Review in a Nutshell – Prototype

Hello everyone! It’s been quite a long time since I’ve posted! It was a mixture of school and hardcore gaming that kept me offline.

Well, anyway I’m back, and it’s time to get back to business. The latest game that I’ve had the pleasure to play has been Prototype. This game has had many hype, with countless articles and speculation before the game released. In the end, it released in a time when quite a few similar sandbox games released, Infamous and Red Faction: Guerilla.

Activision's Prototype

Activision's Prototype

So. Can Prototype live up to its competition and become a great game that will blow away all others? Well, for one thing, the game mechanics are fun. The different powers, ranging from a giant hammer fist to a slicing blade, are all fun to use and offer a sense of strategy to every encounter. The types of victims to your powers (note I say victims, not enemies, because you’ll inadvertently kill at least a million civilians) range from the weakling normal people to tanks and helicopters to superhuman “hunters.” Alas, there is almost no variety to the different types of enemies.

Take a spin on the wheels of powers!

Take a spin on the wheel of powers!

The main game mechanic is the ability to consume things, and as long as they are humanoid, you can become them, even down to their clothing. It’s too bad that this mechanic didn’t allow for more than one disguise at a time. It would be nice to choose from a larger array of collected disguises. The game could have included a way larger stealth gameplay option to the experience. The only stealth gameplay present in the game is a shallow one, which calls for (every time) finding the main man in the base, and taking over the base.

The way the game is laid out reminds me extremely of Crackdown. In fact, it’s almost identical. An open world with a multitude of different events that you can go to and participate in. These events range from warfare mode, which is basically you and other NPC soldiers shooting down superhuman creatures, platforming races, which are basically the vanilla beacon following tracks, and also just basically getting in a vehicle and killing everything.

The game is excessively violent. I mean, the violence is on par with the most gruesome horror movies out there. I mean pulling bodies apart, people impaled, sliced in half, and in cutscenes, suicidal headshots showing the bone and blood and gore. I almost felt sorry for the New Yorkers I was destroying.

Okay, before I say any more, I just want to say, I like the game. It’s a mindless killing sandbox game. However, it could have been so much more.

First of all: The story.

Well. Alex Mercer is in a morgue, about to be cut open, when he wakes up. The doctors performing the autopsy run off and alert a kill squad, and he escapes the building in the meanwhile. The kill squad arrives, in SWAT team uniforms, and seemingly unnecessarily kills the doctors. Alex runs off and finds his sister, Dana. They work together, and basically, Alex uses the information that Dana gives him to consume everyone he needs to and take down the military. It sounds okay, but everything goes downhill from there.

This game’s story is, put nicely, absolutely preposterous. I actually feel it could be an insult to us New Yorkers. How is it even possible that soldiers of any type could run around in Manhattan in tanks and helicopters, wildly shooting anyone and everyone that moves? Why would anyone be conducting bioweapons research in the middle of one of the largest epicenters of world commerce? Also, who would even consider nuking Manhattan Isle just because one violent guy is on the loose? Yes, the military wants to nuke Manhattan.

The voice acting doesn’t help the story one bit. The voices used seem repetitive, and for every mini clip uncovering more of the story, the voices sound almost identical in each one. Also, I very much doubt any soldier, especially Marines, are going to be using such foul language and show no restraint what so ever. I can understand people in New York saying things like “F***ing New York, man.” but Marines? I thought Marines were trained better than that. I actually heard the exact line “We have more bullets than fuel. Let loose.” And the copter shot down around two dozen civilians.

Second hit: AI.

The artificial intelligence of all characters in this game is to be put as nicely as possible, near inexistent. As I scour the city, I see helicopters flown by Marines using their blades to cut into the Empire State Building. I see ladies “running” away from me by jogging in circles. A thousand Marines are on the lookout for me, yet if they see an old man gliding around, helicopters don’t shoot. If I jump from the top of a building into a Marine base, as long as I have a proper disguise, nothing happens. Marines just seem to think that it’s a minor disturbance, and run right past me.

If you are being chased by helicopters and tanks, if you duck into an alley and switch disguise, that throws them off.

Third punch: Controls

The controls of the game are to be put, imprecise. Targeting something in the air is a nightmare. Platforming isn’t as good as it should be because your character always swings around and doesn’t stay still. To get onto a narrow ledge or to climb to the top of a building is harder than taking down two tanks.

Every time I infiltrated a military base, I couldn’t pull off a stealth consume. When I thought I could, I would press the stealth button, and I would normally grab the guy. Then I ended up muscling the base down.

As you walk down the street, your default mood seems to be “pissed off.” You punch and slap anyone that walks in front of you and next to you. Even in the “stealth” slow walking mode, you elbow everyone. Including Marines. I can understand tackling everyone while sprinting, but in a stealth mode, I don’t think you should elbow everyone.

Minor grumbles.

Some minor things I noticed.

  • You can’t leave the island. If you get past the border defense on the various bridges of Manhattan, you are hit by an invisible wall and an airstrike on the exact location where you stand.
  • You can’t swim. If you jump in any water, you jump right out, and continue to magically get attracted to land. Either you’re allergic to water or there are no swimming animations.
  • All water flows apparently. No matter how small a body of water, all water in this game seems to be at least seven feet deep and flowing.
  • The engine, however stable, has many glitches. I saw pop-up, jaggies, and floating cars.
  • All the people are similar, I even see the same person walking side by side. It’s not that hard to make convincing civilians.
  • The animations for all the disguises are the same.
  • The models for all characters besides the main character model and some soldier models seem to be really shoddily done. If you’re disguised as that old guy that looks peculiarly like George Clooney, you kill people wearing a prim look on your face. There are absolutely no emotions on any of the characters’ faces.
  • As you move, you seem to break everything. Sprinting results in a wave of destruction in your wake, leaving cracks and dents in the streets, and cars are completely mauled.
  • On the PC version, unless you run your sound at 44100 Hz, the sound is unhearable.

Sum it up.

I feel that this game had a lot of potential. Although the powers seem to be a good base and foundation, I think that the game could have been a lot more. With some more work, this could have had a great stealth based component to the gameplay. The environment and NPCs could have been a lot more convincing, even following the footsteps of GTA4. Although the basic mechanics are fun, I truly believe that this could have been great.

Bottom Line

7.5/10.0

Pros: Decent combat mechanics, Cool upgrades.

Cons: Bad AI, Ridiculous Story, Unconvincing environment.

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~ by Panzer on July 4, 2009.

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