ESPNHS review: "Prototype"
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Next-generation consoles, open world gameplay and sandbox-style games are becoming more common because of the processing power of today's game systems. Games like "Grand Theft Auto IV," "inFAMOUS" and "Fallout 3" have towered as some of the best open world games to grace the market.
Open world games are about big, lush environments that wow you at every turn, and they pump out hours worth of content to keep you on your feet and your system turned on. Activision, a top video game developer, posts its latest entry into the sandbox universe with "Prototype," its latest sandbox game since "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows."
In the game, you are Alex Mercer, a man with no recollection of his past and who is infected with a virus that is running rampant though Manhattan. The virus can infect an entire city within weeks, with the infected being as close to out of control zombies as they can be.
But Mercer has a different reaction to the virus; it has given him superhuman powers. He can run faster than cars, glide through the air and create weapons from his body. Alex's mission is to find who let out the virus and make him pay.
Mercer is able to upgrade his power with Evolve Points (EP), which improve how fast he runs, how high he jumps and how powerful his attacks are.
Consuming is a big part of "Prototype," and it's one of the goriest actions in a video game I've ever seen. When I say consume, I mean you actually consume a person into you. You can take on his or her look as a disguise, you can consume people to regain health and you can gain information in the "Web of Intrigue."
The Web of Intrigue is a network of connections between people affected by the virus and the incident 40 years ago. When you consume a person with a key role in the web, you'll get their memories of the virus and their part spreading in it.
The Web tells the back-story leading up to present day, and gives you reasons to roam the city. With more than 130 people in the Web and around 250 collectables to find, "Prototype" will have you cranking for hours to cover every nook and cranny of the city.
There are more than 50 side missions that range from checkpoint racing to pinpoint gliding to how many infected zombies you can kill with a tank! The side missions can land you EP bonuses. At times, I found flying around Manhattan more fun than playing the actual story, which was surprisingly short. The main story, comprised of 31 missions, will only net you around 10 hours of gameplay, quite low compared to other sandbox games.
What impressed me the most about "Prototype" was how much work was put into recreating the city of Manhattan: it's one of the most bustling cities I've ever seen in gaming, and it shows when things start turning for the worst.
The infection spreads through massive swaths of the city, and when it does, Mahanttan changes completely. The sky becomes darker, crows cloud the sky and that area will be in utter chaos with cars running into each other and people running for their lives.
Though Manhattan is a lively city, it is not a pretty one. It seems Activision wanted the game to run as smoothly as possible, so while the city is buzzing and alive, the graphics take a considerable nosedive. They're not terrible graphics, but they are plain: non-player characters start to mesh, buildings start to look the same and the whole city needs a fresh coat of polish. "Prototype" wanted the free roam to be the starlight of the game, and it definitely shows.
I can't tell you how many times I found myself wanting to run into infected territory instead of complete the main missions. With the Web of Intrigue being mostly available to complete in "free roam" mode, you almost learn more about the story finding the connections than playing the story itself. Running through the city is an easy and effortless task. Free-roaming is absolutely addicting, and being able to run up the sides of buildings and glide from each one is a blast.
The combat in the game is simplistic, but has some depth to it. Most combos will be with only two buttons, but you will be ripping your hair out in the game's "lock-on" system. By pressing the left trigger, you can lock on to another character in the game and use the right stick to flick forward to different targets.
The one gleaming problem is the fact that it can target anyone. You could be fighting a tank, and while trying to lock on to it, you might end up locking on to a civilian or military personnel, which at that moment, those characters are little bit less pressing than the tank. It has caused more than a couple deaths to my character because I spent more time trying to find the enemy I wanted to lock on to than actually fighting the guy who was trying to blow me to smithereens.
"Prototype" seems to be a happy-go-lucky, kill-everything-you-meet kind of game, but the difficulty takes more left turns than a NASCAR driver. In some missions, you run through without having a national disorder, and others have a stupid amount of military coming after you. And making the game a good 20 times harder are the Air Strikes, two or three choppers come directly for you until you either destroy or evade them, neither is easy.
It's not fun trying to hijack a tank only to realize that 14 heat-seeking missiles are aimed directly at your face. You can be stuck on a mission for a good half-hour because you have to re-heal from the missiles and tanks that take so much of your health that you have to run away to try to continue. It's certainly a gamebreaker at times.
"Prototype" allows you to play as a man with extraordinary abilities to uncover his past, and the character does have extraordinary abilities, no doubt. The story didn't grasp me as much as it should have, and I found myself roaming around because it was more fun than anything else in the game. "Prototype" falls into the category of an actual sandbox: all fun, no purpose.
Diesel's Report Card+ Free-Roaming is Fantastic
+ Web of Intrigue is intriguing
+ Plenty of Side-Missions and Collectables
+ Booming City
- Mediocre Graphics
- Forgettable & Short Story
- Difficulty Spikes
- Lock On is Terrible
FINAL GRADE: C+
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