Games review: Prototype

PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Activision, £39.99

So what do we have here? A second superhero meets Grand Theft Auto 4 game in the space of a couple of weeks.

Interesting then to see how two different developers can go handle a similar premise in such divergent ways. The other superhero game in question in inFamous, developed by Sucker Punch for PS3. While that game involved hurling lightning bolts, Zeus-like, in order to incinerate your foes, Prototype goes down the path of highly visceral close combat, often involving the use of claws large enough to make even Wolverine think twice; this game has a certificate 18 attached to it for good reasons.

The hero (or should that be anti-hero) of the story is one Alex Mercer, awakening in a morgue with no clue as to how he got there and the sudden realisation that he’s stronger, faster and more resilient than ever before. He quickly embarks on a mission to work out exactly what’s going on. Before long he discovers that all is far from well in the rather compressed version of New York City in which the action takes place. With an outbreak of a mysterious plague, the rise of a variety of monstrosities and the presence of a shoot first, ask question later military police force, it’s safe to assume that New York’s tourism industry has taken a turn for the worse. As the game precedes Alex gains upgradeable powers, including the ability to shape shift into characters he’s encountered and morph parts of himself into shields, blades, hammers, you name it.

Missions come thick and fast, usually involving fierce battles with police, monsters or a mixture of the two interspersed with a little espionage, as Alex makes full use of those shape shifting abilities of his to sneak into enemy strongholds dotted about the city. Thankfully Alex is particularly adept at parkour and can rapidly traverse New York on foot, running over any obstacle in his path, including buildings which he simply runs up the side of – it looks slightly odd on screen but is particularly effective as a means to join up missions. There are also a number of non-plot essential missions which act as a means to gather experience points and discover new powers. These tend to echo the main missions, a disappointment when you consider how developer, Radical, could have really let their imaginations run wild to create scenarios to really challenge the powers at their character’s disposal.

Graphically the game is a mixed bag, while the main character is animated superbly, with his morphing abilities depicted brilliantly, the game is let down by its rather drab recreation of New York. Yes, landmarks such as the Empire State, Central Park and Times Square are recreated, but other buildings tend to blend into one. Added to this is the problem of draw distance; you will find buildings suddenly popping out of the foggy background and considering the lack of detail in said buildings this was surely an avoidable issue. Still, Alex shifts along at such a pace that often these problems have no major effect on the gameplay itself, and let’s face it, who needs detail when you can throw cars about as if they were made from balsa wood? Prototype certainly has enough going for it to be recommended. While not quite up to the standards set by inFamous, there is still a huge amount of fun to be had here with the morphing powers at Alex’s disposal, coupled with a plot well worth following too; just remember our earlier warnings if you’re of a squeamish disposition.

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