We’ve all had those day dreams while sat at our desks at work or school. Imagine being an invincible wrecking ball, able to leap off the roofs of skyscrapers and crash to the ground with no more than a misplaced hair. Or take on a tank single-handed and not even mess up your trousers. This is why video games were invented. This is why we need the likes of Prototype.
The story goes a little something like this. Your name is Alex Mercer, and you’ve just woken up with the mother of all hangovers - in a morgue. You’ve lost your memory, and the aim of the game is to discover who you are and how you ended up in this rather dire situation. So far, sounds like Planescape Torment but without the sarcastic floating skull, right?
The main twist is that Alex awakens with all sorts of crazy powers. Picture a scrawny, pink version of the Hulk - that’s you, that is. From a third-person perspective, you can bound across entire city blocks, crash through walls, and suck up bullets like they’re tasty candy treats. You don’t know right away how you gained these magnificent powers, but I’m sure it will involve a slightly eccentric scientist and a seemingly never-ending legion of sinister black-ops dudes. While the story may turn out to be Oscar-worthy, right now it all seems rather irrelevant. After all, the whole point of this set-up is to throw a million soldiers, tanks and ‘copters at you, and let you take them all on with nothing more than your bare hands.
Of course, bare hands is slightly misleading. Your shape-shifting abilities mean you don’t have to resort to bitch-slapping or nose-jabs. Simply mutate your hands into a set of razor-sharp claws and you can cut straight through a whole group of henchmen, leaving a trail of limbs and spinal chords in your wake. Upgrade the claws and you can punch the ground to summon a wall of spikes around you. Any enemies or vehicles will be torn apart in a devastating and highly satisfying manner. Ahhhh.
Of course, some people may prefer a more stealthy approach for some bizarre reason, and they too are catered for. Alex can kill and consume any other person in the game, then take on their form and walk around pretending to be them. The effect is gruesome, and while this method may not sound as interesting as simply smashing through everything in your path, there are definite benefits. When Alex consumes someone, he not only gains their appearance but also all their skills and knowledge. Gobble up a pilot, and you can steal his ‘copter and use it against his mates. Munch on a General and you’ll have his troops at your command, which hopefully means you can order them to kill each other while you sit back and cackle menacingly. The possibilities are pretty enticing.
Still, it’s the parkour-style navigation of the city that impresses the most in the trailers. One scene has Alex on the run from a group of mutants (or ‘infected’), right down the middle of a packed high street. He charges up the sides of buildings, bounds across rooftops, and even uses cars and buses caught in a traffic jam as trampolines. The beasts appear to be just as agile, snapping at his heels the entire way. It all looks incredibly fluid, and amazingly fun. The scene becomes even more manic with the introduction of an army squadron. Copters and tanks suddenly surround you, while bullets zip by and explosions tear apart the scenery. Alex sure isn’t a popular chap.
It’s obvious what Radical Entertainment has aimed for with Prototype, and they have said as much in interviews. They want players to feel incredibly powerful. Even in a fight of you versus the entire army, the odds are still stacked heavily in your favour. That’s not to say the game won’t be a challenge - the introduction of the ‘infected’ should help knock Alex down a notch, and stop Prototype from becoming too dull and predictable. My only qualm is that the game kind of resembles Radical’s last superhero title, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. If you were fortunate enough to pick up this title on PS2, you’d spot the similarities instantly. Picture Alex as a green guy who runs about in his boxers, and the comparisons are ridiculously blatant. Of course, it’s hard to tell just how similar the games are without actually playing a copy of Prototype, so I’ll reserve judgement until then.
Prototype is currently due for release on the 26th of June on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.