Review: Prototype

The gleeful excess of Prototype
By MITCH KRPATA  |  June 30, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Prototype

Prototype | For Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC | Rated M for Mature | Developed by Radical Entertainment | Published by Activision
Prototype is so awesome, it broke my PlayStation 3. All right, the game probably wasn't the cause, but my PS3 did melt down while I was playing, and Prototype is as likely a culprit as anything. This game is so ridiculous, so over-the-top, that my poor console may have simply decided, "No más."

Prototype has a lot in common with the recent PlayStation 3 exclusive inFamous. Both are open-world superhero games set in bustling cities. Both are about a terrorist strike on the populace by a shadowy fifth column. And both star gloomy, rasping protagonists who can scale tall buildings with ease, and who boast an array of upgradable powers.

Yet the two games feel completely different. inFamous seemed to expect you to invest in the inner struggles of its electrified hero. Prototype is in on the joke. Alex Mercer is a former employee of an ethically dubious bio-medical firm who finds himself afflicted with strange new powers and, you will not be surprised to learn, amnesia. To unravel the twisted drama that led to his transformation, Alex must devour its key players, in order to absorb their memories. Yes, you read that right.

Also like inFamous, Prototype combines platforming and combat in equal measure. Movement is a blast, lightning-quick and intuitive. Ascending isn't about looking for handholds — Alex can simply run up the side of the Empire State Building, before leaping off and gliding several blocks. As for the battles, there's so much going on, it's a wonder you can keep track. Alex takes on tanks, helicopters, foot soldiers, mutants, and drones — all at the same time. He's a shapeshifter, so his arms can bludgeon, slice, whip, and pummel his foes into a crimson goo. He can commandeer tanks and helicopters, fire guns, and, just for good measure, execute pro-wrestling-style elbow drops off the roofs of buildings. Just when you think you've seen it all, here comes something else.

The kitchen-sink approach is not a good model for games. Better to do one thing exceedingly well than to whiff on several. But Prototype's commitment to every facet of its gameplay pays dividends. I groaned, early on, when it appeared that the game would include a stealth element. The last thing you want to do in an action game is creep around.

I needn't have feared. Yes, Alex hides from pursuing forces by consuming pedestrians and assuming their form, but that's not all. He can infiltrate military bases, not by sneaking in the back door but by eating the commander and then walking right in. He also learns new abilities by consuming specialists. Need to know how to fly a helicopter? Munch on a pilot. Oh yeah, and later on, you can buy the ability to accuse other people of being the Prototype so the military will start attacking them. (Bet you didn't see that one coming.) This is either one of the dumbest games ever made or one of the most brilliant. I'm leaning toward the latter.

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