Prototype Hands-On Preview

Superhero games have always been fairly tame, violence-wise. This is for the best, as it keeps little Timmy from asking why his favorite costumed crusader ripped a thug into a pile of bloody pieces. Thankfully, Prototype has created an all new character in Alex Mercer, and because he isn’t bound by the rules of traditional superheroism, he is allowed to do whatever he damn well pleases. I recently went hands-on with Prototype, and what I played left me excited about the potential of this open-world action extravaganza.

Alex Mercer doesn’t possess standard powers. Instead of having the ability to fly or shoot lasers out of his eyes, Alex is able to absorb other living things and modify his body based on what is needed in a situation—like turning his hands into claws to maul oncoming soldiers. While absorbing, Alex can read people’s memories and must do so during the adventure to learn more about his past. In addition, Alex has the strength and agility of a god, allowing him to punch through tanks and run up buildings with ease.

The gameplay of Prototype is very similar to Radical Entertainment’s previous superhero effort, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Like that game, you have a gigantic sandbox of a city at your disposal to wreak as much havoc in as you see fit. Also similar is the opposition you will face as armed soldiers, helicopters and tanks will be sent to take you down after you start causing trouble. To keep himself alive, Alex can hijack certain enemy vehicles to turn the tide of a battle and can also learn how to use some of the military’s more advanced weaponry later in the game.

The violence of Prototype is worth mentioning on its own, as it is superlatively gory from start to finish. When Alex uses his hand blades, enemies split open with an explosion of blood and the streets quickly become splattered in red after a heated confrontation. The developers clearly have a sense of humor, as some of Alex’s more advanced abilities show this in full effect. For example, Alex is able to use a soldier’s body as a surfboard to sweep down the street and knock down troops that are trying to take him out. When a tank approaches, Alex can morph his hands into steel mallets, allowing him to pound through the military vehicles in a matter of seconds. It is all very over the top and ridiculous, yet very fun to play and watch.

The controls of the game are solid, as I was able to start scaling buildings and slamming enemy skulls into the pavement in a matter of seconds. The combat uses a lock-on mechanic that enables you to focus on the intended target no matter what you are doing, allowing you to perform some of your acrobatic maneuvers without losing sight of the enemy. I didn’t get to use any of the guns or vehicles in the game, but I am sure that they will utilize the same lock-on targeting rather than a traditional third-person aiming system.

Overall, Prototype is shaping up very well. The demo that I played was very limited and seemed almost like a tutorial level, so it is tough to judge what an actual mission will be like. Given Radical’s pedigree, it is safe to assume that the final game will take these concepts and run with them as the controls were solid, the action was fun, and the open-world disaster that ensued was always entertaining. Between Prototype and Wolverine, things are shaping up for adult superhero titles, and this will hopefully open the door for more mature takes on the genre.

Prototype ships in June on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.

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