Prototype – hands-on

When we were a kid taking a trip to the Big Apple, we imagined streets full of screaming people, mutated monsters, and cops in riot gear trying to keep things in order. Then we imagined transforming parts of our body into sinister weapons, before launching 50 feet into the air and elbow-dropping a tank, smashing it to a smoldering wreck. With helicopters zeroing in on us with Gatling-gun fire, we picked up the wrecked tank, leaped into the air, and hurled said tank into one chopper.

What? That’s not what everyone imagines when they’re a kid? Oh, right, we didn’t imagine exactly that scenario, but it was something close. Nah, we just played that scenario in Prototype, realizing we’re not crazy because clearly other people were imagining the same kinds of things. It’s good to be a kid again. While Prototype’s hero, Alex Mercer, doesn’t look like a kid, he sure has fun like one.

The Manhattan we parkoured through, smashing anything we damn well pleased along the way, was about as busy with moving bodies as the real New York, except everyone was running, screaming, and killing each other. Developer Radical realizes that with so much carnage filling the streets, getting around could be a pain, and so they’ve given Alex plenty of ways to move fluidly through the madness.

First, there’s the parkour button. Hold it down, and Alex goes into a sprint, but without the pesky endurance limit many games impose. Speeding along, any poor sap that gets in the way gets a meaty strong arm to the face. Crowds barely pose a hindrance when you can part them like grass. Cars and walls aren’t a speed bump either – as long as you don’t stop running, Alex automatically vaults over obstructions or tears straight up the side of a building.

Still, if that’s not fast enough, jumps can be pre-loaded by holding down the jump button, even in mid-air to provide progressively bigger bounds. Or, once in the air, a second tap starts Alex gliding in what looks like a skydiver’s posture. This seems to be the absolute fastest mode of transport based on raw velocity and the handy aspect of staying above the mewling masses. Finally, for quick short bursts that also are handy for reaching tricky high spots, Alex has the air dash that sends him briefly rocketing in any direction chosen from mid-air. It’s also a formidable dash attack.

Getting around is one thing, but doing horrible things to anyone along the way is even better. The mysterious plague that has turned NYC’s citizens into raving loons and worse may or may not be the same thing that has mutated Alex. We don’t yet know the cause, but we enjoyed the effects. Alex’s mutant weaponry is divided up into essentially fighting stances – each mutation changes parts of his body and allows access to particular moves. Claws can shoot into the ground and erupt underneath a target, hammerfists can perform the infamous elbow drop, and the blade can shred through heavy enemies. There’s also a sort of bio-armor that lets Alex charge through just about anything – instead of vaulting over cars, he bats them out of the way as if they were gnats.

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.