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Game Review: Prototype

by spike.com   June 16, 2009 at 11:15AM  |  Views: 133

Video games based on comic book characters are nothing new, but while you know what you're getting with a Hulk or Spider-Man game, with titles like Prototype where the comic came after the game, it can be a crapshoot. After shape-shifting publishers and enduring delays, this open world action game's outbreak is ready to break out.

Waking up and realizing there's no milk for your cereal is a bad deal, but imagine being Alex Mercer. He wakes up in the morgue presumed dead, there's a strange virus taking over New York City, he has mysteriously acquired some new and extraordinary powers, and he can't remember a thing. As he grapples with regaining his lost memory he's sandwiched between the military and the infected as both sides struggle to take control of the city. Alex tries to piece together the clues by consuming other beings and absorbing their memories. These glimpses of the past are then stored in the web of intrigue. Toss in government conspiracies, and some mundane dialogue and you have plenty of context for all the mayhem, but negligible emotional investment.

The entirety of Manhattan is open from the outset, and the map highlights locations for primary campaign objectives and side missions to keep you on track. Just about everything you do rewards you with EP that you can use to upgrade powers, movement abilities, defense, offense, and consumption prowess. It's been done before, but the sheer breadth of upgrades borders on overkill. Some categories have well over 20 available boosts and just remembering how to pull them all off is a game unto itself.

Mission objectives are what you expect, but come in a wide variety. Blowing up bases, escorting vehicles to safety, defending positions, assuming disguises to infiltrate bases, and their various combinations give you plenty of opportunities to blow off some steam.

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As you complete missions on the main path, side missions are unlocked that test your skills at free running, combat, soaring, and much more. They can become addictive thanks to a medal system, and there's plenty of challenge, but the lack of a restart function grates and the EP rewards aren't worth the effort at a certain point.

Just about everything is a weapon. Alex can pick up objects the size of a small trailer and hurl them a mile. He can snag guns dropped by the military, or use one of four upgradeable melee weapons that are gradually unlocked. There's a ranged chain weapon, claws, a blunt force club, and a deadly blade. Some are moderately more effective on some enemies, but you can basically choose your favorite and do well provided you continue upgrading it.

Alex can morph into military personnel after consuming them, and gain health boosts no matter who, or what, he absorbs. This tactic becomes essential in the latter parts of the game when the automatic regeneration isn't getting it done.

You'll get around 15 hours of play out of Prototype, and much more if you decide to tackle all the side missions. Just about the time you begin to tire of the mission objectives it ends. There's a shortage of epic boss confrontations, but the breakneck pace makes it hard to notice.

Navigation is paramount in any open world game. If there's not a fun, easy way to travel it becomes a chore. You definitely won't tire of skyscraper hopping around Manhattan. The parkour controls are excellent. You never feel like the game is taking over as you fluidly run up, down, and across any wall. You can spot a rooftop air conditioning unit 100 stories down, take a leap of faith, and land right on it. It's platforming on a massive scale. Some enemies can navigate the environment just as quickly as Alex, imparting the player with a constant sense of urgency.

There's some depth as well. You can upgrade your jump abilities with dashes and slashes, allowing for that extra layer of control for those who seek it. The same holds true with the combat. There are nuances to using each weapon that make them much more effective, patterns to exploit with the enemies, and plenty of smart combos to discover. If Alex's health is maxed-out, he can pull of devastator attacks that definitely live up to their name.

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