Prototype is a solid game, and worthy of your cash, provided you’re looking for a sandbox title that provides entertainment for the term of your natural life. Sounds hefty, but players can jump kick helicopters, elbow drop tanks, and throw human bodies into another zip code – a gamer can die happy with that at his/her fingertips.
However, if you’re not interested in that brand of long-term entertainment – perhaps you play a game once for the story and never look back – this is not the game for you. While Prototype has near-infinite replay value, there’s zero progression to the game play. You begin the game all-powerful, and you end the game with upgraded versions of what you already had. This is great for those who just want immediate thrills, but those wanting a cohesive gaming experience, Prototype is a joke with an already-known punchline, or watching Soylent Green when already knowing that it’s people.
You begin the game with every significant ability you’ll get. You can leap great distances, pick up and throw massive weights, transform into enemies you’ve recently killed or absorbed, run up the sides of buildings, and so on. Prototype lacks the character growth that games like Crackdown and Infamous use to such great effect. There is a leveling system, but it only augments the powers you have. It’s hard to establish a connection with a character who isn’t growing. The character’s stagnation carries over into story, leaving us a a flat, uninspired character that’s difficult to care about.
The narrative is responsible for this detachment. The story concerns an amnesiac upon which a shadowy organization conducts experiments. Things go wrong, he ends up with awesome super powers, and now he wants revenge. So… why does he want to kill the people who gave him awesome super powers? It’s not like they mutated him, he still looks perfectly normal when he wants to.
These are all minor distractions though. The game is certainly a blast. This is a Crackdown-esque open-world game that revels in giving you unparalleled control over how you exist in the game environment. Prototype struggles with this split personality. On one hand, the developers give the player awesome abilities, and create a world in which players can use those abilities to breathtaking effect. On the other hand, they’ve struggled to wrap compelling stories or missions around those concepts. Missions spike erratically in difficulty. Ten levels or more will be cleared with ease, but then the eleventh will take ten or more tries.
The missions vary in quality as well as difficulty. At times, they’ll involve the good old-fashioned fun of snatching people off the streets, dragging them up to a roof top, and consuming them to steal their identity (occurring in a series of fantastic animations). Other times, the game traps you inside a tin can building and forces you to battle numerous powerful enemies with ranged weapons. These missions are the pits. I can’t understand why they weren’t dropped from the game. Surely Radical Entertainment must have known that their camera wasn’t well-suited for tight environments and close-quarters combat. They’re not fun and seriously frustrating.
Prototype is a great game unfairly stuffed into a package too conventional to hold it. Infamous succeeded because it focused on the growth of a character, and thus its game play fit with a narrative focus on his evolution. Prototype is unquestionably at its best when you’re kicking helicopters out of the sky and throwing tanks, but the actual structure of the game as a whole doesn’t reflect that. It’s an explosion-heavy Hollywood Summer blockbuster in black and white starring Daniel Day-Lewis (I can see the poster already -ED). It doesn’t accept its proper role: stupid fun.
The design created a fun piece of software, but shoehorned in too many modern conventions just so that the game wouldn’t be too offsetting to newcomers. Despite its failings, Prototype is a fun game that allows the player to wreak havoc across the city with an impressive array of super powers. That alone warrants a rental.