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PLATFORM: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: Radical Entertainment
A quiet battle took place over the last couple of months, a battle of superhero sandbox games. Sucker Punch’s inFamous was first out of the gate and seemed impossible to top. Read Trevor’s review here as he pretty much nails the experience and shows why the PS3 exclusive made it fun to play with electricity and explore a city cut off from the rest of the world.
But Radical Entertainment was trying something much more ridiculous, more over the top with Prototype. They’ve succeeded, and managed to make a game that’s also quite simply much more fun.
Alex Mercer is the prototype, a man with no knowledge of his past. He wakes up in the basement of a genetic engineering company in the heart of NYC, and soon escapes using his ridiculous powers. He finds out that not only can he withstand a helluva lot of damage but he’s got super strength, is fast enough to run straight up buildings, and most importantly, he can consume people to gain their memories and skills.
He’s pissed and wants to find out what happened to him and kill whoever wronged him. There’s a problem, though. You’re not the only infected individual, although you’re clearly the most evolved. NYC has been quarantined because the number of infected is multiplying exponentially and the army’s there in full force, setting up bases and basically waging what becomes a full-scale war against the zombie-like creatures. You end up stuck in the middle of it, fighting off increasingly tough infected creatures and army units.
As for the choice to be good or bad, or some sort of karma system? Hah! Karma? We don’t need no stinkin’ karma! No, Alex is mad as fuck, and any civilians in your way are just that- in your way. They frequently become collateral damage and are chopped up, smashed and eaten for health. It’s incredibly immoral and fun!
CHUDTIP- Helicopters are your biggest foe. If you can’t grab something to chuck at it and take it down, try to quickly hide behind a building and transform into a human form. If the indicator pops up saying that you can switch forms it means that you’re not being watched and it’s safe to change.
Besides the main missions that advance the story, you can also consume people that are targeted on your so-called “Web of Intrigue”. These people have some knowledge of your situation and by eating them you’ll catch a glimpse of their memories, each little bit shining some more light on what happened to you. It’s a stronger story than you’d expect and you’ll find yourself intrigued by just what each new tidbit will tell you.
This game is filled with more “Holy shit!” moments than any game you’re likely to play this year.
Hijack a tank and drive through Times Square, crushing dozens of cars and people underneath without a second thought? Holy shit.
Rip a guy in half with your hands and absorb him into your body? Holy shit.
Run up the side of a skyscraper onto the roof with a truck, throw it at an attacking helicopter, and then elbow drop a tank hundreds of feet below, all in one smooth motion? Holy. Shit.
It’s impossible not to sit there with an insane sense of glee when you fire this game up. It’s just pure ridiculous mayhem, impossibly bloody and violent, and everything you could ever want in a sandbox game.
CHUDTIP- When you finally get the Blade form you’ll be tempted to use it for everyting because it’s so ridiculously powerful, but a smart player will switch up forms frequently.
You get a bunch of upgradable powers that allow you to play the game any way you want. You start off with some claws that can disembowel enemies with one swipe, and soon get everything from a blade form that can chop apart tanks to what’s basically Hulk hands that can cause shockwaves and splatter enemies into goo. One of my faves is a tentacle-like whip attack that can slice people in half like Grant Grant from Slither. It’s glorious and you’ll spend lots of time figuring out which form best suits different encounters. You can also hijack tanks and helicopters in tiny little QTE moments (that thankfully only makes you jam on the Y button), and pick up every military weapon and use it on them.
You gain experience (Evolution Points) by killing enemies and completing missions. The upgrades are cleverly sparsed over the course of the game, so you’re never really left without something new to purchase. You can get everything from new powers to more health to movement upgrades that help you jump and glide around the city more effectively.
Lest I forget to mention, you can explore the entire city right from the start. Holding down the right trigger throws you into a parkour run, and since you’re such a beast nothing can stop you. You can run or dodge anything- just wait till you hurtle over a thrown car with ease! This also means you can charge straight up the side of buildings, all the way to the top without stopping. When you’re at the top you can throw yourself off and glide. Never fear about falling, because if you hit the ground you won’t get hurt… just everyone and everything around you. (Rack up another holy shit moment.)
Course, you’ll call attention to yourself that way. Part of the game is keeping out of sight of the army, because they’ll send strike teams after you if they see you in your infected form. Fortunately you can take on the form of anyone you absorb. You can absorb literally any human character in the game which means that yes, you can play as an old lady, picking up cars and manning helicopters with blue hair and wrinkles. You can change into the last person you absorbed by simply hitting left on the dpad. It’s handy to have a military units ready because they’ll allow you around bases, but even that gets trickier as the game goes on because they start placing detectors around them, big units that determine who’s infected in the area.
CHUDTIP- Trying to infiltrate a base? Try a snatch and run. Grab the commander, absorb him, and run away and hide in your human form. Wait till the alarms go silent again and you can just walk right in as the commander. No fuss, no muss.
But don’t worry for a second about this being a stealth game- you don’t have to play it like that, and your foes are generally pretty goddamn stupid. You can be in a human form and fly around and throw cars at infected without most of them batting an eye, which is good because you know how irritating the game would be if you had to watch your back all the time. No, this is all about action, action, and more action.
The game is helped by the sheer amount of stuff to do. Besides the main story missions (which are quite varied and fun) there’s a ton of sidequests that you unlock as the game goes by, everything from the usual checkpoint races to rampage missions where you’re given a weapon or infected form and told to kill. All of them are fun and there are medals you can attain for completing them fast enough. The bigger the medal, the more Evolution Points you earn.
CHUDTIP- Blowing up a Hive is easiest in a tank, but it’s mostly useless- they’ll just keep coming from another location.
Despite the questionable character design, Alex is the ulimate videogame badass. You always feel like you can take on everything in the world, but the game is smart enough to frequently throw you new curveballs in the form of new enemies or obstacles to change things up.
While Prototype occasionally threatens to get boring because of repetition it somehow never tips over the edge. Every time you put down this game you’ll be thinking about it again in an hour. Despite a few cheap boss creatures that will undoubtedly kill you multiple times before you figure out their trick, the game’s nicely challenging, addictive and completely entertaining.
A gorgeous game. There’s a bit of pop-in when you’re flying around the city, but for a game with no loading screens (never mind so much chaos going on!), it’s easily forgiveable.
Watching the city itself become infected, with red skies, crows flying around infected water towers, and slimy buildings oozing with pustules, you’ll realize they’ve accomplished something no one else has even attempted.
CHUDTIP- Much like Crackdown and InFamous, you’ll find collectibles (orbs) hiding around on the buildings. They’re mostly located at tourist traps this time- check Times Square for at least a dozen of the suckers.
Not enough mention has been made about the city, surprisingly, because Radical’s done a tremendous job of recreating Manhattan. Sure they have all the big buildings and famous locations that you’d expect, but I’d find myself amazed at little touches, buildings and overpasses and signs that I know from real life. Amazing job here, although I have to say that if there’s a sequel I hope they pick another city. NYC’s the best for flying around a vertical environment but it’s been done to death now.
I’ve got 20 hours logged in the game and every time I’m away for a few hours I start dreaming about going back and trying my hand (tentacle?) at more platinum medals, or finding some more of the web of intrigue targets.
When you beat the game you’re not done, but you’re close to it. Chances are you’ll have maxed out all your powers and so you’ll be collecting Evolution Points for no real reason, but the world’s fun enough to just play around in and explore. There’s no real reason to play it again on hard besides an achievement/trophy, though.
CHUDTIP- Charge up your grab button by holding B, and you’ll be able to skyjack helicopters from a really far distance with ease.
While inFamous is a great experience, it quite simply isn’t as entertaining as Prototype. If you’re going to play both, play inFamous first, because the movement will feel slow and stilted, the action lacking any punch. There’s just no going back from Prototype- every game feels boring in comparison.
Pure, unadulterated fun, it’s the kind of game that reminds you why you play games in the first place.