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Review: Prototype on PC

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Prototype is an open-world sandbox game akin to GTA. For those unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, you are basically given a giant environment and you are free to explore at your own pace, given a basic objective and side missions scattered all over. In this setting for Prototype, you are Alex Mercer, a man whom has suffered amnesia, with only a gist of whom you may be and endowed with incredible powers; you seek out answers to why you are this way and who’s responsible.

At least, that’s how it would’ve started if the game didn’t already drop you near the end of the story, you are given a very basic tutorial of general things such as jumping, attacking, targeting, along with a crash course on one tenth of your powers. After your little taste of super Alex, you are put back to the beginning of the story where he has yet to accumulate the strength you had just seen.

So right from the get go, you already have an idea of where the story is headed. You witness NYC covered in “the infection”, which can be described aesthetically as ketchup and hardened meat fat spread all over the place by a lawn sprinkler. You can hear all the screams and wails of the not-yet-infected citizens and the unintelligible growling of the was-too-slow citizens. This will give you some context on what will happen as you progress and witness the events unfold.

Prototype Box Art

Story: A little spotty. While I didn’t expect an award winning material from a game like prototype, I expected it to feel less rushed. The voice acting felt a little rushed, some of the lines felt like they were all read in one breath while others felt like the voices were attempts at establishing a character type but then felt flat. This mostly applied to the main scenes earlier on.

The presentation of the story wasn’t too flattering either, with some unnecessary shaky cam in cut scenes and character animations that simply aren’t good. Nice try but the end result isn’t very nice.

However I will give them props for what they did in the latter half of the game where the story picks up with a lot more interesting elements along with a pretty clever plot twist. At least, I most certainly didn’t see it coming. Even with this though, the first half is just too poor to sit through just to get to the later portion.

Game Play and Mechanics: At its heart, Prototype wouldn’t be too far away from other super powered sand box games and it’s fun. You are given a large array of abilities that by majority add flavor to the chaos. You have your claw ability that lets you serve as a blender on legs, the hammer fist ability that lets you pound tanks into soda cans, and even a whip arm that will allow you to grab and pull either yourself or the target  towards each other. You’ll find yourself traveling the city mostly by roof top, running up building walls, gliding from skyscraper to skyscraper, jumping, and sprinting the way super humans usually do in movies and comic books. All these elements as a whole give you that omnipotent feeling of a super powered mutant with the world in its hands, which is until the military breaks out the missiles.

In this game, you can buy abilities with Evolution Points, granting you access to more and more powers as you go through the game. You can earn EP by killing enemies, collecting the orbs that they drop most of the time, collecting special orbs around the city, completing side missions as well as completing events in the main story. As you progress through the story, you get a chance to buy more abilities that weren’t available before, giving you some incentive to progress through the story line. A very basic formula of these game types, and that’s what you’ll find here.

The targeting system can be very iffy since the game will automatically target what it thinks you should be targeting. Sometimes this works great cause you don’t necessarily have to have this target in view for the game to pick it out for you, but half the time it’s telling me to keep my eyes on a tank 2 blocks away while my face is being pummeled by a crazed mutated gorilla. You can use the right analog stick to change your targets but this doesn’t always cooperate as well as you think cause sometimes it would cycle the same couple of targets, or it makes you cycle through the crowd of soldiers in front of you before you can get to what you want.

The game also has what we all now know as Bullet Time or that slow camera trick thingy from the Matrix! While many games of all kinds have this little mechanic, I appreciated how it was implemented here. Usually on-the-fly ability/weapon switching in other games can be detrimental to your survival because while you are thinking about what you should use, you might already be cake frosting on the wall before you figure it out. In Prototype, the game will actually initiate bullet time every time you bring up your menu ring of all your abilities neatly categorized for their purpose. While this little instance of bullet time is brief, roughly three to four seconds, it gives you a little breathing room to decide what power to switch to and you can do this at any time short of a cut scene; although I did notice if you constantly do this it takes a little time for the game to catch up. You’ll also find these little camera tricks when Alex uses one of his Devastator attacks, his version of a smart bomb so to speak; it’s purely aesthetics and it certainly does look nice.

Sound: Most of the time you’ll be hearing screams of the civilians running away from the infected and the military blowing up said infected. Voice Acting runs a flat early on, while the only real significant voice actor is Alex himself, and even then it sounds like he tries too hard to be angst. A majority of the voice track would be the generic “disembodied military general gruff” placed behind “tons of images sequenced together at 100 miles per hour.” Nothing really note worthy otherwise.

Graphics: Like many sandbox games, the environment is quite bland compared to Alex himself. NYC has many faithfully recreated land marks but anything outside of that is “generic building A” and so on for the rest. Alex himself has extremely well detailed transformations and all his powers have a very unique look from each other. The grunt units, while mostly generic in design, actually have quite a bit of detail on them from the hand gun in the holster to the shining lenses on their gas masks. The Tanks are also exceptionally detailed. Oddly enough the Helicopters have the least amount of polish among all the vehicles since you do zoom in really close to it and see the extremely low res texture on the copter’s wind shield.

A game like this wouldn’t be very entertaining if it was ever ridden of anything to kill, thankfully, the game provides that in endless amounts of destructible objects, civilians, military grunts, giant infected called Hunters, and so on to keep you entertained. If you ever needed to blow off some steam, Prototype will provide. This is especially true if you’re a New Yorker such as me. This is all pulled off without dragging down frame rate down to the single digits and that’s quite impressive.

Conclusion: I could go on and on about the mechanics that drive prototype and what makes it both incredible and disastrous but I could do that till I’m blue in the face, as you can tell, I already wrote many paragraphs on just that alone. The game is quite spotty with its elements. Its main appeal for me was its combat and the super powers, that being done admirably and I hope more games in the future could feature such elements again. I would like to see, however, a better told story along with a better designed environment.

All in all, Prototype is most definitely fun at its heart with some issues that drag down the experience, it’s worth a rent for anyone interested in the whole Supah Powahs genre of video games, and this is actually as good as you’ll get in the sand box spectrum. However as for a buy, that’s a call you’ll have to make.

Notes for the PC Version: I have noticed while reading forums that the PC version of Prototype is riddled with significantly more bugs than the console version, some of these bugs I’ve encountered myself. One of these bugs was “Assist the military till you’re called back to Base” and when I destroyed the hive as instructed, the mission would not progress. You were basically stuck. I had to shut down the game and then load it again to fix this bug, no dying and re-spawning and check points was able to fix this issue. There is also some graphical differences between NVidia and ATI video cards, namely the ATI cards has a significantly worse looking game with some software compatibility issues on lighting in all the wrong places, giving you shadows where they shouldn’t be. It’s hard to say if it’s just because of ATI because other games I own don’t have this kind of problem, such as Batman and Bioshock. Chalk this one up as another sloppy port.

This review was based on my experience on the PC version of Prototype downloaded through Steam on a AMD Phenom II x4, ATI Radeon HD 4890 drivers updated as of Feb 3rd, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, OS Win 7. Used a XB360 controller. Finished game on Normal Difficulty, 90% of powers unlocked. Barely touched side missions.

10.9 hours clocked according to steam.


Written by vigorot

February 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Game reviews

Tagged with , , ,

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