Last week I picked up a copy of Prototype and I’ve gotten maybe 15 or so hours into it (about half the storyline missions and a lot of exploring and minigames), so I figure I can talk about it.
Prototype is a sandbox game where you are a guy with superpowers in Manhattan Island. The game is about the following things:
1) Crazy, super-human parkour stuff. Like Crackdown only turned up to eleven
2) Searching NYC for about ten different kinds of collectibles
3) Butchering people and zombies with a bunch of crazy-ass powers
You earn and unlock new abilities and powers by spending “Evolution Points.” You get those by killifying things, completing missions, and finding all the “landmark points” and “hints” and whatever else.
Your character is not a nice guy. One of your most important abilities is to grab people and absorb them. You then take on their appearance – shape-shifting. They are, of course, deadified in the process.
(There’s a whole problem with conservation of mass in this little bit, too. You just absorb 180 pounds of human flesh and somehow don’t get any larger? At this point, I’ve eaten maybe 200 people. I should be the size of King Kong by now.)
Maynard was watching me play it and he commented “dude, you’re the bad guy here,” and he’s right. There’s really no way you cannot be morally reprehensible in the game because in order to progress you have to absorb people. In theory, I suppose you could play through only absorbing soldiers, but they’re still, you know, innocent dudes just doing a job.
But you won’t do that, because absorbing people is how you get back health.
So, let’s run down the numbers here: Regenerates? Check. Gains health by eating people? Check. Superhumanly fast? Check. Can jump really high? Check. Can climb walls? Check. Can glide far distances? Check. Can shape-shift? Check.
Okay, I get it. We’re playing a vampire. Only I can run around in the day time.
There’s supposedly a plot in the game but I honestly gave up caring about it after, oh, the first or second cut-scene. It’s your standard cliche: you’re the angsty, brooding super-human product of a top-secret military experiment who lost his memories and now wants revenge on the people who created him. Yadda yadda yadda.
Oh, yeah. The virus that infected him has gotten out in a different strain, and it’s infecting the city, and turning everyone into zombies.
(I have decided to ignore the plot and focus on the idea that this is a sandbox game where I am a vampire in New York City.)
The game has many interesting ideas. They are mostly small touches, but they serve it well. These little ideas are stronger than the game’s plot.
For example, inside “infected zones” sometimes you’ll see a bunch of crows circling a water tower. If you get near it, the virus in your system (which you’re constantly shedding) will trigger the virus in the water tower, and it will burst open and unleash a monster at you. The military has sensors that can detect your virus as it sheds, so after a while the city is filled with automated drones that can detect you, no matter who you look like.
There is a neat gimmick (and on of the collectibles) where you “absorb” of certain people, and that unlocks parts of this “memory web”. The more bits you unlock, the more you learn about the backstory: you’re feeding on the memories of the soldiers and scientists who were involved in the experiment. Finding these people to absorb is one of the game’s collectible sub-games.
The map is good bordering on excellent. It’s not as vibrant and detailed as Liberty City, but it’s definitely not a “cut and paste” version of Manhattan. That’s where the game’s strength lies: exploring New York City with super powers. The developers managed to get a lot of characters in the screen at all times. I’m pretty sure they did this by cutting down on the polygons used per person (no one has flowing hair, for instance).
My biggest beef with the game, other than the plot, is the fact that the main character dresses like a douchebag, wearing a popped collar underneath a hoodie that is never taken off his head. He’s like Altair only less charismatic.
Off the top of my head, I can name several other games that do the “superhero exploring a city” schtick (Crackdown, Infamous, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, Superman Returns, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction). I expect that there will soon be more (which I’m cool with; they’re fun). The game has so far helped to pass the time until the release of Crackdown 2.
Anyways. I don’t know if it’s worth 60 bones, so rent it first and decide for yourself.