2009 Reviews

Prototype

  • Review Date: 2014-01
  • Release Date: 2009-06
  • Developer: Radical Entertainment
  • Rating: 6.5

Prototype is a game aimed at the console crowd. It's an open-world sandbox game, similar to GTA, Mercenaries and Saints Row. And supposedly Infamous, but that was console only so it'll be while before I play that. The only difference is Prototype is much more action-oriented than than those games.

It must have had a decent budget behind it, because I remember adverts on TV for Prototype. Certainly some of the review sites have been paid off for such high reviews. Fortunately, I don't think it sold that well because I cringe to think of a world of video games like Prototype.

As you can tell, I wasn't impressed. The open world is ugly. The buildings are just big grey boxes, there's a lack of detail on everything. This is the trade-off, I suppose, to viewing such massive distances as well as having hundreds of characters on screen at once. Nothing in this city is memorably or stands out. It's just a copy/paste repetitive environment that lacks that feeling of being "alive". In fact, it feels like a video game world, not a living city.

I might be being harsh because Mercenaries 2 and Saints Row 2 were very basic and had weaker looking engines. But they were more distinctive and memorable, despite being a year older. Part of the problem is you're always running across building tops so you never spend much time on the streets anyway.

The story wasn't bad (spoilers follow in this paragraph). It follows Alex Mercer who's been infected and now has supernatural abilities. Meanwhile the rest of Manhattan is infected and just turn into mindless zombies. Explain that one - the game sure didn't. So he's on the run from the military and trying the prevent the outbreak from spreading further, which is being controlled by an infected women. Just why she's such an angry bitch we don't know. But the outbreak itself was willingly caused by Alex himself. What a hero. The funny thing is the game seems to suggest you're playing the protagonist, but in reality you're actually a complete asshole. You push and kill innocent bystanders as you run through the streets. You murder thousands of military who are all only trying to stop the mess you caused. Then the story tries to suggest that the person you were "before" the infection, you are no longer, since you've absorbed others memories. How does that work?! What a copout. If that were the case then why is he so interested in finding his sister and ex. Overall though the story isn't too bad, told through a plethora of cutscenes. It was certainly a decent telling of the old "infection taking over the world" story. Not great, just decent. It was fun to see the streets get worse and worse as more get infected.

So the game gives you various abilities, upgraded throughout the game. These are very fun. Though most of them are still just melee-based button mashers. You can pick up weapons (or try to pick up weapons... the pickup feature is so unreliable you just about have to have the weapon jammed up your ass before Alex will pick it up), but then the firing is just random in all directions unless you target someone. But the targetting is a fucking mess, especially trying to swap targets, so it's not worth bothering with weapons.

Prototype excels at movement, as you sprint and jump through the city. You can jump many stories high and slice through the air travelling massive distances at once. You can also glide, but unfortunately my version had a bug where if I pressed sprint and jump at once the game would freeze. So I couldn't ever jump from a sprint (something you would normally constantly do) or glide. But that is the only bug I had in the game, save for a few crashes at random times. Unfortunately, too much time is spent getting from one mission to the next, so building hopping just becomes a chore by the end.

The actual combat in Prototype is also mixed. It starts out well, for probably a good 2/3rds of the game. But the last third just becomes a massive clusterfuck. When an enemy spots you (which is often) you'll have up to several helicopters and tanks on your position within seconds, and surrounded by soldiers. You can either stay and  fight them all off or run like hell until they lose you and you go back into your disguise. Which is the best option, because it simply gets far too overwhelming. You have to target the heli's and perform giant flying kicks to take them down, all the while there could be five at once mowing into your health.

You'll also constantly be thrown off your feet. Just trying to get away gets frustrating because tanks and rocket-launchers will repeatedly knock you over and off buildings. It is so annoying. I hate to think what hard difficulty would be like.

That brings me to the boss battle with Elizabeth Greene, who turns into a giant pulsating piece of crap. If you want to experience the single most retarded boss battle in the history of gaming, you've got it here. It'll take at least half an hour to beat her, 90% of the time will be spent with you hiding to replenish health and being thrown on your ass. I had to put god-mode on, and even then I was just repeatedly thrown on my ass over and over again. In fact from that point on I basically had god-mode on the whole time. I just couldn't put up with the mess the gameplay had become and just wanted the damn thing to end already.

The other similarity to those games above are the missions. You find a glowing spot on the map and this initiates a mission. This is what I mean above when I say "consolised". You can also do side-missions, just to help gain EP (money) to purchase new abilities. I did a few and found them void of any fun and totally not worth the winnings. You'll get more just killing random military. But even the main missions are irritating. It's normally not your standard run-and-gun. There's often something else involved, such as escorting a vehicle, destroying or doing something with set targets on the map and often with time limits. Good god almighty I hate when a game forces some sort of limit (usually a time limit) on me.

Finally, my last issue is with the controls. Movement is very poor with the mouse. I don't know what it's like on consoles but on PC it's sluggish and unresponsive. This is made worse by a pretty poor framerate at times, sometimes literally jerking the screen. I play all games on max, so Prototype shouldn't be any different.

Overall, Prototype is a decent game for a while. The combat and new abilities are fun. But by the second half (and this is a decent length at a good 10 hours) combat becomes a bit of a mess. With a copy/paste bland city, once you've played the first level of Prototype, you've seen everything there is. Not a good PC port and certainly an overrated game, but then the consoles have a lot of those, don't they?

Prototype