52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 27
Release Date: June 09, 2009
Developer: Radical Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Mature
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Coming up to the magical 300th Xbox 360 retail game purchased, I can honestly say that one of my favourites Xbox 360 games is Crackdown. I just loved the feeling of being all powerful superhero like person, jumping from rooftop to rooftop tracking down bad guys in the pursuit of truth, justice and the ever elusive orbs. So it is understandable that I am quite excited to play another game that provided me with super hero powers while allowing me to jump from rooftop to rooftop in the pursuit of justice and hidden orbs. That game is Prototype.
Prototype comes from Vancouver based Radical Entertainment. This is the same bunch of crazy Canadians that brought us the previously reviewed Crash of the Titans and Crash: Mind over Mutant games. Even if you did not care for the Crash games, do not use those games to pass judgement on Prototype as the two game franchises could not be more different.
In Prototype the gamer plays the role of Alex Mercer, a man with no memories but has superhero powers and the ability to change shapes. The game starts off eighteen days into the infection with Alex running towards some unknown objective. This sequence gives the player a preview of the powers that will be available to them eventually, but just not right now. The majority of the game is played as a series of flashbacks starting with Alex waking up in a morgue located deep in GENTEK (bag guys) labs. Alex quickly figures out that something is very wrong with him when he discovers that he possesses unnatural strength & stamina and can now jump walls with ease. Heck, forget jumping walls, he can just run up a wall. This may sound like fun, but Alex cannot remember what happened to him or how he came to be in a morgue to begin with. Time for someone to cough up a few answers.
Prototype is for the most part a sandbox game. I say for the most part as it is not a true sandbox title. The player is free to explore the game world and do the missions when they want, but missions must be done in a specific order. Also going against the sandbox design is once a mission has been started the game forces the player to perform certain key events once again in a specific order. Even when forced to do something, the player still has a lot of freedom in deciding how they will accomplish that tasks making the game still quite open.
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Graphically Prototype looks fine, but does not stand out from the crowd very much. In fact there is not a single part of the game that stand out. The city is filled with plenty of people and vehicles, but everything looks generic and bland. The building are all similar in look and fell. It becomes very easy to get lost in the city as every section looks like every other section (I have not been to Manhattan, so this may be close to reality). The draw distance is not all that great either, as smaller object will routinely be invisible till Alex is right over them. Adding to the blandness is that everything in the game appears to have a rust colour tint to it. Even when in a park, the trees all have this brown hue to ‘em. Sound suffers the same similar bland quality as the graphics. While the visuals and audio portion of the game may not set any standards of excellence, they do not detract either so the news is not all that bad.
The controls on the other hand are quite good, even if they do require a bit of work to learn all the moves available to the gamer. Alex starts off with a few basic movies, but will unlock many new abilities and each of these new abilities will require the player to learn a new combination of buttons, bumpers and triggers to activate. A dual rotary menu, similar to what was used in Mass Effect, would have made learning all these complicated moves a lot simpler. The important thing is that once all the moves have been mastered, they are quite responsive. The only other thing I will mention about the controls is that Alex will “bounce” off most small object that are in his way like a pinball. If he is running at the time, this can make for some unwanted movement in the wrong direction. I learnt to compensate for this quite quickly.
The majority of the fun (for me) derived from Prototype was in exploration. The island of Manhattan is quite huge and just screams to be explored. Exploration is more than just a frivolous activity as there are hundreds of hidden items such as landmark orbs, hint orbs and other collectibles scattered all over the landscape that must be found to gain evolution points. Evolution points are used to unlock new skills and capabilities or to upgrade existing ones. This scavenger hunt should be a priority for early gamers as many missions cannot be completed without specific skills. Some of Alex’s abilities will only be unlocked as the story progresses, but will still require evolution points to purchase.
Evolution points can be obtained in other ways than just hunting down silent spherical objects. The game is littered with various events to challenge the player (again very similar to Crackdown). Each event will have a requirement such as to finish under a specific time or kill x number of enemies and will offer a gold, silver or bronze reward level of evolution points depending on the performance of the player. Finally evolution points will be given for destroying bad guys; be it infected or evil military factions. Alex cannot just go around killing people (evil or good) as he chooses as these actions will alert the enemy to his location and they may launch a strike team against him. A strike team consist of highly trained military squad, normally supported by a few helicopters, that will hunt down Alex relentlessly. The hunt will only end once either party has been eliminated or Alex can eluded his would be captors. The good news, and one of the greatest things about Prototype, is that Alex can “consume” (more like absorb) people and then change his appearance to that person allowing him to go unnoticed. The process of consuming someone will also provide Alex with a health bonus. One other option, and in my opinion the best one, is to just pick up a car and toss it at the copter or, if the copter is close enough to just drop kick the copter out of the sky. Now that is entertainment.
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At times even superhero powers will not be enough and the best course of action will be stealth. Some missions will have Alex consume a target to then use their likeness to infiltrate a base quietly. Other times Alex will need to consume someone to gain their knowledge such as the training received to drive a particular vehicle type.
Prototype is a very fun game. The action can get quite frantic at times, but since the option is there to just leave and go exploring and to upgrade a few skills before returning, the game never gets overwhelming or frustrating. Well some parts of the game did get frustrating. What made Crackdown so fun was when jumping from rooftop to rooftop shooting bad guys was stopping dead in your tracks at the sound of an agility or hidden orb. I would then dispatch my enemies as quickly as possible and then spending the next ten minutes looking for the source of that sound. In Prototype the orbs do not make a sound, making them incredibly easy to miss. Because of the poor draw distance, orbs will only appear on screen when the Alex is in close proximity and they do not appear on the in game radar. Needless to say that orbs can be extremely difficult to find. Many times I found an orb in a location that I visited on multiple occasions. This made orb hunting in Prototype a chore rather than the pleasure it was in Crackdown. I actually gave up orb hunting and instead tried to focus on hunting special in-game character that contain memory clues called Web of Intrigue. If Alex consumes any of these characters, he will be rewarded with a part of a memory. Only by consuming all these special characters will the entire story of Prototype be revealed. Just like the orbs these characters do not make any sounds, but the good news is that their presence will appear on the radar when in close proximity making them easier to locate. Oh and while on the subject of the Web of Intrigue. If a special character is killed before he/she can be consumed, fear not for they will respawn in a short while.
Prototype offers plenty of single player action with 31 missions, hundreds of orbs and over 50 events to complete. The game can take a long time to conquer. After having played the game for more than 10 hours, I have only completed about a third of all the available missions. Still I cannot recommend for everyone to rush out and purchase the game for I do think that, remove all the time I spent exploring the city, I could be completed in a rental period. The game lacks any sort of multiplayer action so once the main story has been completed, the only reason anyone will pop this game back in their console is to gather all the missing collectibles or completing all the challenges. While I have not yet completed the game, I can only image either task to become quite stale very quickly. I will say that I will return to Prototype, once my challenge has been completed.