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Old 06-23-2009, 03:17 AM   #1
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[360/PS3/PC] - Prototype Review

Title: Prototype
Platform: PS3/360/PC
Platform Reviewed: 360
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
MSRP: $59.99, £39.99, €59.99
Writer: Martin 'lost' Perry

Prototype Review

Radical Entertainment attempts to raise the stakes in the open-world action game market but does all of this chaos pay off or create a quagmire of frustration?

Prototype has had a bit of a rough time since release. The game has received mixed reviews from critics despite garnering high scores from most. The title is from the developers of such open-world releases as Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Scarface. Radical have clearly held the former title in high regard as this new game can be fairly described as a spiritual successor to the The Green Scar's greatest gaming achievement. That is in no way a knock on Prototype – it improves on that game's formula in almost every way and delivers a wonderful free roam experience. Things aren't quite perfect however.

The story of Prototype goes that you are Alex Mercer, a typically amnesiac game character who retells his path of discovery to a mysterious stranger. Retelling this tale comes suprisingly easy to a New Yorker who has discovered himself imbued with a dark set of super-powers that allow him to leap great heights, run at great speed and smash things with great abandon. The cause, it would appear, is a scientific experiment gone wrong and rather than try and find a cure our anti-hero decides to seek out revenge instead. Plot is vitally important to Prototype with Radical going to great lengths to develope the various intricacies and twists within the game's fiction. Alex can consume the identity of passers by and in taking on their appearance he can learn about their involvement in his past. This 'Web of Intrigue' provides piecemeal background that packs out an enjoyable, twisting story.

Being able to take the appearance of any character within the game is perhaps the its greatest innovation. If you don't like running around as a hoodied mad-man you can instead swap to a genial business-man or soldier. It compliments the action well, allowing you to sneak into bases and evade pursuing army forces. It is, however, only one of many powers available to you throughout the course of the game. The opening scene of the game lays you down with the complete power-set in a confusing onslaught of bullets. This isn't a great introduction to the weapons you can mutate limbs into, the attacks that will allow you to cleave through foes, the health regeneration or the ability to hijack tanks and helicopters. Regardless the gradual build-up of power that follows (after you've been stripped of the lot) is a joyous progression to God status. Alex becomes an almost unstoppable force as you grab weapons, blast a few bullets into a body before munching down on its fleshy goodness.

Being able to elbow drop tanks has its own obvious appeal but the locomotion is the game's most enjoyable aspect. Best compared to Spider-Man (or, you know, Hulk) you have the ability to sprint up walls, leap across rooftops and, eventually, glide around the city sky. The 'adaptive parkour' comes off poorly in all of this. Essentially a poor attempt at Assassin's Creed style animation hopping over car bonnets is irrelevant when you can easily leap the length of the block. Most will find themselves drawn in by this physical freedom. It make free roaming between missions great fun. The usual collectibles are strewn around the game world and reward you with points towards the upgrade of your powers. This provides great reward for simple exploration and will often spur you to ignore the mission markers.

Upgrading your powers is done through a familiar shop system. Gathering 'Evolution Points' from most of your actions you can unlock new powers, purchase them and improve existing ones. It might not be the most clever or original way to manage the growth of your abilities but at least Radical have given you complete control. As a bit of advice I would spend plenty of points on 'Critical Mass' and the game's 'Devastator' attacks. The former allows the latter which in turn allows you to wipe out large groups of enemies with spikes and tentacles. You can only do so when particularly healthy or unhealthy, this is what they refer to as 'Critical Mass' and they become vitally important against the game's bosses. Brilliantly impressive first time around but overuse dulls their appeal.

These bosses are the most frustrating example of mission objectives in a bunch of exercises that can, at times, feel unbalanced. Playing on normal difficulty the game's challenge can spike horribly, particularly during the boss encounters. The most epic battle takes place in Times Square and is a brutal mission of trial-and-error. Story objectives are less frustrating and although there is often a best way to tackle them you are given the freedom to use helicopters, disguises or straight out aggression to overcome adversity. Mixing all of the games gameplay elements together is the saving grace of the missions as it means standard destruction and escort assignments take on a new lease of life, making them fun enough to eventually warrant playing, even if your initial plans may well result in a swift death at the hands of the mutant foes.

The same can't quite be said for the side-missions. They work-reward ratio is a bit wrong on most and when exploring New York offers such high values of 'Evolution Points' you might find yourself hard pressed to bother with them. The city itself is well-realised and when compared to Radical's own attempts, and the versions developed by sister studios within Activision, actually comes out with high marks. A problem reveals itself in these comparisons however. New York has been repeatedly used for these super-hero epics to the point where leaping from the Empire State no longer holds any wonder. Heavily populated streets of silent city folk and taxis you can't drive don't help to create a sense of connection to your environment. This detachment frees the player to wreak horrible, gory carnage upon the town but after mulching bodies into your tank tracks you may question why exactly Alex wants to save the island.

Visually the game is pretty functional. Character models are standard and inoffensive – most could be reused in a number of game projects without anybody noticing. Buildings feature a good amount of detail but flat textures and the familiar locale mean the game struggles to take on any unique visual identity. Criticism of the graphics has perhaps been a little over-the-top but it doesn't compare well to competitors such as inFamous, GTA or Assassin's Creed. Breaking free of New York would have given Radical the freedom to create interesting playgrounds like those found in Crackdown but unfortunately that is not the case. Audio is similarly plain and the voice-acting can best be described as solid. It is the rampant carnage that drives the player forward, not the promise of exciting new things to look at.

Prototype hasn't had an easy time and comparisons to the brilliant inFamous have been hard to shake off. In truth the latter has more style, better looks and a more understated cool. Regardless, Radical Entertainment's latest foray into sandbox gameplay is their most successful. Brilliant fun is to be had with the disguises, vehicle hijacks and excessive violence but some may feel let down by the polish applied to this greatly varied, if occasionally messy, package. With plenty to do I would recommend that anybody with only a Blockbuster membership shells out for the game as your interest will be held far longer than they want to rent it to you. Lets go karate kick some helicopters.

Score: 4 out of 5

The Good
  • Great powers that recall the best of Hulk: Ultimate Destruction alongside new, unique abilities that foster experimentation.
  • Multi-layered story that twists and turns throughout. It may be a little cliché but Prototype's story is always a fun ride.
  • Some of the most fun you'll ever have while free-roaming in an open-world environment.
  • The combination of these things make the familiar missions far more enjoyable that they would be in a tamer game.

The Bad
  • The lock-on system doesn't always quite get things right – probably confused by the number of enemies and innocents on the screen.
  • This isn't the prettiest game on the market and looks a little outdated when compared to competitors.
  • The giant tentacle boss fight sucks.

The Ugly
  • Not being able to drive cars feels eternally dumb when you can be anyone and drive everything else.
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Old 06-23-2009, 04:22 AM   #2
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nice review

thanks for the review, I think you got it right. There are many things which could have been done better in this game, and you can argue about it on and on ...

matter of fact - I have to continue playing ...
4 out of 5 is the correct rating. Not a stellar game, but solid because it is fun (even with some of the frustrating short-comings) ...

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Old 06-23-2009, 04:26 AM   #3
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Is it as good as or better than inFamous? Another side note, how do you find all the time to play all these games hold down a job and have a partner? Let us in on your secret as I need to achieve more game time!
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Old 06-23-2009, 09:15 AM   #4
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It's quite easy. Prototype is a brawler, inFamous is a shooter. Both are tons of fun and I agree with the 4/5.
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Old 06-23-2009, 11:58 AM   #5
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I also agree with the 4/5. The tentacle boss was annoying. Although Penny-Arcade makes a good point...

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Old 06-23-2009, 01:47 PM   #6
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Here is my review, Although it lists a lot of negatives, I actually enjoyed this game and look forward to the sequel.

I played prototype and have mixed feelings about it. It is a fun game but it was all over the map with what I loved and hated about it.

The consume and blend feature - being able to absorb people to gain health, memories, skills, and being able to turn yourself into that person was insanely fun. I would love to see other games clone this feature (without the other over the top powers), I can imagine a game that requires stealth like the hitman series, or even something in a deus ex game. It would have been cool if it had something like gta where you could absorb a cop, ambulance driver, taxi driver and then do side missions playing that character.

The Web of intrigue - I have to say, this surprisingly really drew me in, I was looking around for targets to gain more insight into my past and the missions, one complaint I do have was the info was often too vague, just wish it had a little more each time. The other complaint was that finding them was too hard, you literally had to be right near them and MAYBE they would activate, there did not seem to be any rhime or reason too it. An easier way to find them would have been nice.

Story and characters - The story is all over the place, there was moments that was interesting, but the acting felt hollow, I wish they spend a little more time on character development. You barely have time to meet the characters before they are removed and you do not see them again, wondering what happened to them (guess will wait till prototype 2) and the story was problematic because you had to find all these people to help piece the puzzle together.

Unansered questions - there are questions that are still there at the end of the game, this probably means there is a sequel which is good because I liked prototype but there was questions that should have been answered when the main character absorbed certian characters which I will not mention because I do not want to spoil.

Run and gun - The running and killing with crazy powers is fun at first, but gets old pretty quick

Too many powers - while there are a slew of powers, I usually just ended up using a couple except for rare cases that forced you to use a particular power for an enemy. Many of them were just slight variations of powers you already have, like the power to create spike tentacles thingys out of your body, you could do it on the ground, but to do it from the air you had to get a ton of EV points to use, which made no sense, why the hell cannot do it from the air?

The insane spike in difficulty - you would play and everything would be easy as pie, then all of a sudden you are attacked by rocket launchers, monsters, tanks, and super soldiers all at once. You barely have time to catch your breath before your ass is handed too you. I actually had to get a trainer to cheat on the PC version because it really is near impossible to beat at certain areas.

Useless super attacks - this is related to the first one, the super area attacks only work when you have above normal full health AND you have to be relatively alone for a few seconds to set it up. The problem is that you cannot do either, everything homes in on you the moment you enter the battle field, your health will NEVER be full unless you are really, really lucky (forget about feeding off people, you do not have time with everything being tossed at you), if you do get lucky enough to have a full gage, it is damn near impossible to avoid getting hit in the time to set up the super attack. Again, I had to use a trainer just to enjoy the game.

Ads - this is a general hatred for all games that do this, if you are putting ads in a game, I expect a large price reduction on the cost. The ads stuck out like a sore thumb. I do not buy the whole hype about ads making the world more realistic, Fuck that, put fake ads in, I like those, but do not put real ads in a game. Real ads just make me want to pirate games that do it since they are getting paid for making ME watch THEIR ADS.

Repetitive grinding - nuff said

Boring mini games that are in EVERY FREAKING OPEN WORLD GAME! Enough with the racing ok?!?! I will say prototype is better than most by trying to make it more divergent but it still is the same games with a different skin.

Horrible targeting controls - I will say the majority of the time it does not target the target you want. You have to spend time changing targets (while you are being attacked) to get to the right attack

Having missions that make you run back and forth across the map. Every open world game does this, you have mission (A) at the top of the map, which gives you mission (B) at the bottom of the map, then (C) will be off to the corner, and (F) will be back at the top. Its frustrating doing this, they should have used this thing called a CELL PHONE so I don't have to run back and forth. Load up the cell phone and have it jump to the next scene.

Very little to do in the game world, everything felt hollow and uninteresting, there was no personality in the game. They should take a lesson from infamous and give the city and people a soul, instead of cannon fodder. it needed some FUN side missions to do, the missions in the game felt like work, NOT fun which is not what you want IN A GAME!

No choices - the game might be open world but its all linear as rails, your actions change nothing which gives you no reason to put any emotional investment into the game.

Infected auto target you. I KNOW the infected can sense other infected with the virus, however I found it annoying that they would automatically gang up on me and ignore tanks, rocket launchers, and other weapons shooting at them. I think I would have had more fun if I could hide from them like I could with the military.

Killing web of intrigue people - I don't know how many times a web of intrigue person died right before I could get to them, having to run around and then come back in the HOPE that they respawn is NOT fun.

Bugs - Hold off on getting the PC version until they get all the bugs out, the game crashes all the time, something I have learned, if the game crashes to windows with a message saying it has to close, click ok, or do not report (something like that), DO NOT CLICK ON THIS!!! If you click on the warning it will shut off the game. instead, find the shrinked game and click on it and you will be back in your game where you were when it popped out.

Overall I do like the game, but I do not think it is worth the full price. I am playing a friends copy and will probably get this once the price goes down.
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Old 06-23-2009, 04:18 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Meusli View Post
Is it as good as or better than inFamous? Another side note, how do you find all the time to play all these games hold down a job and have a partner? Let us in on your secret as I need to achieve more game time!
Methos got it about right. I personally prefer inFamous but loved both.

I really don't know! I do my news posts and comic strip too. I never watch TV, only ever DVD boxsets. Maybe that's why?
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Old 06-23-2009, 07:16 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Azriel77 View Post
Ads - this is a general hatred for all games that do this, if you are putting ads in a game, I expect a large price reduction on the cost. The ads stuck out like a sore thumb. I do not buy the whole hype about ads making the world more realistic, Fuck that, put fake ads in, I like those, but do not put real ads in a game. Real ads just make me want to pirate games that do it since they are getting paid for making ME watch THEIR ADS.
About this, normally I hate ads in games just as much as the next guy, but it being set in new york and the speed at which the whole game played meant that I never paid them any attention. In fact, it wasn't until today, a day after completing it, that I noticed an ad for the first time. I guess I was just having too much fun rampaging around the city to stop and look at a billboard.
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Old 06-23-2009, 09:23 PM   #9
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I am playing this game at the moment and I love every part of it. Great review guys.
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Old 06-23-2009, 10:51 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Azriel77 View Post
your review
Hmm, I have been playing the game for over ten hours and haven't noticed a single bug (PC version). Time to upgrade/fresh install?

I disagree with the ads comment, I think they were unobtrusive and blended well with the environment.

Most of the other comments you made are agreeable, however.

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Old 06-24-2009, 04:07 AM   #11
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The ads didn't change depending on your locaiton. I got GameStop adverts and there isn't one for well..and Atlantic Ocean away from my house.

Sometimes I think real-world ads can help bring a place to life.
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Old 06-24-2009, 05:42 AM   #12
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Thank you very much for the review, lost! You answered every question I had.
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Old 06-24-2009, 08:31 AM   #13
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Glad you liked it. A purchase?
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Old 06-29-2009, 07:42 AM   #14
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I rented this shortly after release. I still have mixed feelings about it. I like the story, I like some gameplay aspects, but the whole beat the hell out of lots of enemies feels sooo been there done that. The different abilities, while cool, feel like a DMC game (not that there is anything wrong with that).

I think my biggest problem, was that I played inFAMOUS and that this is not the same game so my expectations were a bit off. Also, the difficulty spikes really do suck. A lot.
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Old 06-29-2009, 11:03 AM   #15
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Good review ... I would have nudged it up to 4.5, but I think 4.0 is fair. I don't think the comparisons are apt. This is a great game with lots to do and lots of fun.

Unlike others, I actually enjoy the difficulty. You can't just use one power and do the same thing over and over again and get through the harder parts of the game. You have to think about your approach, be good at using all your powers (and switching to different powers quickly) and managing your health by consuming and avoiding damage. If you think about how powerful Alex is and how free flowing his movement is, the only way to slow him down is to give him movement impediments (missiles knock you down for example). But, once you learn the movement system and you buy the right skills, you can recover from knockdowns quickly.

That said, I take off half a point for a few reasons. The funnest part of the game is not the missions, fine control of Alex is not a strong point and the designers had to step out of the world they created to drive the story along (no spoilers, but hint to designers, Alex does not need to interrogate, he can consume.)

Overall, a strong buy for me.
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