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Prototype review

Good, bad... you're the guy with the telescoping horror-arms

Pros

  • Running amok in a huge
  • detailed city is a lot of fun
  • More superpowers than you'll probably ever use
  • Cutting down crowds of civilians is a guilty pleasure

Cons

  • Controls can be really imprecise
  • Bosses are ridiculously tough
  • Visuals are gray and unpolished

If you%26rsquo;ve ever played 2005%26rsquo;s The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (or the lukewarm 2008 follow-up from Sega), then you know that its %26ldquo;hero%26rdquo; aspect is largely inconsequential. Who cares about saving puny humans when you can make boxing gloves out of their cars and smash their buildings into rubble? Being a rampaging monster was a lot more fun than trying to be a good guy, and that was something Radical Entertainment %26ndash; also the developer of Ultimate Destruction %26ndash; seems to have taken to heart when creating Prototype.


Above: Go on, embrace your inner murderbeast. You know you want to

While it looks like a standard superhero game, Prototype is really more about running amok through Manhattan as an unstoppable force of nature. Its protagonist, Alex Mercer, has been infected by a virus that%26rsquo;s turning everyone else into zombies and oversized mutants, but in his case has just given him amnesia and a fat portfolio of really gross superpowers. As the island gradually descends into zombie-infested chaos, Alex has to contend not only with swarms of increasingly monstrous infected, but also with the trigger-happy military, who are hell-bent on killing him before he uncovers the truth about his identity.

To help him survive, Alex has a staggering array of powers and special attacks, most of which revolve around turning his arms into weird implements of destruction. Busting out a set of claws enables him to slash his enemies to ribbons and impale them with underground spikes, while the telescoping %26ldquo;whipfist%26rdquo; can slice large crowds of enemies (or civilians) in half, hit distant enemies and grab helicopters for easy skyjacking. His %26ldquo;hammerfist%26rdquo; power turns his hands into huge, heavy spheres for blunt-force trauma, and transforming one of his arms into a single huge blade enables him to slice open tanks in seconds. Infrared and %26ldquo;Infected%26rdquo; vision powers help him single out enemies when the action gets too thick, he can grow a suit of armor to protect himself from the game%26rsquo;s tougher enemies and - when his health is either really high or really low %26ndash; he can bust out massive %26ldquo;Devastator%26rdquo; attacks capable of killing everything around him.


Above: Sort of like this

Oh, and he can fly. Or something awfully close to it, once you%26rsquo;ve fully unlocked his air-dash and gliding abilities. Used in tandem, they can give you a boosted glide that%26rsquo;s good for covering large distances in a hurry. Finally, Alex is able to use any weaponry dropped by soldiers, ranging from M-16s to heat-seeking bazookas, although this aspect doesn%26rsquo;t get really cool until you%26rsquo;ve gained the ability to call in airstrikes or jack tanks and helicopter gunships. (That said, the canned animation that accompanies every tank-jacking could have stood to be a lot shorter, as Alex%26rsquo;s posing makes it more likely he%26rsquo;ll get knocked off the tank by a rocket before climbing inside.)

You%26rsquo;ll need to play for a while before you earn all this stuff, of course, but Prototype plays it smart by starting out near the end of its story, offering a quick taste of what full-powered Alex can do in a completely infested Times Square. Once that%26rsquo;s over, you%26rsquo;re sent %26ndash; via flashback - to square one. The city quiets down and you%26rsquo;re left pining for those kickass abilities, which have been reduced to just sprinting up walls, throwing cars and chunks of scenery, and absorbing people to get a health boost and the ability to disguise yourself as them.

Thankfully, you%26rsquo;ll feel like you%26rsquo;re earning those powers back quickly. In its first few hours, Prototype rewards you with tons of %26ldquo;evolution points%26rdquo; for every mission you accomplish, every military base you clear out and every infected fiend you consume, enabling you to unlock awesome new powers every few minutes. It%26rsquo;s not until fairly late in the game that a feeling of grinding through levels sets in, although by that point the upgrades are strictly optional, and you%26rsquo;ll have unlocked so many that you%26rsquo;ll probably have a hard time keeping track of them anyway.


Above: Seriously, there%26rsquo;s like 113 of these things to unlock

There%26rsquo;s one caveat: the more powerful you become, the more likely you are to notice one of Prototype%26rsquo;s central flaws: the controls are great for blasting around like a high-speed madman, but they can be a tantrum-inducing bastard when you need them to be precise. If you%26rsquo;re trying to scale narrow surfaces (like the pinnacle of the Empire State Building, for example), you%26rsquo;ll need to take it extremely slow if you don%26rsquo;t want to leap out into space %26ndash; and even then, Alex might inexplicably hurl himself off the building with no input from you. Similarly, the game%26rsquo;s rooftop races can quickly turn frustrating if you%26rsquo;re not careful, as a careless flick of a thumbstick while air-dashing can send Alex careening in the exact opposite direction you wanted, usually off a building.

More Info

GenreAction
DescriptionThis free-roaming gore-a-thon has a super-powered monster man running around NYC cutting folks to ribbons. If we need to tell you any more to convince you it's awesome, then you're a fool.
PlatformPS3, PC, Xbox 360
US censor ratingMature, Mature, Mature
UK censor rating18+, 18+, 18+
Release date:9 June 2009 (US), 12 June 2009 (UK)
Available platforms:Xbox 360
Genre:Action

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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