For next-gen systems, open world, sandbox games are becoming more common due to the processing power of the systems. Games like Grand Theft Auto IV, Infamous, and Fallout 3 have towered among the leagues as some of the best open world games to grace the market. Open-world games are all about big, lush eniviroments that urge to wow you at every turn, and are able to pump hours worth of content to keep you on your feet and your system on. Activision enters its latest entry into the sandbox universe with Prototype, Activision's latest sandbox game since Spiderman: Web of Shadows. Can Prototype be a contender to the likes of inFamous and Fallout 3?
You are Alex Mercer, a man with no recollection of his past, but has been infected with a virus that has been running rampant though Manhattan. The virus has the capabilities to infect an entire city within weeks, with the user being as close to a rampant zombies as you can be. But Mercer has gotten a different reaction to the virus, with the virus granting him superhuman powers beyond belief. Alex has the ability to run faster than cars, glide through the air, and even create weapons from his very own body. Alex's sole mission is to find out who let out the virus and make who ever made him this way pay, and he has many powers to complete his objectives with. Mercer is able to upgrade his power with evolution points or EP, through EP he can upgrade how fast he runs, how high he jumps, and how powerful his attacks are. Your powers are easily accessible by a simple press of a button to bring up your powers, using the right stick to select your powers, which range from your weapons, armor, vision, and disguise. Prototype's use of disguise is intuitive not by the way you stealth, but how you stealth: by consuming living beings. Consuming people is essiential to your well-being and your ways of getting into high-class areas. Consuming is a big part of Prototype and it's one of the goriest actions in a video game I've ever seen. When I say consume, you're actually consuming the person into you, using their own looks as a disguise for you. You can consume people to regain health and to gain information in Prototype's unique Web of Intrigue.
The Web of Intrigue is a web of connections between people connected with the virus and the incident 40 years ago, when you consume a key role in the Web, you'll get their memories of the virus at hand and their part in it. The Web is Prototype's way of telling the back-story of the past events leading up to present day, and will definitely give you reasons to roam the city of Manhattan. Manhattan has a lot of room for Alex to run through, and has a lot of reasons for you to cover every nook and cranny, with over 130 people in the Web and around 250 collectables to collect, Prototype will have you cranking hours to find everything in the City, including the side-missions that can land you EP bonuses. Side-Missions range from checkpoint racing to pinpoint gliding to how many infected you can kill with a tank! There are over 50 side-missions to keep you busy. At times I found flying around Manhattan was more fun than playing the actual story, which was surprisingly short. The main story, comprised of 31 missions, will only net you around 10 hours of gameplay, quite low compared to other sandbox games out on the market. What impressed me the most about Prototype was how much work was put into the city of Manhattan: the city from the get-go is showered with people and cars, it's one of the most busting cities I've ever seen in gaming, and it really shows when things start going for the worst. The infection can and will spread through massives amounts of Manhattan, and when it does, the city changes completely. The sky will become darker, crows will shower the sky, and the part of town will be in utter chaos with cars running into each other and pedestrians running for their lives from the infected.
But though Manhattan is a lively city, it does not mean it's a pretty one. It seems clear Activision wanted the game to run as smooth as possible at all times, so while the city is buzzing and alive, the graphics have taken a considerable nosedive. They're not terrible graphics, but they are very plain: NPCs start to mesh the same outfits, buildings start to look the same, and the whole city needs another fresh coat of polish. Prototype moreso wanted their free roam to be the starlight of the game, and it definitely shows. I can't tell you how many times I found myself wanting to run into infected territory instead of complete the main missions, with the Web of Intrigue being mostly available to complete in Free Roam, you'll almost learn more about the story finding the connections than playing the story itself. Running through the city is a very easy and effortless task, the Right Trigger being your Sprint/All-Running-Purpose button, with the A button being your jump: Prototype allows you to roam Manhattan with only two buttons, and it's fantastic. Plus free-roaming is just absolutely addicting, being able to run up buildings and glide from each one is a blast. The combat in the game is simplistic, but has some depth to it. Most combos will only be with two buttons, but the one part that will have you ripping hair out is the game's Lock-On system. By pressing the Left Trigger, you can lock-on to anyone in the game, using the Right Stick to flick towards different targets. The one gleaming problem is the fact that it can target anyone. You could be fighting a tank and while trying to lock onto it, you'd end up locking towards a civilian on his merry way, or military personnel that means a little bit less than the Tank at that moment. It's caused more than a couple deaths on my character when I'm spending more time trying to find the enemy I want to lock on to then actually fighting the guy who's trying to blow me to smithereens.
As Prototype seems to be a happy-go-lucky-kill-everything-you-meet kind of game, the difficulty takes more left turns than a NASCAR driver. Some missions you can run through without having a national disorder, to having just a stupid amount of the military coming after you. And the one command in the game that makes the game a good twenty times harder are the Air Strikes. Air Strikes are when two-three choppers come directly for you and only you until you either destroy them or evade them: neither are easy. It's not fun trying to hijack a tank only to realize that 14 heat-seeking missiles are directly aimed towards your face. You can be stuck on a mission for a good half-hour just re-healing yourself because the missiles and tanks take so much of your health that you have to run away to try and continue. It's certainly a gamebreaker at times.
Prototype allows you to play as a man with extraordinary abilities to uncover his past. And no doubt did they make a character with extraordinary abilities. The story didn't grasp me as much as it should of, and I found myself just running around and doing whatever because it was more fun than anything else in the game. With this, Prototype falls into the category of an actual sandbox: all fun, no purpose.
Diesel's Report Card
+ Free-Roaming is Fantastic
+ Web of Intrigue is intriguing
+ Plenty of Side-Missions and Collectables
+ Booming City
- Mediocre Graphics
- Forgettable & Short Story
- Difficulty Spikes
- Lock On is Terrible