Prototype is a new Sandbox title that was released in early June 2009 that puts you in the role of Alex Mercer, a mysterious character who has the genetic ability of shifting any part or his whole body into a deadly weapon. Prototype takes place in modern day Manhattan where, as Alex, you try to find out what has transformed you from a high-level clearance scientist to the most sought after terrorist.
When you first start Prototype, you find yourself from a third-person perspective of what resembled Manhattan with all of your powers unlocked. Donâ€™t get too comfortable, as this is just a brief tutorial and a mere taste of what you can expect from the game and more. The tutorial itself happens to tie into the story as well, but what you find initially is that you can jump five to 15 stories in the air, run up and down and across a building, take down helicopters, and shoot out tendrils to pierce anyone and everyone unlucky enough to be near you, and thatâ€™s just a scratching the surface.
Prototype is a game that sets around a lethal virus that is released into Manhattan infecting the people living in it over a period of 18 days. Alex on the other hand is found in the center of it all with amnesia as he tries to find out whatâ€™s going on. One of the first things Alex learns is that he has some unusual new abilities, one of which would be grabbing people and consuming them, taking on their appearance and, consuming those specifically marked, their memories. Their memories in fact are parts of the story that reveal the viral outbreak, Alexâ€™s past, and the ongoing situation.
To complicate matters, the US government has stepped in to contain the situation, deploying the marines and a special taskforce called Blackwatch who will stop at nothing to contain the viral outbreak, even killing their own. Alex, for his unusual abilities, is the primary target who is to be brought in dead or alive. Blackwatch have the full military force just short of jetfighters to catch Alex, from assault rifles and heat-seeking rocket launches to tanks and helicopters.
As the game progresses, Alex finds that he has another enemy to contend with, the Virus itself, which mutates and spawns a special breed of monsters and mutants that have a limited number of abilities to what Alex has. What they lack in abilities though, they make up for in their strength and number.
The game plays anyway the player wants to play; donâ€™t care for the story? Then you can go right on through and ignore the special markers above the random individuals that hold a tidbit crucial to the story background. Want more powers and abilities? Alex is free to perform special challenges that range from rooftop time trials, to infiltrating and/or destroying bases within a time limit amongst a few. Completing these challenges nets Alex some Evolution Points, which he can use to buy his abilities. Alex can also gain EP points from destroying enemy bases, killing enemy infantry and tanks, completing missions, etc. In fact, there is hardly anything Alex can do that wonâ€™t earn him EP points.
Alex has a lot of abilities such as clawed hands that can slice and dice, a whipfist that acts as slicing whip as well as a long distance grabber. Heat and Infected vision to seek out enemies in smoke and debris and find unsuspecting infected civilians and soldiers respectively. Camouflage thatâ€™ll allow him to assume the identity of the last person he consumed, and even full body armor later in the game. With these abilities come a whole lot of fun as Alex tears and smashes, hurls and cuts apart various unfortunate people, monsters and machinery.
The missions are plentiful and varied, taking place up and down Manhattan as you go through the story, and completing them allows you to buy more abilities and unlocks more events. One can never say the missions are typical, because each one is drastically different from the last, some even limiting Alex to just jumping and gliding.
The graphics are pretty superb as one can expect from a sandbox title, with a multitude of civilians, infected, soldiers and tanks all on one screen going on at the same time. When Alex transforms, one can see him shift right before their eyes, one even get a close-up when he consumes anything. In fact, there are different ways he consumes people by which active power he has on at the time. As should be expected though, all hell literally breaks loose from time to time as you dodge bullets, explosions and flying bodies with a fast pace thatâ€™ll have you scrambling and button mashing to keep up, but one thing you will notice is that the framerate hardly dips. Such is the beauty of the game that whilst untold carnage can ensue, the game will still move faster than the player.
One of the frustrations one would notice is that the controls are set for a smooth and sweeping movement, so when you want to land, climb, or get to a particularly difficult spot, itâ€™ll get frustrating quickly if youâ€™re not patient. This is particularly noticeable when doing the time trials, while not impossible, will take some practice and maybe some deep breaths from time to time.
There is a targeting system in the game, which is a great tool to help dispose of the enemy as the annoying pests as they are, however, targeting is set on priority to which ever enemy poses the greatest danger to Alex. This is not so bad unless you want to target a weakened helicopter and you would have to go through three other helicopters and some tanks. This is especially frustrating when trying to consume a person of interest; trying to lock on them but instead locking on innocent civilians.
For all the abilities Alex has at his disposal, they are lacking when hijacking APCâ€™s, Tanks, and Helicopters in the game. One can either jump on the vehicle and hijack it, or destroy it from a far, but my personal qualm is the lacking ability of jumping on a helicopter and ripping off its tail or cutting off the blades. Same would go for the tank where one could bend the cannon and watch the tank blow itself, even ripping off the turret and swinging it towards a helicopter would be sweetly satisfying.
One other thing thatâ€™s noticeable is that Manhattan isnâ€™t exact. While it has been faithfully recreated, there have been some omissions, such as the subway system amongst others, but itâ€™s not a big deal when you will be too distracted from everything else going on to care or bother.
Prototype has been a multi-platform release that has a lot to offer than has been previously expected of a sandbox anti-hero monster game, with an immersive and original story, ridiculously mind-blowing superpowers, and a challenge of hand-eye coordination. Based on all the goodies it has to offer, it has a high replay value for those with a destructive taste. Itâ€™s a must buy for those who enjoyed Crackdown and Grand Theft Auto 4 but missed the satisfaction that came with limited abilities and opportunities of mass destruction.
Final Score: 8 out of 10 - Good (How do we rate games?)