Prototype is a sandbox game set in a disease ridden Manhattan where the populous is slowly turning into zombies. It’s been created by the makers of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and it’s this game and Crackdown that Prototype draws a lot of inspiration from. You play as Alex Mercer an unwilling harbourer of the virus that’s destroying the city. Luckily for Alex rather than turning into a mindless zombie he has access to a range of powers that will allow him to take bloody revenge on the people that infected him.
The game works much as you’d expect a modern sandbox game to work, the main quests that advance the story via cut scenes are spread out all over the city and more of them become unlocked as you complete them. Along with the main story missions there are challenges to keep you busy. Although there are only a handful of different types of these challenges and this is something that would have benefitted from more variety and less of the same missions in new places. Once you’ve raced over a section of the city to get a time it seems hard to imagine that you’ll come back to that challenge to better your time when there’s no reward for doing so. What’s done really well is the inclusion of people with links to your story walking around the city, who you can consume to get their memories. This is a brilliant story device that will be copied in future games because it’s exciting to see one of these story carriers mid mission have to drop what you’re doing to chase them down to get the next piece of the story.
As Alex is set on revenge the main thing you’ll be doing in this game is killing, Alex is very upset about being infected and doesn’t seem that bothered about the people that get in his way. So it’s a really good thing that the combat is fun, chaotic for most of it but very fun. There are tons of enemies to contend with, helicopters, tanks marines kill squads and then there are a few types of the infected to deal with. All of these come at you at once and it’s rare that when fighting the screen isn’t full of people trying to kill you.
The city is large and moving around it is great fun, Alex can run straight up walls, glide, leap small buildings and all of it is very fluid enabling you to get from one side of the city to the other quickly and with the minimum of fuss. This is one of the things that the game does really well and you will rarely get tired of sprinting through the large crowds to leap onto a skyscraper and then glide to the next. Unfortunately although the world is great to run round the look of it is a bit of a disappointment, although the idea that the infection is rampaging through the city is well done there is a distinct lack of detail in the city itself. If it wasn’t obvious from a couple of key landmarks – namely central park and the bridges - you wouldn’t think of New York when running around it. This is a dreary and grey city for the most part and not the New York that has inspired countless people. Also as you run around at top speed the world suffers from a lot of slow texture loads, buildings can be short of detail until you land on them and hidden items are one of the last things to show up which is annoying when you’re trying to get them all.
Very early into the game you start unlocking new powers and there seems to then be an absolute flood of them coming at you. This is great if you’re the kind of person that enjoys tweaking the way you are going to attempt every new mission and keep trying new things, but most people will probably stick to a set range of powers that they feel comfortable with and not deviate from them. The powers would have been more exciting if Radical held back on a few, making you sneak into bases to collect lower level powers before giving you access to the big mutant weapons. The sneaking it’s self is woefully underused and had real potential to empower you earlier on in the game.
In the end Prototype could have been a great game if Radical had just tried a few less ideas and got the polish up on some of it’s better ones. But it’s still a highly entertaining bloody romp through Manhattan and well worth a play through during the gameless summer months.