Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Post-Launch Review
Prototype (PC)
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
Released: June 9 2009

Prototype is a sandbox third-person action game set in New York City during the outbreak of a mysterious plague called Blacklight in Manhattan. Those infected mutate into horrible monsters and set about killing the uninfected. Alex Mercer can't remember who he is or how he got shapeshifting superpowers, and is caught between the rapidly spreading virus and the brutal military unit sent in to contain the infection.

At Launch
Prototype had strong sales and strong reviews, with the console versions receiving average scores of 80% and the PC version a few points more. Reviewers praised the story, protagonist, wide variety of abilities, and the unique Web of Intrigue mechanic. The negatives were the game's controls and visual variety, neither of which were outright bad, but not up to par with the rest of the game.
Notably, in his Zero Punctuation review, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw stated that Prototype was very similar to Infamous (a third-person sandbox action game with superpowers released one month prior to Prototype) and could not say which was the better game. He joked that the winner would be the one whose development team created the best picture of the rival game's protagonist wearing a bra. To everyone's surprise, both dev teams produced an image, and Yahtzee awarded the win to Sucker Punch's Infamous by a small margin due to their image's use of Alex Mercer's shapeshifting ability to add breasts.

Post Launch
As far as I can tell, the Steam version received no updates or patches.

The Good
Spider-Man 2 / GTA with superpowers
You may remember Spider-Man 2. A lot of Prototype's gameplay elements are very similar to that game: movement, challenges, hidden collectibles, and of course both games take place in Manhattan. But since Spider-Man 2 was the best video game adaptation of a move ever, that works out pretty well for Prototype — especially if you like blowing stuff up or stealing weapons, tanks, and helicopters for your own use, which Spider-Man doesn't really do.
Here you can see two of Alex's three popped collars.
Alex Mercer
Alex is a really cool protagonist. So cool, in fact, that all three of his collars are popped. Unfortunately I can't tell you many of the really cool things without spoiling plot. Sorry.

Plot & Web of Intrigue
The game is sort of a series of flashbacks as Alex explains to some military guy how everything went down. Much of the plot is told through the Web of Intrigue mechanic. When you absorb a Web target, you acquire his or her memories and gain a little bit of information related to the virus' history or current military operations. By seeking out Web targets you gain information that is not told through the plot-related cutscenes, and sometimes get intel a little early, giving you an edge on upcoming missions.
If you just play the plot missions, you get Alex's story. If you pursue the Web as well, you get some rich and meaty backstory. It's a neat split: if you don't care about the intrigue, you don't have to follow it. If you do care, there's a lot of depth — there are over 100 Web targets.

Powers and Combat
There are an insane number of powers and abilities to unlock, and all of them are cool. Some I never bothered with because they seemed a little pointless — short of the cool factor, what do I care if I can kick a guy into the sky when he dies in one hit no matter what I do? My favourite powers are the drop attacks — the bullet drop that creates a massive shockwave that's more powerful the farther you fell; the air drop groundspike devastator that shoots black spikes out of the ground in a massive radius; the hammerfist elbow drop that... well, it's an elbow drop with an area of effect.
You can also combine powers, with one each of attack, defence, and vision powers active at once. This sounds cooler than it is though — there are only two defence powers and two vision powers, and the vision powers aren't important outside of their very specific uses.

This is a sandbox game done right. There's a huge variety of powers, they're all fun to use, and you get all of Manhattan to play with. Whenever you're not in a mission, you can explore, do challenges, or generally cause chaos.

The Bad
Supported Resolutions
Here we have another game that doesn't support many resolutions, and unfortunately this one is a bit more annoying to fix: you need a hex editor. I don't know anything about hex so I just played at 1280x720, because that's not too different from my native resolution of 1366x768. Word on the interwebs is that the game restricts resolution based on your video card's VRAM — but I can't help but feel that's bull because my card is 1GB and I can't access any resolution higher than 1280x720.

No Achievements
There are no achievements in the Steam version. Not the end of the world but a little annoying when other versions have them.

The Verdict
Recommendation: play it.
Prototype is a lot of fun. It might not be the best game to play in large sittings, but it's a blast to play for an hour or two every once in a while. It's a good length too — I played for 14 hours, completing the story and most of the content but with a good chunk left. You could easily stretch it out to 20 hours. It's totally worth the $30 on Steam if you enjoy open-world action games with lots of explosions and good writing. But really — who doesn't?

1 comment:

  1. The game is way too fun, and actually makes me care about the missions and story. I might fall into the sand(box)-trap and just cause chaos, but there is a decent story there along with blowing up Manhattan. Good review.