Giant Bomb Review

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Prototype Review

4
  • X360
  • PS3

The range of absurdly destructive combat powers stops just short of the kitchen sink in this wild open-world superhero game from Radical Entertainment.


Stepping to a walking supervirus is ill-advised.
Radical Entertainment surprised a lot of people on the last generation of consoles with The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, an over-the-top open-world take on Marvel's green-skinned beast that let you do things like hurl city buses directly into helicopters. Now Radical is back on modern hardware with Prototype, which is basically the same game as Ultimate Destruction with an original (still comic book-like) storyline and a startling number of new combat abilities bolted onto the existing framework. Radical almost went too far with its kitchen-sink approach to combat design, but the gameplay here is satisfying and broad enough that you can have plenty of fun with it even without mastering the nuances of every last combo and attack.

You can soar over the Manhattan skyline and hoist tanks over your head in this game, so it's tempting to stick Prototype in the "superhero" category. But there's really nothing heroic about the protagonist Alex Mercer. He's patient zero at the center of a horrendous, engineered viral outbreak that's turned most of New York City into a quarantined hellhole. Post-infection, every district is occupied by hideous monsters or the military trying to quell them--and unfortunately, both sides are out for your head. Luckily, the infection has turned you into a one-man bio-army capable of bashing, slashing, and demolishing your way through just about any obstacle.

Mercer is on a quest to find out who inflicted this curse on him--and then exact vengeance--and he doesn't care who he hurts in the process. No shades of moral gray here; you'll unavoidably (almost gleefully) massacre hundreds of civilians and military personnel with your newfound powers as you follow the trail of evidence and approach the slightly convoluted truth of what brought about all this madness. The storyline is a little disjointed and the cutscenes a bit clumsy--and both of them intrude on the action more frequently than I would have liked--but they do a decent enough job of moving you from mission to mission, where the game's real value is.

The number of combat moves you can pull off feels almost endless.
Name a type of gameplay, and odds are Prototype has it covered. There's combo-based melee. Lock-on shooting. Vehicular combat. Urban free-running. Disguises and stealth. You'd expect a genetic superman like Mercer to be able to do just about anything, but the game almost--almost--collapses under the sheer volume of options available to you during combat. The upgrades screen includes dozens of abilities spread across numerous pages, and not only did I get nowhere close to unlocking them all during my first playthrough, but I didn't even think to use all of the powers and moves I did get access to. The number of button combinations you'd need to remember and bust out on the fly to utilize every last ability is too overwhelming for them all to be useful concurrently while you're in the thick of the game's often dizzying action.

The good news is that you don't really need to use every last ability to enjoy Prototype's outrageous combat, since the game does a good job of making the various styles of gameplay blend together so you can easily pull off a lot of cool, flashy combos. You might glide over a battalion of troops, ground-slam into their midst, grab a dropped rocket launcher, leap a hundred feet into the air, and fire it multiple times at a tank before hitting the ground, then grabbing the burning husk of that tank over your head and flinging it into a group of soldiers. Or you could run straight up the face of a skyscraper, jump kick a helicopter, then remove the pilots from their seats and take control of the chopper to lay waste to a group of mutated monsters before hitting the ground and unleashing your tentacle-like mutant appendages on the survivors in a series of whirling combos. The game doesn't nail any one area of the combat as well as it could have if the developer had focused the game's scope more tightly, but it's hard not to be impressed by the sheer range and audacity of things Mercer can do, and the wild scenarios these powers can create.

That's all once you get past the slightly daunting learning curve, that is--and even then, the game will throw you a curveball here and there. Prepare to be frustrated from time to time when the mission difficulty amps up to insane levels and you feel it's you against the entire world all of a sudden. There are ways to mitigate the onslaught, things like consuming enemies for health and unleashing last-ditch "devastator" moves, but from time to time you'll likely feel like you missed grabbing an essential weapon or making a critical jump because of some overly long animation or camera-angle quirk. In general, you'll need to master all the ins and outs of the high-flying movement and various survival techniques to get through the tougher missions without throwing your controller at a wall. You might end up doing that anyway, but when you do get good at juggling all your abilities, the combat is quite rewarding and hard to resist coming back to even when it gets a little abusive.

The game's version of New York is sparse but functional.
Outside Prototype's 30 story missions, there's a good number of side activities to engage in that will net you experience points to buy more upgrades with. The optional missions mostly focus on arbitrary challenges like "kill a bunch of people with this specific power in three minutes" or "use your glide powers to land in the middle of this target." In other words, they don't tie into the storyline or add any color to the game world, though you do have a good couple hundred people who make up the "web of intrigue" that you can track down. By killing them and absorbing their memories, you can fill in brief video vignettes that fill in small bits of the events that led up to the current outbreak. I wish Radical had put more effort into making the game's version of New York feel livelier; the streets are full of screaming citizens and traffic jams ripe for destruction at the appropriate moments, but otherwise there's not a lot of personality hiding between the game's generic-looking skyscrapers.

Prototype is really all about player empowerment, ramping up the number and intensity of larger-than-life superhero abilities consistently as you go. If you've ever harbored fantasies about soaring over skyscrapers and going on destructive urban rampages involving wantonly thrown automobiles--and who among us hasn't, really--odds are you'll find a lot to like about this game.
67 Comments
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Edited by Bubahula

finally a review :D ! sounds pretty badass

Posted by McBonJon

Good review Brad.

Posted by choffy21

Hmm... looks like I'll buy a copy at work tomorrow.

Posted by ZombieHunterOG

sweet

Posted by RedSox8933

I'm rather torn whether to buy this or Ghostbusters. Maybe I'll wait for the review for that to decide. I'm glad that you gave it a good score, Brad. I was a little worried that this game was going to fall flat.

Posted by DECA555

ill stick to infamous thanks. 

Posted by AllanIceman

I got to play inFamous first. 

Posted by TheKidNixon

Brad, great review. Extra kudos for not mentioning Infamous, and letting this game stand on its own outside of just the "comparison" review.

Posted by Ferginator4k

Definetely checking this out, Loved Hulk heaps.

Posted by Jeffsekai

Awesome!

Posted by ocdog45

I read a few reviews out there and the emphasied on the story so much. that was the last thing i wanted to hear. thanks for focuing on the actual game. ps3 owners are screwed though. have to wait until they fix that glitch for me to play it.

Posted by Brad
@ocdog45: I tested both versions and had no problems starting up the PS3 version (which was indistinguishable from the 360 one) so it seems the bug is hit or miss. I'd expect a patch to come out ASAP for that issue.
Staff
Posted by Masamune

To me, this is the definition of a rental game. But I bet it'll be an awesome couple of days!

Good review!

Posted by Wildfire570

Good job on the review Brad! I'm definately thinking about purchasing this game because Alex Mercer seems like a real anti-hero.

Posted by TwoOneFive

not quite as good as infamous, okay, thanks Brad!

Posted by chililili
@TheKidNixon said:
" Brad, great review. Extra kudos for not mentioning Infamous, and letting this game stand on its own outside of just the "comparison" review. "
Yeah but I actually wanted a comparison as I was seeing which of the two to buy, I htink it iwll be infamous as I heard a lot more positive vibe from everyone about the game
Posted by TheKidNixon
@chililili I can understand that; if I had a PS3, I'd definitely be interested in Prototype myself. I love the art style and the Sly-style smooth controls. I was just more concerned that Prototype was doomed to be the game that wasn't Infamous (and vice versa) and it was nice to see a review that didn't dwell on the ongoing sameness of the two titles.

Posted by Stephen_Von_Cloud

Much props for not mentioning Infamous Brad.  Damn if that isn't the most tired and irritating thing at this point.  Let the game be its own thing and judge it on its own merits.

Good review!

Posted by Crono

I still can't resist this game, I must rent it at least some point in the near future.  Thanks for the review, the game sounds awesome.

Posted by Nadril

I've been playing it a bit, it's pretty fun although I agree the learning curve (mostly with the controls) is huge at times.

One of the things that really helped me was switching the target to "toggle" instead of hold, that way it's a lot easier to shuffle through targets.

Posted by SenatorSpacer

I'm totally buying this game, I think this game would sell itself if you guys make a video review :D

Posted by unclejohn0525

I really wanna try it out. Watched my cousin playing it today.

Posted by Trilogy

Awesome, I'll definitely have to pick this one up.

Posted by Salusurd

Great review Brad

I'm defiantly gonna pick this one up.

Posted by KimFidler

Thanks Brad!  I actually have a sealed copy sitting on my desk but I didn't really want to open it until you guys threw up the review.  Really wish you could have said more about it on this weeks Bombcast but this is enough to convince me that I need to play this.

Posted by Jedted

Thanks for posting the review Brad!  Sounds like this game has everything i liked about Spidey: WoS but with a deeper story, deffinatly gonna pick this up sometime once i get my 360 back.

Posted by thehuntsmen5434

Great review, but after playing Hulk Ultimate Destruction a couple of times, and literally just beating Infamous an hour before I played this. I found nothing appealing about this game at all.  Though you really liked Infamous, so maybe I'll give this game another shot and let my high from Infamous settle down.

Posted by Omerta19

I agree with the review this game is Fun and all.. But I think you left out one detail of the game that is bothering me...  And that is the graphics.  The Graphics are pretty much Original Xbox Graphics.. Perhaps This is running on the Ultimate Destruction engine?  Idk  The game is not pretty..   But it is pretty fun.. I give it a 4 out of 5.. and the lack of that one star would be for the horrendous graphics....

Posted by imayellowfellow

interesting, maybe ill give it a rent

Posted by fugie7

im still not sure about this game, ill rent it before i think of buying it.

Posted by Zereta

Gosh... Should I buy this or 3200 Microsoft Points for Battlefield 1943 and Fallout DLC?

Edited by Death_Burnout

I demand a QL! When possible.

Posted by theMcNasty

Meh.  This game didn't deliver from what I hear.

Posted by Enyeez

more video reviews please

Posted by killdave

I'm not sure I can be arsed with another game like this. After playing infamous for a few days I'm all burned out.

Ah well, back to 24/7 crackdown :p

Posted by Death_Unicorn

idk, I'm still not sold. Nice review, though.

Posted by ObsideonDarman

Nice Review Brad, Can't wait for Tomorrow, I live in the UK so it comes out here Tomorrow - the 12th

Posted by ObsideonDarman
@theMcNasty: Have you played it yet? if you haven't then shut up
Posted by ahoodedfigure

If someone would have asked me to bet on which was going to be better, Infamous or Prototype, I would have said Prototype.  Now I'm not so sure.

Also, I know not everyone cares, but for me it seems strange that there's zero consequences for killing bystanders.  One of the designers for GTA talked about everything having potential consequences, like if you run over a civilian you might get the cops after you, you might cause panic which gums up the streets, that sort of thing.  At least it has that.  For all of those people posturing about GTA's violence, they probably won't even notice Prototype because of its fantasy/science fiction themes but it seems way more nihilistic and brutal.

Posted by Kohe321

Awesome review! I am getting this!

Posted by Subject2Change

Still on the fence and I believe you loving inFAMOUS and I admit I was addicted to it as well will ruin or change my perspective when playing this. Will wait for a price drop or sale or something and then pick up a copy, sounds good and while inFAMOUS is different than Prototype they do have their similarities. O wells guess its for the best wouldn't mind saving some cash for a bit :p

Posted by MMaRsu

Hey guys, can anyone tell me how to unleash a devestator attack?

Thanks :)

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor

Wow.  It sounds like Brad breaks a lot of controllers in his reviews.  He probably needs to take a class at the Remedial hand-eye coordination Camp.

Posted by ververdan0226

Great review Brad.

One thing though, how are the graphics? I heard from a friend that they were pretty lackluster, but the game still looks hella fun. Can't wait to pick it up.

Posted by CarlZehTard

I have to say i would give the game 5 stars, but then again that because this is just a game for me, fack that the graphics aint that good, the gameplay is top notch, exactly as i like it.
But Superb review, you nailed everything about it basicly.

Top dollah!

Posted by RHCPfan24

Sweet, I am actually glad this game didn't turn out mind-blowingly amazing because I have a bunch of other games that I want to play as well.  This might be a rental. I never do that but it would be fun.

Posted by Brad
@MMaRsu: You have to buy them from the upgrades menu before you can use them, so you'll find out how to activate them when you get 'em. The game is unnecessarily confusing about that, since you can buy the critical mass ability so early in the game but don't get any devastators till way later.
Staff
Posted by KinjiroSSD

Sounds cool but after playing like 20hrs of infamous (2 complete run-throughs, shards and everything) I'm done with open world games for now. Once it drops later in the year, I'll buy it.

Posted by JoshS
@Brad: Not really way later. You can get one within the first 20min of the game. You just have to buy the right upgrades for it to show up on the menu.
Posted by bingbangboom

I just played it for a few and I am really disappointed with the visuals. After GTAIV and other open world games, I really wonder what they did during the delay. There are way too many clones in the street and people in the vehicles are like badly textured mannequins. I have enjoyed their other Hulk and Simpson games but this is a game that is almost 2 years too old. I even enjoyed the movement in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows better. Really don't see how this stacks against Infamous.

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