Entertaining and frantic combat with a selection of varied powers in a balanced environment.
Posted by Ben Thomas (nutcrackr) on Jun 26, 2009 - 6:00am EST (Jun 26, 2009 06:00)
In Prototype you play as Alex Mercer, a man who has been infected by a virus strain giving him a series of unbelievable powers and abilities. As you progress through downtown New York you set out to uncover who did this to you. The game doesn’t paint Alex Mercer as much of a good guy; he can freely attack civilians who are escaping from the carnage. Prototype is all about fast, adaptive and hectic combat. The action very quickly escalades when you begin any battle as strike teams are called in and mutants pop out of buildings or water tanks. Prototype is a sandbox game in which you are free to engage battles wherever and whenever you wish, and should you desire you can run away and hide. Throughout the game Alex will gain more powers increasing in strength giving you more reason to fight on. Alex’s powers are varied and useful and the missions that form the story are respectable without being outstanding. Prototype rewards the player in combat with Evolution Points (EP), these allow you to buy upgrades for Alex, which provides a steady increase in the abilities matched with the game’s difficulty as you progress.
Even though Alex is an overpowered tool of destruction he can be overwhelmed by sheer numbers, when tanks, apcs, helicopters, and infantry are attacking you while you take on a group of infected mutants things can get very hectic and you get knocked around resulting in more damage. To get health all you need to do is destroy big targets or consume individuals, both are risky propositions but if you have a little bit of health before recharging you’ll be able to constantly manage most battles. If you are a big damage dealer then constantly taking out gunships and picking up the glowing orbs for health and EP will be part of your engagements anyway. There is however no reason why you can’t just peel off from the combat mid-mission all together. In some situations it might be best to just run and hide then come back and attack your targets with full health without strike teams adding fuel to the fire. Hiding is as easy as moving out of sight and changing to your alternate disguise. Once you are safe you can move across a few street blocks, regain health, hijack an APC and move back into the battle. There are some missions that are timed, which can often spell disaster since these tactics can’t be used, you must be efficient with all your attacks. The final few missions seem to be quite difficult either due to their length or enemy strength. One particular required constant use of air vehicles the other some rather cheap tactics to get the AI trapped.
Alex’s powers range from heavy fists, claws, shields and a big sword arm. At any time you can engage an offensive power with a defensive power with a simple menu that slows time. Some seem more useful for certain tasks during battles. Muscle strength is great for throwing objects at airborne targets due to increase range and speed. Claws are good against infantry early on in either melee or with the groundspike that sends spikes out from below to the targeted foes. If you prefer certain powers you can use them for most situations but I certainly changed my powers fairly often partly because it was enjoyable and also because I found the differences just a little bit more helpful. You can pick up weapons such as machine guns and rocket launchers from infantry. These weapons can be useful early on when your powers are still limited. In particular the rocket launcher is very useful as Alex can be very mobile and all you need to do is lock onto targets and then fire away. Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating not only to see the weapons on the ground but pick them up while running about, you may get knocked around, but even if you don’t it’s still annoyingly difficulty when you are being attacked from every which way.
The game includes a “stealth” element, but this is really very limited. You have a disguised mode and this is the last form you consumed that’s human. This may be a civilian or a military person, as a disguised military man you can freely enter bases but not the headquarters of that base until you consume the commander to get the access to keys. This stealth gameplay becomes incredibly easy once you acquire the ability to stealth consume, basically this just means walking up behind a soldier and consuming him without alerting nearby enemies. There is a line of sight restriction but it’s very easily avoided as they usually go on patrols or you can just move them about. In the bases you can just whittle away at the soldiers who are blissfully unaware of your devious actions. As soon as you consume your important targets (for upgrades) you may then like to go on a killing spree. You can even accuse some poor sap of being you, resulting in their quick elimination by fellow soldiers. This stealth aspect makes military base infiltration incredibly easy although a bit arduous, the combat in the headquarters is fairly easy anyway. Stealth will also be used in many missions throughout the game, and it does serve to tone down the high paced action. One thing you may find slightly irritating is how rocket and infantry soldiers are spawned on roof tops mid battles hampering some hiding spots. As the game progresses this spawning gets more aggressive and slightly annoying especially during some missions.
Missions in Prototype are fairly good with a sufficient amount of variety and their length seems fine also. Many of them involve destroying targets in the midst of battles but there are a few different missions. One mission involved consuming a commander then working alongside the military in a tank to escort a vital vehicle. Another earlier mission required angering a large mutant infected to keep him focused on you while you lead him to a different location. Aside from the main series of missions the game features some fun diversions in the form of varied events. These are pretty straightforward and are fairly quick to complete therefore an easy way to get additional EP to spend on upgrades to make missions easier. The events vary from rooftop races, destroying military targets or working with the military against mutants. You get medals for your participation and these events can be repeated if you enjoy them or want to go ahead and try for a better time or kill count. I didn’t find myself repeating many events and focused mostly on the story anyway. If I was on my way to acquire a mission and an event was close by I usually went to try it out. There are many hours worth of action if you just go through these events excluding the fairly long single player. This means is that there is enough to do, even if you get stuck on a mission you might still enjoy causing havoc early on or doing an event you’ve not tried. The game does not allow mid mission saves, if you quit during a mission you will need to start that mission from scratch. It’s worth completing the missions once started due to generous checkpoint system. While the missions are satisfactory it’s really the powers that make the action work.