Imagine waking up in morgue with two scientists about to cut you open and you have no idea who you are or why you’re there. Well, that’s only the beginning in this third-person, open world, action-adventure game, entitled [PROTOTYPE]. Now this game was developed by Radical Entertainment whose previous games consist of Scarface: The World is Yours and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction; both fun open world games based on their movie and comic counterparts. As a matter of fact most of Radical’s games are open world so you’d hope that they know what they were doing by now to make a good, stand out sandbox game considering the fact these types of games are a dime a dozen today.
Well, that’s what they attempted to do with Alex Mercer, the newest ill-tempered, testosterone overflowing protagonist in video games today. Alex is a shapeshifter that can transform himself into anything excluding cars, tanks, helicopters, buildings, land posts, coffee cakes- Okay, well he can’t transform into anything but he can manipulate parts of his body into blades and gooey wrecking balls. He can also become anybody in the city a.k.a. the nine different models of people sprinkled throughout Manhattan.
The game begins with a pretty cool cinematic of Alex telling us all how crazy and antiheroic he is i.e. I kill people and blow things up. After the cinematic, you can finally push buttons. You are thrown right into the fight with the objective of kill the soldiers that are pumping you full of lead. Your health is displayed in small bar on the top left corner of the screen which will go down frequently with the lead poisoning you’ll be receiving. You find out you have a huge array of powers such as claws to slice and dice, hammerfists to ground and pound, a huge blade carve bodies up, and a whip-like tentacle to probe up people’s behinds. Cool, yes but it’s too bad you don’t know how to use it. But even so, completely disemboweling the unlucky souls that get in your way brings joyful tears to the eyes. You proceed down the street in a linear fashion demolishing everything insight, somewhat understanding your powers by now, until you reach the end to consume the commanding officer.
Then, like snatching a lollipop from a baby, it’s all taken from you. You lose your powers and are forced to try to regain them by playing Alex’s narrative of what happened eighteen days earlier and achieving experience points. I’ve never really liked this sort of gameplay. First you’re teased with an arsenal of powers or weapons for the first minutes of gameplay, then being stripped like an exotic dancer. However, they tried the opposite in Superman Returns and that game turned out horribly so I guess everyone will have to live with it for now. You go through the game completing missions and dismembering anything and everything to attain experience points (EP). With these you can upgrade Alex anyway you like whether it be making him run faster, jump higher, become stronger or buying better shapeshifting moves and attacks. Other upgrades such as weapon use and vehicular ability come with the consumption of certain military individuals.
So, after Alex wakes up with a convenient case of amnesia you have to fight your way regaining your memories and wrecking major havoc in the city seeking out your revenge. Because what else could you do with almost limitless power? Why save the world or destroy it? Why not rob a bank and then runaway to Tahiti and sip on coronas for the rest of your life? Because being able to scale buildings and shapeshift makes me pissed and want to kill the person that gave that ability to me. So you go on with the normal, revenge motivated story. A military group called Blacklight arrives to wipe out Alex and the virus unleashed in the city. As time goes on, people become zombies and you get to mow through them as well as the military and pedestrians. The bigger and uglier freaks of nature (or should I say science) evolve and you have to deal with them as well before you can unleash your wrath on the unlucky soul that made you supreme. The story does have its ups with some twists but it’s nothing that’s going to set a record in the good ol’ Guiness book. The cool thing about the story though is how you learn about what happened to Alex. Forget the boring and lame cutscenes; killing people up and eating their memories are what this game is about.
Well, to gain back your memories you have to consume people. And by consume I mean having your body turn the soldier into mold and inject into your body. Suddenly bursts of memories jump into your screen via Alex’s head and you learn a little bit about the back story. This is how most of the story is told. These little scenes of memory happen with the consumption of certain individuals that link to your past. The more you find, the more you know and the more Alex’s Web of Intrigue is completed. This is a pretty cool way to balance the monotonous amnesia factor that occurs in so many games today. Also, the different consume kills you can perform are awesome. One of my favorite aspects in this game is the people scattered throughout the city that unlock a key to your history. They can show up anywhere at anytime whether you’re in a mission or just hanging around with some infected. You also regain health by consuming any living thing around you which you will be doing… a lot.
With enough experience points you can achieve the skill Stealth Consume which allows you to silently and secretly consume anyone. The game doesn’t let you stealth kill someone unless no one is watching you. And by no one I mean only the military. The funny thing with this is that whenever you stealth consume almost the entire population of Manhattan can see you but walk by like it’s the normal thing to do on the weekend. If you’re being watched you can tell by the little ball on the bottom left of the screen. It’s closed when they can’t see you, yellow when they can but don’t know you’re in disguise and red is when you have a bulls eye stapled to your forehead.
Now when you’re caught with your head in between your legs you can either run or fight. If you decide to run you can sprint which puts you into parkour mode. If you don’t know what that means it’s only a fancy little word for saying he jumps over things for you. That’s right, if you hold the joystick forward and hold the sprint button Alex will dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge his way to the other side of Manhattan without the player having to press any other button. If there’s a building in front of him have no fear, he’ll just run up the side of it with style which I admit is pretty cool when it works. There are sometimes when the animation and design have some trouble running smoothly. For example, when you run into a fire escape, Alex looks like he’s having a seizure. Other times, like when I was trying to climb up a building, he couldn’t understand the concept of running straight up and started dancing in the corner I was in.
What you can do though, is when you’re on any vertical surface you can press B for precise movement climbing where Alex clutches to the wall and climbs ala Spider-Man. But compared to sprinting it takes forever! It’s like waiting to use the bathroom while some constipated guy is on the toilet. Yet, even when I attempted to use this as I climbed some pillar-like structure at the top of the building Alex kept swinging to the left or right of the pillar as I got close to the top only to end up falling because he forgot to clutch back on to it again. You can also jump from building to building. This helps when trying to get from one place to another especially since you can charge the jump to go farther. You won’t be leaping any buildings in a single bound but it will get you places. Other techniques one can carry out is the glide or perform an air thrust where Alex thrusts himself forward in the air. The other methods of transportation are vehicles as in tanks and helicopters only. You can hijack them with a small quick-time event that consists of mashing one button and then ride them around town. They are pretty simple to maneuver with one joystick controlling movement and the other your aim.
If you choose to fight which believe me, will be your choice whether you want to or not for most of the game, you can duke it out with a decent combat system. You have two basic attack buttons, one normal and one heavy and both can be charged by holding the button down. You can also pick up cars and people and throw them which also can be charged once you buy the upgrade. First thing you’ll notice as the game progresses is that there are a ton of enemies. There will be times when the one side of your body is being painted with lead while the other side is getting to know rockets and grenades. This gets worse when you have to fight the infected and the military at the same time. You’ll be trying to take out some infected while Blacklight soldiers will blindside you and vice versa. One of the most annoying enemies is the Hunters. They take awhile to kill and will stop at nothing to annoy you by bum rushing your blind side. The coolest thing about combat is the devastator attacks that basically unleash destruction in a large radius around you. These attacks are very useful when surrounded by enemies and very easy to obtain. Moreover, they become stronger and deadlier when upgraded. Another aiding factor is that you can lock on to any target as well and switch through them quickly with the Right Joystick. What I didn’t like about this was that it slowed down time when I locked on. This is supposed to help you be able to focus on a specific target but to me it just put a pause to the action. In addition, when I wanted to blow up a car and tried to lock on to it, I targeted an enemy tank that was down the street. Apparently when the enemy is nearby, you can’t target lock anything except for the enemy. This would be fine if the tank wanted to pop a cap in me but they didn’t even know I was there!
To try and prolong the experience, there are side missions. These consist of time challenges, eradicate a certain number of soldiers or infected, try to land accurately in a designated spot, etc. These are great at first but you’ll realize after time that you’ll be doing the same thing over and over again. The best side missions are the consume missions where you have to either consume a number of military individuals in a certain amount of time, destroy an enemy base or consume a group of scientist guarded by Blacklight soldiers. Even so, these can become wary on a player as they repeat.
The sound in this game is great for the most part. The guns sound decent but some of them, like the assault rifles, sound weak and pointless. Slicing through people’s limbs and torsos sounds great and the background music is there for support. The soundtrack doesn’t have any memorable tunes but it does the game good. The voice acting is all over the place. Alex sounds decent but some characters like his sister, Dana, don’t cut it as well. Furthermore, some of the lines in their dialogue will come off as random and seem awkward.
The graphics are the weakest part in this game. The NPC’s are bland and the landscape is even worse. Everything is box shaped and you would never know that this was Manhattan if you weren’t told. Also, there is an unusual amount of pop-in in the game mostly with the signs, trees, water towers, and even buildings sometimes. It’s clear that marketers hid this in their ad campaign for the game. The pop-in hurts the point behind collectibles the worst. In other open world games you can get to a high point and look across the landscape for collectibles. First of all, you can’t even see a quarter of the city from atop a skyscraper and second, you can’t see a one until you luckily face plant yourself onto it. You’re better off tying a blindfold on yourself and trying to fall onto one while jumping around. What is impressive is the massive amount of people you can see on screen and that the framerate has stayed solid even when there was a three way war going on. In the end, graphics don’t come before gameplay and that’s really what this game is about.
Sure, the mechanics are a little clunky and not entirely smooth but I really enjoyed the game. The visceral feel and the carnage are always a plus in my book. It’s by far not the prettiest game you’ve ever seen but it does its job. This game proves gameplay is much more important that graphics. It provides non-stop, gritty, blood spilling, gut slashing action. If you get this game, there will be things you love about it and things you hate. Replay value is a little shot because there is no multiplayer or any other modes but you will get a good fifteen hours of gameplay with the story and side missions. Overall, this is a fun action-adventure title that I recommend everyone at least rent in order to feel the satisfaction of slaughtering half of Manhattan.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com