A viral outbreak has gripped the city; it's transforming the innocent into bloodthirsty monsters, and somehow youíre involved. You are Alex Mercer, someone close to the disaster, and perhaps a little too close. Without knowing why, Alex has various powers, some similar to those of the mutants appearing throughout the game's setting. At the onset, players quickly learn that with great power comes great responsibility. Yes, I ripped off Spider-Man, but it fits Prototype perfectly. Alex may be an amnesiac, but he knows that his powers are somehow tied to the mess that the city is quickly turning into. As each day passes, more and more are becoming infected by this virus. Before the situation gets out of hand, Alex has to figure out what's really going on if there's to be any hope for those he cares about most.
Prototype is broken up into various gameplay elements, many of which are similar to Grand Theft Auto. That means expect a large, fully explorable city. Alex isnít a normal human though. He can immediately run up buildings, glide short distances, and utilize attack enemies with some truly wicked powers. As he gains experience, those powers can be upgraded via an in-game store. Experience is comprised of evolution points, which Alex earns as you carry out the game's tasks (finishing missions, taking part in events, killing enemies, etc). With enough points accrued, his physical attacks and overall health can be improved, while new abilities [such as jumping further, gliding for longer distances, etc.] are unlockable. This system makes the game a really fun endeavour.
Missions are varied and activate like those in GTA do. An icon appears on the mini-map, marking your destination for a mission. Events function similarly, with time-based being their main difference. One has players try to reach a goal by using nothing more than gliding, whereas another tasks Alex to kill as many enemies as possible before the timer runs out. Regardless of your chosen involvement, you're awarded a medal based on overall performance. Score a gold in every event, and you unlock the extremely difficult platinum ones. If you can finish those, enjoy some really wicked prizes.
No matter what you do though, evolution points are connected. This is justified very well, but you must play in order to find out why. What we'll tell you is that everything in the game is linked through a time web, which brings all the story elements together. In order for Alex to learn more about whatís happening to the city, he actually absorbs the physical form of VIPs. Some sequences must be played for progression, but others are left to the player to seek out. Sometimes during a mission, you may see a weird red marker on the map. That marker indicates a person who knows important story information is close by. Find him/her, absorb them and begin connecting the web. As you link enough strands, more of the mystery is fleshed out, helping you understand Alex's role in the entire ordeal.
A slight issue with Prototype is the controls. Early on, everything works fine, but problems stick out like a sore thumb as events are completed. While traversing from one building to another, it becomes difficult to move where you really want. To race up a building, you must press the right trigger/R2 button. The issue lies with that very problem also executing a dash. If you run up a building, flip over the edge, and hit the button too quickly, Alex may just fly off the roof and down the wrong side. Other issues pop up later as you evolve his current and newer attacks. Later attacks have you pressing three buttons simultaneously, which is never easy to do.
Outside of that, Prototype manages Alexís powers well. For one, he can only absorb different characters for their knowledge, yet he also gains their physicality. He remembers only the last character he absorbed though, so itís important for you to keep mental note as well. This is especially vital in military areas. If you own the guise of an officer, Alex can easily penetrate a military base. Just activate the disguise and bam; no one thinks twice about you. This is also useful when the military has sniffed Alex out and ordered strike teams to breathe down your neck. By hiding and switching into a disguise, you can evade it all.
You can also learn different physical attacks: claw hands, hammer hands, etc. These are all kept within a radial menu system. Alex can even swap attack patterns on the fly. This is extremely useful as it allows the player to customize the game and our hero. Thereís more too; vehicles, tanks and other military transports can be overtaken. These are extremely fun to mess with, and some events actually require them. While not as entertaining, Alex can put the military's weapons (rocket launcher, automatics, etc.) to good use. Why they arenít is simply due to his awesome powers. Thereís nothing like latching onto a helicopter, running up a building and slamming down into the street with your claw hands, destroying anything in the way.
Now while Alex grows in power as you progress, he's not the only one who does. As more of the game's 31 missions are completed, the city spawns more powerful mutants. In fact, the city slowly becomes dominated by many freaks of nature. What might have been a safe haven before becomes flooded with enemies. Over time, the scarcity of hiding places is obvious.
The gameís setting, New York, may be well-detailed as far as in-game cities go, but repetition comes into play the deeper players delve into the adventure. Itís a fixed area after all. Eventually running, gliding and running back and forth feels tedious. This is hardly surprising, but Radical Entertainment did admirably to keep us entertained. They scattered Crackdown-style orbs all throughout which award players more evolution points. There are hint orbs as well, which unlock precious points too. The events help flesh everything out, but at the end of the day, you may feel contained after a solid ten hours of playing.
The camera unfortunately is a little unforgiving. The lock-on system works well in most cases, but occasionally the screen is littered with too many characters, which makes it very tough to pinpoint targets of interest. This is mostly apparent when Alex needs to throw something at a helicopter and the area is just packed with enemies. The camera can also be erroneous in tight quarters.
Visually, Prototype saw its share of love and care. The game is certainly polished. As Alex attacks innocents or enemies, they're cut in half, ripped apart, used as projectiles and so much more. With all this happening, Alex is also fired upon, punched, lunged at and plunged...and everything else you can imagine. Remember, this is an M-rated game, so there's plenty of blood. Splatter, smear and more decorates the environment as you rip enemies apart limb from limb. Prototype also sports an impressive frame rate considering how much can be happening during a given moment. Crowds react to an incoming hostile, and as you race around rooftops, battles between the mutants and military are clearly seen in infected areas. The graphics all-around arenít overly impressive, but the game is pleasing enough. If anything stands out, itís the way Alex animates. He moves so fluidly and realistically that you're likely to not encounter a single moment where Alex looks strange moving about.
If you own a solid home theatre system, prepare to enjoy the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. When rockets are launched at you, your sub-woofer purrs with delight. The same can be said for virtually every other effect. Thereís no shortage of voice acting, all of which is impressive. The core soundtrack though isn't quite so much, but it delivers where necessary and fits the game's mood. Nothing exactly wows you in the audio department, but Prototype certainly makes use of surround sound.
Sadly, multiplayer is nowhere to be found. It wasn't necessarily needed to bring you back after finishing the 31 missions, but most may not feel too inclined. After finishing, the campaign can be restarted with everything you achieved with Alex before, or you could simply take in the city's marvels. Thankfully, Prototype is different than inFAMOUS in that it found a home on X360 and PS3. Why does this matter? Well for one, it plays about as well as Sucker Punch's game does, and has its own unique problems. Both are extremely similar, but at least Prototype is a multi-platform release. If you're looking for something like inFAMOUS that's also unique in its own right, then youíve come to the right place. Prototype is a truly fun to play and further welcomed exploitation of Activision's Spider-Man engine. Enjoyable free-roaming games arenít as common as they should be. If you love the concept of a huge city to explore and having tons of wicked powers at your disposal, then Prototype may be just what your doctor ordered.