Prototype is on sale at the moment at the steam store. Here’s a re-edited version of what I thought about it when it first came out, from before I was even writing for Gaming Daily -
You want to know what Prototype is about? The box blurb reads “You are the Prototype, Alex Mercer, a man without memory armed with amazing shape-shifting abilities, hunting your way to the heart of the conspiracy which created you; making those responsible pay”. I on the other hand prefer to describe it as “You are a dysfunctional hoody, who enjoys stabbing people. With a blade arm. Then absorbing them. Sometimes becoming a woman. And flying. As a woman if he wants”.
It’s an empty sandbox where the only things to do are missions, killing and parkour. The tools you’re given to do this though are what make the game interesting. The combat firstly, which is the meat and two veg of the game that is gladly swung infront of your face at every opportunity. The powers themselves are pretty diverse and cool, from tentacle whipping and blobfists to blade arms and full body armour.You are ridiculously overpowered, but never in a way that renders the game boring surprisingly. The second facet of the game are the less combat orientated abilities such as movement, which involve gliding, faster as well as vertical running plus a myriad of moves and boosts. Either on their own or combined with combat the fluidity of movement on offer means there’s plenty of fun to be had. Fancy performing the people’s elbow from atop the Empire State Building? Then this game is for you (not recommended to fulfil this fantasy in real life).
The most hilarious power for me was a half story-exposition, half stealth power that has you freaking absorb people and become them, gaining their memories, appearance and such forth whilst retaining your own overpowered abilities. Gleefully though, this isn’t limited to only a specific few targets. Any character you come across is viable, from common soldier to sidewalk NPC. This lead to me doing more weird roleplay than usual whilst playing a game. To illustrate this, I became a woman -
“I often used to reflect on how badly rendered I was. Life was hard. I had no job, no motivation, no family. It seemed all I did was walk around as filler in the world, someone to make up the numbers. But that was before I met Steven.
To everyone else, he was just one of the default skins for the civilian npcs that was repeated ad nausem. I even got him mixed up with his brother; Stephen, who often walks beside him. But from the moment we met, I knew I could love no other. His walk, the way I could shove him aside with superhuman strength, his refusal to speak. I was soaring, scaling buildings even.
Our time together was magical. We used to walk along the promenade together at night, reminiscing over how we first met along that same walkway. But it was there that I lost him and myself forever.
The way the moonlight settled on his flatly textured jacket and face, I’d never felt closer to him for some reason. I moved nearer and held him tightly to me, enjoying the warmth of his body as I embraced him and he stood unresponsively, blocking my view.
I then remembered I was a quasi-human monstrosity that absorbed DNA.
Shit. I’ve grown Testicles.”
Sadly the stealth use of this power is a let down, useful only for raiding enemy bases like Solid Snake. Cool as it sounds, tentacle rape and Metal Gear Solid don’t combine well outside of fanfiction. It doesn’t make much sense for a nigh-invincible tank smashing monster to have a sudden aversion to fighting, even if it does offset the pace of destruction a little. It gains you upgrades by stealthing into army bases like this, where you go and give enemy troopers a big hug from behind before eating them and gaining the power to fly helicopters. Seriously. For some reason eating them when they’re alerted doesn’t bestow aviational skills to you.
Outside of these military bases, though it is possible to do so playing it stealthily misses the main aim of Prototype, which is to gorily just smash everything with excessive collateral damage. In another sandbox mayhem game such as GTA, collateral is normally something you set out to cause or are at least aware of when you do so. But in Prototype, with the wild powers and destruction, I can be blissfully unaware I just caught 300 people in the crossfire as civilian deaths aren’t even punished. At all. Infact they’re even given as a positive statistic, and as much as I try in a mission I always kill about a hundred unknowingly.
With all these powers it’s pretty easy to feel like an untouchable killing machine until you get to a boss fight, where it seems Dante from Devil May Cry came over and spilt his seed into the game. In short, they’re attrition fests. Weirdly though, like the stealth, they didn’t annoy me as much as they should’ve. It seems Prototype has this strange phenomena where there’s parts which would be unforgivable in ordinary games but which I would gladly play through here. What it does get right (mass killing and super powers) makes you forget any annoyances you may have had (stealth and boss fights) till after you’ve finished playing.
It’s a silly game, which is hard to get past at first as Mercer has all the charm of a Plunger; wooden with associations of shit. Ignore the cheesy and confusing story and just muck about and have fun. It’s definitely worth £12.50 of enjoyment and is immensely pleasing to dip in and out of. Plus you can fly and pick up cars as a dumpy 45 year old woman. Did I mention that?