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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Prototype (Playstation 3)

Prototype casts players as a rogue super hero trapped within New York City . The player has to fight his way through military forces and evil mutants to discover his true identity. Prototype gives players incredible powers that allow him to battle, destroy and even consume enemies. As the game unfolds, additional abilities are given which make the character even more powerful, giving Prototype a fairly good sense of progression. The question is whether this is enough to make for a challenging and entertaining gaming experience or if the game’s technical achievements are undermined by poor play mechanics. Look inside and discover the answers.

Activison's latest has an interesting concept, with some solid execution making this a successful game from a technical standpoint, but the question is whether it delivers a memorable storyline that makes it worth playing. Prototype puts players in the role of a mysterious character named Alex Mercer who awakes one day with amnesia, not knowing what's going on. As soon as he regains consciousness, he finds himself on the run from a mysterious quasi-military corporation. They have apparently performed an experiment on him, granting him some kind of super-human power. However, this also makes him extremely dangerous, and these forces are out to kill him. He must escape these pursuers throughout the game. Unfortunately, they're other experiments have gone out of control, unleashing hordes of out-of-control mutants in Manhattan. This has led the military to impose a lockdown on the city, in a vain attempt to control the outbreak and gives the city a sense of chaos. It has the added effect of keeping Mercer trapped in the city. While the basic outlines of his story are known, he needs to find and consume key figures in the conspiracy to figure out what went wrong, while keeping his friends and family safe. Its not as easy as it sounds, since you're under assault from all sides. While you can explore the city in free-roam mode, Prototype isn't as simple as an open-ended sandbox world usually is, since you need to complete specific missions in order to unlock additional abilities and discover what to do next. This creates a very real sense of drama and makes for an engaging storyline that will keep you playing from one level to the next.

While its storyline is complicated, Prototype's controls are fairly simple, you run around using the d-pad and attack with the shift keys. You can sprint through the streets and run up the sides of buildings as well, which is a cool feature. Another cool aspect of Prototype comes when you land on the street and create a large crater. As you gain additional powers, you'll be able to glide or fly which allows you to cover more ground quickly. An impressive combat system allows you to attack enemies at close range, grab them and throw them around. You also have a great deal of strength and can pick up and throw large objects such as trucks and cars around. This causes a great deal of damage as well. This is all fairly interesting, but not much different than other sandbox games like Crackdown. Where Prototype really sets itself apart is in your ability to consume enemies. This is done by grabbing them and pressing the triangle button. While it gives you an immediate energy boost, the more important aspect is the ability to assume the identities of fallen foes by pressing the d-pad. When you do this, your appearance is instantly transformed. Most of the enemies won't recognize you and you can enter their installations and buildings undetected. It doesn't always work, since many of the military bases have detectors set up to alert them to your presence, but it can fool the average soldier. You'll also alert them by using your super-powers, even if you're in disguise. It's a fairly interesting idea and works well in the game's existing context. Consuming enemies is also important in unlocking some of the key elements of the storyline, since by doing this you unlock that character's memories which you can view later on to connect the storyline. This creates the sense of being inside a realistic, believable world where different strands of the storyline interact, creating a complex and involving narrative.

As the missions progress, Prototype's story takes some interesting and unexpected turns - this is where you need to stay on your toes. You start off on-foot but there are several sequences that break this up, and spoilers aside, don't really work as well as they would in other games. Prototype's strongest aspects come when you feel like it's you against the world - given extra powers and some armor distances the player from the action to a degree and makes the game feel a bit too easy. Mercer is a very strong character and there are some points where he seems almost invincible, which detracts from the challenge somewhat. Of the enemy waves you face, most of the feel fairly disposable, even the mutant legions perform in predictable ways which makes them seem less like adversaries that you need to work at defeating and instead resemble obstacles that need to be rolled over. This makes the challenge feel less one of skill and more one of endurance. This problem is even more apparent when you face the human soldiers, who don't put up much resistance and only cause significant damage when you're basically ignoring their attacks. As you upgrade Mercer's skills, he becomes even more efficient with his attacks, but the game doesn't ratchet up the difficulty as much as it should. While the hand-to-hand combat with its morphing abilities can be quite engaging, other problems crop up that detract from the overall experience.

Facing off against helicopters and tanks should provide more of a challenge, but instead feel like more things to just swipe away. This makes Prototype feel oddly unbalanced, and its open-ended structure works against it as the streets and objects basically exist as something to destroy. This makes it difficult to care about the onscreen action after awhile, and makes you want to skip through the actual gameplay sequences to the storyline itself, since that's a lot more interesting. Unfortunately, despite some cool gimmicks and a high degree of production polish, the game itself doesn't really offer much in the way of new or engaging experiences. Prototype has some cool ideas, but the execution of its gameplay isn't as innovative or challenging as it could be. This makes for a title, that despite its excellent production values and occasionally interesting storyline, feels undeveloped from a gameplay standpoint. There are definitely many exciting and fun moments in Prototype, and the developers did a decent job in making the story interesting. However, the gameplay suffers from predictability and monotony. Adding new abilities makes things feel even less challenging which ends up making Prototype a somewhat unsatisfying experience that doesn't quite live up to its initial promise.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B-

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