Release Date: June 9, 2009
Alex Mercer is a dead man — or, at least he was a dead man 18 days ago. After a mysterious infection began to spread in New York City, Alex succumbed to the disease and lay dead in a morgue. Doctors in clean suits were all set to cut open Alex and begin the autopsy when he suddenly sat upright on the operating table. It seems it's going to take something a little more permanent than death to keep him down.
Welcome to the world of Prototype, where this mystery disease is spreading at an alarming rate and killing anyone it touches or turning into bloodthirsty zombies. Military units have been sent in to try and contain it, but they're failing, and since they see Alex as just a big a threat as the monsters roaming the city, there really is no friendly quarter here.
Don't cry for Alex, though; he's more than capable of defending himself against foes both human and mutant. The infection has left him with some unique powers, including the ability to transform his arms into a number of different useful items, among them a fist as hard as steel, a set of claws that would put a certain Marvel superhero to shame, and a giant blade that treats flesh and bone like tissue paper. On top of all that, Alex also has the ability to sprint up the side of buildings effortlessly, leap to incredible heights and even consume the identities of civilians or key military personnel, absorbing their health and taking on their visage to fool soldiers hunting our (anti)hero.
The absorption of others is actually a key game element, as consuming key characters allows Alex to access memories in the "Web of Intrigue." The Web contains snippets of the overarching story line, and it's only through viewing these memories that players can come to fully understand exactly what the hell is going on here. It's definitely a unique and impressive new twist on storytelling, and those who simply don't care and would rather get back to the carnage can skip scenes and go back later if they truly want to unravel the mystery.
For those who don't want to get up close and personal, Alex can also utilize firearms and even hijack vehicles to do his dirty work. Sure, you could use your steel fist to smash up that tank, but why not simply steal it and turn your foes' own armor against them? Alex can also snag helicopters, so players who prefer to rain death from above have the option as well. Feel free to kill however you want; the city truly is your playground.
While Prototype has always sounded like a good idea on paper, a lot of folks have been hesitant to see how it handles in execution. The open-world design has worked wonders in games like GTA IV, but for every success story, there also seem to be dozens of failures in the genre. Thankfully, Prototype seems to have things nailed down quite nicely, and exploring New York City is the smoothest and most enjoyable experience I've had since Spiderman 2. Obviously, navigating traffic-choked streets and endless buildings could be a nightmare if not handled properly, but that's not a problem here. As Alex runs and jumps through the city, he immediately plows over, under or through anything in his path. He'll push pedestrians and hop over cars without breaking a stride, and if you run straight at the side of a building, Alex will simply use his powers to race right up the side and onto the roof. All you have to do is pick a direction and start running; the game automatically takes care of the rest.
While our demo started off pretty guided, with only a few powers available and one objective shown at a time, we eventually got to fast-forward to the later stages where things really get fun. The section of the game we were dumped into featured a fully powered-up Alex, with primary and secondary missions littered all across the map. The side-challenges were nicely varied and featured opportunities to blow up military helicopters with an endless supply of missiles, temporarily ally with the military to fight off a huge group of super-mutants known as Hunters, take out infected buildings to stem the tide of monstrous zombies, or even climb to the top of a tall building and jump off in an attempt to glide to a target set up a long way off. There's always plenty to see in Prototype, and players can expect to squeeze a great number of hours out of the title.
After some extensive play time with the final build of the game, we can safely say that Prototype is going to scratch the itch of gamers who are looking for an open-world action game with a heavily violent bent. This game is bloody and gory, but above all else, it's a ton of fun. I have no idea how Alex survived the infection, but I can promise that we're going to have a whole lot of fun finding out.
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