Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
It’s hard to find a fresh concept now a day’s in video games. True, you can rehash Halo until the Spartans come home, but every now and then there is a need for some degree of innovation to come our way. The need for something that is new is always a constant in video games. With that, something that is actually playable to begin with needs to be made too.
While games like Dark Void and Brutal Legend are still far off at this point, a game like Prototype has, at the very least, been created with the hopes of starting something fresh for the summer. The premise is simple; you’re a man named Alex Mercer who, stricken with amnesia, attempts to piece together what has happened to him, while New York becomes under martial law thanks in part to a biological outbreak that is turning people into monsters. Alex himself is afflicted with this, having an arsenal of weapons and techniques that would make Superman blush.
While the premise is somewhat novel, the execution is horrific. The game is essentially a sandbox style action game, where Alex can go anywhere and do pretty much anything he likes, he can jump onto buildings, glide in the air, turn his hands into weapons, and absorb people to steal their energy or take their likeness to hide from the military. He can also use weapons for a short amount of time and steal tanks when necessary, just for some extra oomph and wow factor. All of these moves basically makes Alex the super soldier from hell, since he can pretty much just overpower almost all opposition, be it humans or mutated enemies.
But the overpowered hero is not the biggest problem. If anything, it makes the game playable, because everything else is so monotonous and boring. The main missions are decent, but the sidequests, which range from obstacle courses to killing X amount of people in ten seconds for a gold medal, become so time consuming and boring that you just want to skip them and go through the main quest. The problem though is finishing these side missions’ gets you experience points, which you use to get abilities to become the super soldier you were designed to be. The game almost locks you into doing boring things, similar to Assassins creed, just to continue the story.
Another major problem is the story is much jumbled. The cutscenes try to depict Alex as a sympathetic, enigmatic character, but he comes off as a buffoon because it’s likely twenty minutes earlier he ran over a bunch of civilians in a tank, or sliced some guy in half. Also to get the majority of the story, you need to absorb special people and pop up every now and then on your map at seemingly random, which unlocks the story as you go. It’s a very poor way to find out what the hell is going on through the memories of the character, and even then these memories are very jumbled and still don’t give the whole story.
“Prototype” does look fairly well, or rather, Alex looks fairly well. Sadly, everything else in the game is very bland. The world is bland, the people in the street are bland, the cars are bland, and the enemies are bland. It’s like the color gray invaded New York, and anyone who lives here knows that the city is a lively, bustling place where there is something going on ALL THE TIME. All you see here is pedestrians on the street, walking somewhere. That’s it.
Sound though is also fairly bland. Music wise its ok, but it only comes up during missions or cut scenes. Sound effects are also mediocre at best, and the voice acting is competent, but forgettable. It’s kind of sad to see such an average job given to these aspects of the game, because the combat is so good you can forgive most of it.
The developers of the game, Radical Entertainment, have essentially recycled their previous game, “Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction” for a majority of the play style. The games combat is fluid and intuitive, but the camera is really piss poor and the environment is so bland it’s kind of sad that they didn’t focus on that as much as they did the combat. The entire game feels like a rush job to some degree, not exactly incomplete, but if given a few more months of development, it would be at the very least more lively. As it stands as a sandbox game, it’s something that’s left to be desired. In the end though, the attempts for some originality fall flat, which is a bigger disappointment overall.