Feels Like it's Still in Development…

Prototype Screenshot

HIGH The main character is one of the most powerful gaming has ever seen.

LOW Getting mega-spammed and juggled to death by enemy attacks.

WTF did anyone bother to quality-check the story before the game shipped?

The second of two high-profile third-person "superhero" games hitting consoles at nearly the same time, Prototype from Radical Entertainment seems to have much in common with Sucker Punch's inFamous. However, after finishing both, it's clear to see that the focus of each game was different enough to give them unique identities despite appearing so similar at first glance. On the menu from Radical? Chaotic destruction and insane powers—double helpings of both.

Prototype starts with main character Alex Mercer waking up with amnesia on a morgue slab. In moments, the player is set loose in the city to wreak havoc in one of the most action-packed openings I've seen in quite some time. Tanks explode, tentacles reach out in every direction, and mayhem of all sorts hits fast and furious. Giving just a taste of things to come, the intensity scales back and the game properly begins with Alex in a stripped-down, yet still-potent state. At this point, it's up to the player to decide what to do.

Following the classic open-world formula to a "T," the basic structure of Prototype is exactly what you'd expect—the play area is a large city Alex is free to traverse at will, its streets and buildings sprinkled with icons that represent different types of activities selected at will. There's nothing stopping the player from going straight through the critical story missions and ignoring all else, but Alex Mercer is such an interesting character to play that it's almost impossible to not dabble in the optional events just to see what he can do.

Prototype Screenshot

Rather than being the usual GTA-style crook on the lam, Alex is infected with a virus that gives him phenomenal powers, impressive even when compared to other characters of note in the video game sphere. As fast as lightning, he can plow through traffic and flow over obstacles effortlessly, literally run up vertical faces of buildings, leap unbelievable distances, and glide through the air with such efficiency that it's essentially a half-step below true flight—and that's just him getting around.

Offensively, Alex has so many options it's almost ludicrous. With a few taps on the D-pad, he can go from innocuous hooded emo-teen to a fully-armored bioweapon with wicked claws. Not into claws? Morph over to his whip-hand and cleave entire crowds of people into bloody chunks with one swipe. Bored with that? Double the muscle mass in your arms and start pitching wreckage into circling attack choppers. If you can imagine it, it's probably here, including over-the-top things like jump-kicking an enemy from across the street and then kicking that enemy into another, or using passersby as gruesome surfboards. The list of powers goes on and on, and most of the abilities can be upgraded several times to increase their already-fearsome effectiveness. It's hard to imagine a character more deadly than Alex Mercer.

However, I think my favorite activity in Prototype took advantage of Alex's defensive shape-shifting talent. By consuming (as in, eating) another character, Alex can take on their likeness and pass unnoticed through crowds. Disguising myself as a military officer and infiltrating one of the many bases scattered throughout the city, it was a rush to stand concealed in the midst of a platoon of enemies, suddenly disembowel whomever happened to be standing next to me, and have the entire scene explode into violence. There is nothing quite like it.

Although taking on Alex's role means stepping into some obscenely powerful, obscenely enjoyable shoes, Prototype as a whole has quite a lot working against it. In most respects the game feels rooted in the last generation, and doesn't have much to offer in the way of polish or current niceties, conceptually or otherwise. For example, the graphics look quite dated and the city Alex tears up fails to impress with its generic appearance and forgettable geography. Animations don't blend together well, citizens on the street look rather simple, and it's almost comical when buildings crumble into pre-rendered damage states. It's really not hard to imagine this game running on the Xbox or PS2, at least visually.

Prototype Screenshot

More significant than its visuals, the story is a complete wash and fails on nearly every level. It may be incredibly engaging to play as Alex Mercer, but thanks to a near-total lack of characterization and a bad habit of failing to properly set the stage, I felt nothing for Alex the character and his struggle to regain his memories. Worse, the plot's final scenes which should build drama and energy for the final conflict descend into nearly indecipherable gibberish. Seriously, who wrote this? Although I give credit for a unique mechanic where Alex pieces together bits of his tale by stalking and devouring different individuals throughout the city, the fact remains that I felt virtually no motivation to unravel the game's central mystery, which is hardly a mystery at all.

However, the biggest problem with Prototype doesn't really emerge until past the halfway point. After getting comfortable with and enjoying what Alex can do, the developers ramp up the frequency at which the player is detected by roving strike teams, causing unwanted interference and annoying battles that constantly disrupt play. The actual missions themselves also suffer from a sloppy, haphazard feeling due to so many enemies being tossed into the mix that at times it's nearly impossible to figure out what's going on. Instead of employing his various powers with precision and deliberate intent, too often the game crumbles into an uncontrollable juggle state of random explosions and attacks from all sides.

Although Prototype sports several great ideas and a main character that wows, imagination, inspiration, and a strong guiding hand were lacking in every other aspect of the game. Delivering a slightly better-than-mediocre experience overall, it's truly unfortunate that the final product wasn't as realized and intriguing as the powers of the virus-fueled juggernaut that stars in it. Rating: 6.0 out of 10.


Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately nine hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed one time. There are no multiplayer modes.

 

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore, intense violence, and strong language. And you know, the ESRB really wasn't kidding this time. The game's violence is quite graphic, frequently displaying things like entire crowds of people being shredded into dripping parts, or enemies exploding into chunks. It's certainly not one for the weak of stomach, and absolutely not one for the kids. There are more than a few examples of salty language, but the real thing to be aware of here is the level of bloodshed.

Deaf & hard of hearing: You shouldn't have any problems. Subtitles are available for all dialogue in the game, and when the action starts getting crazy on screen, no amount of hearing will help. However, one unusual omission was that there are no subtitles for the voiceovers that play during the credits. It's basically the voices of people from the aftermath in the city and not vital to enjoying the game itself, but an unusual omission nonetheless.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been gaming since the days when arcades were everywhere and the Atari 2600 was cutting edge. So, like... A while.

Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.

Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway
Brad Gallaway

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22 Comments on "Prototype Review"

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jaded22
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I’m not a snob nor idiot fan boy. I have played good games and I have rarely played great games. I play all genres, RPG, third person shooter, first person shooter, Fighting, Flight Sim etc. Devoting 9 hours to play through a game just to complete it sounds like a job. A 9-5 job. You don’t enjoy an 8 hour shift no one does. All games are diversions, awesome and enjoyable. A great game hits its stride when you actually get stress relief and therapeutic results while having a blast. I love this game. I have a job, wife and… Read more »
Alex
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Perhaps the likes of Gallaway and me have simply played more games than the players who are willing to give Prototype a whooping 9 out of 10. Really, I don’t want to sound like a snob who keeps her game collection a little silk-lined chest, but Prototype… Yeah, it’s not bad – it’s a bit of ‘craic’, as the people in whose country I live say. But then you play a classic, something from the Half life series, something out of Schafer’s hand like Psychonauts, even Assassin’s Creed II – and they’re somewhere Prototype doesn’t reach unless you really, really… Read more »
SirArmand
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Just finished the game last night… really took me by suprise..this game is actually quite good. yeah, graphic is so-so..but the game play for me more than make up for it. story line just as expected..but good enough. there is a lot of games which i bought in the past & couldnt even get to finish it becouse of somewhat disinterested in the middle…u know what i mean… but this game made me played until finish & comeback for more action.. i suggest to all to give it a try…maybe a bit boring at start…but when you get a hang… Read more »
Omer Altay
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I really liked the gameplay in Prototype and all the special effects, but the game’s story seemed like it was slapped together real quick, which bugged me. All of the game’s chat cutscenes with your sister only lasted 15 seconds and the game made no effort to really get the player ‘get’ into the story.

Zolos
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Indeed i was 🙂

Dale Weir
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I think he’s talking about the guy with the potty mouth.

Chi Kong Lui
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[quote=Zolos]”Games. Culture. Criticism”

You get away with 1 and 3 (stretching it), but certainly not with 2.[/quote] Are we not covering the culture of games in our reviews, blog posts, and podcast?

Zolos
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[quote]This is the worst website ive ever visited…. your reviews are so critical and your “critics” like some of the crappiest games ever and hate the good ones for some reason. this game is good, id like to see anyone here have the talent to make any game, go fuck yourselves.[/quote]
“Games. Culture. Criticism”

You get away with 1 and 3 (stretching it), but certainly not with 2.

Anonymous
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This is the worst website ive ever visited…. your reviews are so critical and your “critics” like some of the crappiest games ever and hate the good ones for some reason. this game is good, id like to see anyone here have the talent to make any game, go fuck yourselves.

Zolos
Guest

It seems to me that many people are just reading reviews (or just looking at scores) with the sole purpose of confirming their own opinions on the game.

Maybe you can gain an insight from people looking at games from a different angle than you. If you still don’t agree or see their point then at the end of the day it’s just two people having different opinions on a particular game.

Nothing more and nothing less.

Anonymous
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So inFAMOUS gets a 6.5 and Prototype gets a 6.0? I won’t even bother pointing out that there is only a .5 difference according to you. But maybe you should take down that quote of yours about inFAMOUS being infamous for launching before Prototype. It’s clear you jumped the gun with the inFAMOUS review.

Zylo
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Thank you Brad for delivering the hard truth about this game. To start off no I’m not a hater in fact I was first in line to buy prototype and was extremely disappointed. This is not to say I found it a bad game it just wasn’t up to par with gaming standards today. So don’t hate me when I say those of you who say he is too harsh are incompetent and are the reason games like this get by. The gaming market is only going down because people are settling for ok rather than Amazing. Yes Prototype is… Read more »
Crofto
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“This review was way off prototype was a great game. should be rated a 9 not a 6. Brad Gallaway should not be reviewing games.” Actually it proves exactly why Brad should be reviewing games, and not people like you who litter websites like GameSpot and Eurogamer with your inaccurate and novelty filled reviews. The way I see it a games reviewer needs to review a game based on overall quality and design – whether the game is worth buying is a secondary concern since most people with intelligent can decide if they want to buy a game or not… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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[quote=seluropnek]I’ve resisted posting this on here for a while, but I am so sick of people attacking game reviewers because their opinions are different from theirs. What is the point of a critic, if not to express his opinion? People who whine and complain about critics not “speaking for the masses” with regards to video games just make me embarrassed to play games. People like you are the reason why games are so widely associated with “lower” forms of entertainment. Grow up and learn to think critically. The world’s a big place and if everyone agreed it would be a… Read more »
seluropnek
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Sorry to keep going, but it’s not like the reviews most of the people rant about on here are even that BAD. People obsess over the number (which is above average) but then attack the reviewer because the review isn’t GLOWING. It’s not enough to like a major video game, you have to love it or you’re an idiot who has no business reviewing video games.

seluropnek
Guest
I’ve resisted posting this on here for a while, but I am so sick of people attacking game reviewers because their opinions are different from theirs. What is the point of a critic, if not to express his opinion? People who whine and complain about critics not “speaking for the masses” with regards to video games just make me embarrassed to play games. People like you are the reason why games are so widely associated with “lower” forms of entertainment. Grow up and learn to think critically. The world’s a big place and if everyone agreed it would be a… Read more »
Aaron Reynolds
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I don’t think this review was that bad at all. I played Prototype and had been waiting for it for a year or so, and found a game that was fun, yet had it’s fair share of flaws. Many of those flaws were addressed here, though some I’m sure don’t agree with a few of the issues discussed, like the amount of enemies attempting to destroy you for the second half of the game creating a less than fun experience. I run an admittantly lame site with my friends that we’re working on. I reviewed Prototype and gave it an… Read more »
Dave
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The individual surfaces in the game or models look like last gen quality, but there are about a jillion of them on the screen at once.

As for the story, I kind of liked the empty/unexplained spots. It lets me fill in some details with my own imagination.

Anonymous
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[quote=Anonymous]This review was way off prototype was a great game. should be rated a 9 not a 6. Brad Gallaway should not be reviewing games.[/quote]

Brad Gallaway should not be reviewing games he even said Quote – I was starting to burn out of gaming altogether, and I definitely needed something action-oriented to get the juices flowing again-

I dont belive he should be reviewing games when he doesnt even enjoy gaming with so many great game out there. The review of prototype was way off and he review games without even finishing them.

Anonymous
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This review was way off prototype was a great game. should be rated a 9 not a 6. Brad Gallaway should not be reviewing games.

same Anonymous
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re-post *sigh* i think you complain a bit too much, i mean the story does seem interesting and it cant be that bad oh well i think i already made you feel unconfortable in the infamous review, so ill just say that maybe your being a little harsh with both games also if you think about all the shit that happens at the same time in the game, the graphics arent that bad, and i think the game has less glitches in general compared to infamous, which is funny since infamous is overall the most polished, but whatever im missing… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
*sigh* i think you complain a bit too much, i mean the story does seem uninteresting but it can be that bad oh well i think i already made you feel unconfortable in the infamous, so ill just say that maybe your being a little harsh with both games also in you think about all the shit that happens at the same time in the game the graphics arent that bad, and i think the game has less glitches in general compared to infamous, which is funny since infamous is overall the most polished, but whatever im missing the point… Read more »
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