Following up on the strange placement of my Dead Space retrospective thing between two anime episodes, now we have Prototype. I saw this being advertised non-stop at my bi-weekly haunt for the past two months now, so I was fairly excited to try this.
Anyway, the set-up is nice and simple – your name is Alex, you have weird shapeshifting powers, and you have no memories. You have to ‘absorb’ (or as Zero Punctuation puts it, eat) plot-relevant enemies to get their memories and see why you became this way. Oh, and try to stop the whole infestation thing going on around the entire city.
One of many, many ways to get around the city.
Landing was a bit harder than intended.
Being a sandbox game, most of your time will be spent moving from one point to another, and right from the get-go you have access to one of the most incredibly awesome freerunning system in gaming. If you thought Assassin’s Creed‘s methodical scaling was a bit tedious, then you’ll enjoy watching Alex sprint up the sides of skyscrapers, hopping over cars, leaping dozens of feet past pesky walls, and generally tearing the landscape apart from Point A to B.
Not so useful, but very funny.
Which doesn’t mean you can’t take a sneakier approach. One of the best parts of the game is Alex’s ability to take on the appearance of the person he’s absorbed. Impersonating a civilian isn’t much help gameplay-wise, but once you don the skin of a military officer, you pretty much have unlimited access to their bases – with valuable ‘assets’ that upgrade your skills once absorbed – and vehicles. And of course, it also means you’ll have a lot of extra firepower on your side when facing the hordes.
And ‘hordes’ is the right description, given that the only real difficulty in the game comes from sheer overwhelming numbers of enemies. This grows exponentially as you advance the story and more parts of the city are infected, which will have the army deployed heavier equipment as well.
The shield is surprisingly useful.
Thankfully, given the game’s focus on action, the combat system is intuitive and easy to manage. Any one-two combo will kill a (humanoid) enemy, but it’s when you start comboing special attacks and charged hits that the bodies really start flying. The large variety of attacks possible keeps the combat from getting stale – and if melee is bogging you down, you can always jack a tank or grab a rocket launcher.
Street Sweeper, the most powerful crowd control in the game, period.
Add in the experience and skill upgrade system (apparently mandatory in games these days) and you can have a lot of fun just screwing around and testing your combos on the hapless civilians. Which is good, for a sandbox game; you should be able to have fun anytime, anywhere. Besides, it’s a malicious game by nature – if you’re not looking down and cackling madly at everyone below as you hurl yourself from the 100th floor and send cars and people flying everywhere, you’re not playing it right.