Following on from the huge enjoyment I experienced from playing Batman: Arkham Asylum, I delved once again through the xBox 360 Platinum Hits shelf at my local video game score. With yet more sage advice from a mate, I picked up ‘Prototype’, released by Radical Entertainment in 2009, and bought it for the low price of £12.
Once again, both my mate and all the people whose purchase of the game allowed it to become platinum, were bang on the mark.
As the game starts, you are shown New York City, full of zombies and this red veined plant-like growth everywhere. You are given brief introductions to your powers by way of mission objectives that pop-up on the screen, and you begin to get a feel for just how bad the situation is. Military personal are fighting a constant stream of zombies and mutants, as building after building succumbs to the red vines. At the end of these missions you meet ‘someone’ on a rooftop and you start to explain to him how all this happened. You flashback to 18 days before the zombie disaster, and just to the point when you are waking up on a surgeons table about to have invasive scientific surgery, with no memory. You take out the scientist and guards, rip a giant hole in the steel wall, and set out to discover what has happened to you.
Alex starts off with a fairly rudimentary set of powers, such as the ability to run up walls and jump super-humanly high, as well as increased strength. His primary skill is the ability to consume other people absorbing their memories. After doing so, he will be able to disguise himself as them as well as. It is these absorbed memories that Alex uses to rediscover his past and regain his memory.
As the game progresses you are given more powers, as well as being able to buy them with experience points gained by completing missions either through stealth or from a more violent approach. For example, you can invest in being able to turn your hands into wrecking balls, which are perfect for destroying tanks and larger objects, or there’s a skill that allows you a more effective disguise method, where you quickly and silently consume the person and not the loud and bloodthirsty original way. There’s also powers to increase your health, give you a shield, allow you to glide etc.
Once you get through the opening introductory missions of the game, you are thrown into the sandbox. From here the entire city is your playground. You can run around mindlessly killing both zombies or innocent people alike. I imagine that it is the former that has given this game it’s 18 certificate, that and the way you attack is rather blood-thirsty. Whether you are attacking zombies, military personnel (who are out for your blood and are in this case, your enemies) or completely innocent civilians trying to get away from all the carnage you have a number of attacks at your disposal. Hard hitting punches, razor-sharp claws or wrecking ball fists. Not to mention some of the purchasable skills that allow you to grab people as you run past them, hurl them around or just consume them in a gore-filled murderous attack.
Of course the more acts of violence and acts of ‘just-not-blending-in’ you do, the more chance you have of getting noticed by the Police or Military. When you have been detected, you will be fired at, and within a few seconds a strike team will be called to your location. Strike teams are quicker, and harder hitting military personal, trained to find and destroy you. Once this happens you have two options, destroy all the military (Throwing cars at helicopters is rather fun) or run away, hide and disguise yourself until the heat is off, being careful not to ruin your disguise. If you’re disguised as a normal civilian, and you start throwing cars around and slicing people to death with your sharp claws, the military might just think you’re not human and will come after you. At which point, you should probably run away and seek out a new disguise to throw them off the scent.
Once all that unfettered and quite pointless violence gets a little dull (it’s hard to believe I know, but it can happen) there are plenty of tasks and missions to complete.
On both your map and mini-map a number of icons are shown at various points throughout the city. These points are indicators of the many different tasks that will either fill out the story or give you more experience points. For example, there are ‘Consume’ missions which will task you to consume an amount of people within a given time, as you consume these people you experience their memories which will help you to gain a better understanding of the story, or to be more precise Alex’s story. There are also tasks on crossing a number of waypoints or killing a number of infected people within a given time. These are of course all optional, and the only missions you have to do to progress the game, are the golden stars. These indicated primary missions have to be completed and can’t be avoided, but they can still be done in your own time.
The missions, can usually be completed in a number of ways. There will be the more violent, forcing your way and taking/killing what you want or there is a more Metal Gear Solid stealth way of completing them. Ensuring you get the right disguise, avoiding the sensors and not attracting attention.
So final verdict, if you’re over 18 and massive amounts of blood and carnage in a game is a near necessity then this one will likely push your buttons. Although, even putting the gore aside, what you have here is a great sandbox game where, with the right level of patience and skill, every mission could probably be achieved with only a small amount of blood shed. Of course with that way you would miss out on throwing cars around, or just running through the streets at super-speed knocking everyone out of your way.
What I’m trying to say here, is that the violence is a mere embellishment wrapped around a well-constructed and highly playable sandbox game. The storyline is compelling, and apart from the protagonist looking like an extra in ‘8 Mile’, he is well designed and acted.
It’s games like this that make me wonder why I ever spend £40-50 on a new game, when there are so many classics out there for a quarter of the price.