ease. Things can get a little clumsy when interacting with pedestrians (which there are a lot of), who are almost impossible not to kill. Run around on the street expecting them to part with a small shove here and there like Assassins Creed and you'll be in for a shock - if you run too fast here you plow through people like you're a boy racer, bodies piling up behind you. Eventually you just ignore them and stop trying to save them - killing a thousand in the course of a mission (you get a handy tally at the end of each) is par for the course.

The number of abilities at Alex's disposal and the various improvements, upgrades and sidegrades available is daunting. The controls start off understandable enough but fairly quickly things get almost out of control with the level of nuance available to the particularly dexterous. Most gamers will probably be overwhelmed and elect to stick with a simple subset of Alex's abilities, but for those with impressive memories and even more impressive twitch control, they have the option of getting seriously involved in combat techniques. The level of over-saturation of abilities is only increased by the fact that you seem to be able to generate massive levels of EP extremely quickly, which results in you being able to pick up handfuls of new skills each time you remember to go into the upgrade screen.

The visuals in the game, for the most part, suck. The textures and geometry are almost universally extremely low resolution, animation is rough (and downright poor in parts) and vehicles turn into weird black glassy chunks when destroyed. Objects disappear when still quite close to the camera, huge chunks of the city are bland and featureless and we even found one building where a big chunk of the wall isn't even textured - you can see right through the world.

This low visual fidelity is no doubt in part due to the extreme chaos that can ensue (it's not uncommon for there to be seemingly hundreds of characters, vehicles, helicopters and weapons fire to all be on screen at once), all of which is handled without noticeable frame drops, but it is still pretty jarring when you first start playing.

Once you get the hang of the game's controls and get used to the rather sub-standard visuals, you realise that you're actually having a hell of a lot of fun. Alex is able to dish out a hell of a lot of punishment, quite capable of taking on hundreds of enemies at once. Should you find your health draining, an easy and quick way to get a significant top-up is to grab and basically puree some random pedestrian for a health boost.

There's a lot more to the game than simply cruising around destroying people en-masse - while it does excel at that idle activity more than any game before it (even, perhaps, GTA!), you can (and must, occasionally) stealth your way around in order to infiltrate or escape. Simply absorb another human and you can shapeshift into their form and sneak around in plain sight - beware, though, as the game will keep you on your toes by introducing detection techniques that will keep you thinking. Fortunately, you can upgrade your stealthing skills to keep pace with the enemy upgrades and the constant "arms race" helps to keep things interesting.

Combat is straight forward enough, but even here, it feels like a little more time would have resulted in a more compelling experience. It's fun and you can do lots of stuff but you still find yourself accidentally falling off the side of a building or attacking a car when a dude with a rocket launcher or a hunter is wailing on you. Constant use of the targeting system is the order of the day and at times in the chaos this can be a little tiresome.

When the dust has settled (and that takes time - Alex is practically able to send dust into orbit), Prototype is a good game. If you can handle some fairly significant visual glitches and aren't looking for a shiny example of "next gen" gaming, it's even very good - but we can't ignore the fact that the gloss is entirely absent. There's a fun game underneath the garish surface and there's plenty of it, too. Can you handle the fact that the graphics look like they didn't go any further than the Prototype stage? If you can and you like the sound of incredibly high-energy action where you get to chuck cars at helicopters, snap it up.


The Score

Prototype
"Ugly, brutal and incredibly fun."
8.0
Great
Rating: R18   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 45 Min

 

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Comments (17)

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Ruptunex
On Monday 15 Jun 2009 2:13 PM Posted by Ruptunex
"Earn Experience Points (EP)"

Nitpicky i know but they're called Evolution Points in the game.
 
 
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ChatterboxZombie
On Monday 15 Jun 2009 5:28 PM Posted by ChatterboxZombie
this and infamous are really weird
 
 
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proGENE
On Monday 15 Jun 2009 5:34 PM Posted by proGENE
I would not give this game a 6.5 in graphics, considering the rating which was given for inFamous'- 9.5. I have played both and i would have to say there was not an incredible difference in graphics between them, so something has gone wrong between the reviews.
 
 
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phantom
On Monday 15 Jun 2009 7:09 PM Posted by phantom
There's a massive difference in the level of graphical polish between this and infamous, they're not even similar :)
 
 
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twisterjamz NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Monday 15 Jun 2009 8:56 PM Posted by twisterjamz
My brother got this for pc, it looked awesome but he said he reckons infamous would be better
 
 
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Astarael
On Tuesday 16 Jun 2009 10:49 AM Posted by Astarael
Yay something without a number on the end of the title =D
 
 
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NZNova
On Tuesday 16 Jun 2009 1:15 PM Posted by NZNova
15 June 2009, 05:34 PM Reply to proGENE
I would not give this game a 6.5 in graphics, considering the rating which was given for inFamous'- 9.5. I have played both and i would have to say there was not an incredible difference in graphics between them, so something has gone wrong between the reviews.
There's a pretty big difference in graphical quality between prototype and infamous. Infamous looks a heck of a lot better. Prototype does have fun gameplay and cool powers though.
 
 
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Daniel1987
On Tuesday 16 Jun 2009 6:03 PM Posted by Daniel1987
15 June 2009, 05:34 PM Reply to proGENE
I would not give this game a 6.5 in graphics, considering the rating which was given for inFamous'- 9.5. I have played both and i would have to say there was not an incredible difference in graphics between them, so something has gone wrong between the reviews.
Yeah inFamous visuals aren't as good as they're cracked up to be, especially when you look at it closer
 
 
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chinaman71 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Wednesday 17 Jun 2009 3:55 PM Posted by chinaman71
might pick this up for PS3 looks decent.
 
 
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Oliver
On Wednesday 17 Jun 2009 6:24 PM Posted by Oliver
Though this and InFamous both sound awesome, I just can't see myself playing them a lot. Something about them makes it seem like I just wouldn't be bothered with them if I had them.
 
 
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Gazza22 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 18 Jun 2009 12:19 AM Posted by Gazza22
Going to give this a rent for sure.
 
 
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zharn
On Monday 22 Jun 2009 12:17 AM Posted by zharn
This game so ive been told is pretty awsome. I have yet to play it.
 
 
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1ShAdY1
On Saturday 27 Jun 2009 7:56 PM Posted by 1ShAdY1
ive played through prototype and thought the story was slack 2 say the least,though the extensive powers compared 2 infamous is a bonus.overall,a good attempt!.
 
 
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guitar93 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Monday 29 Jun 2009 8:36 PM Posted by guitar93
Hmmm, some designers are getting a bit lazy on the graphics. Making it a bit 'Cartoony'. Take Saints Row 2 for example. Probably because they wanted to make violence fun?
And Prototype. the trailer looked great. but when i hired it out, i expected better for the graphics. Overall, great game to play.
 
 
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Nefarious
On Wednesday 16 Sep 2009 1:20 PM Posted by Nefarious
29 June 2009, 08:36 PM Reply to guitar93
Hmmm, some designers are getting a bit lazy on the graphics. Making it a bit 'Cartoony'. Take Saints Row 2 for example. Probably because they wanted to make violence fun?
And Prototype. the trailer looked great. but when i hired it out, i expected better for the graphics. Overall, great game to play.
i'm sure they would have done the best they could within their short time frame, and the mass murdering looks like a heck of a lot of fun
 
 
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Majorkorn
On Saturday 3 Oct 2009 4:27 PM Posted by Majorkorn
very hardout game, free roam is mint and the things you can do is awsum, i have brought this game and completed it, but not good enough to keep on the shelf forever. i like girls doof doof
 
 
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primeelfkilla
On Thursday 22 Oct 2009 3:29 PM Posted by primeelfkilla
this game is great for those whom are frustrated and need to split some heads.
 
 
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