Earlier in the week I took a trip down to Activision to get some hands-on time with Radical Entertainment’s Prototype. In addition to seeing an exclusive never-before-seen level, which you can see in the movie below, I got the chance to play with a fully upgraded Alex Mercer and cause some free-running destruction around New York City. June 9th cannot come soon enough.
The mission in this video occurs early in the game and sends Alex to GenTek in search of a mysterious woman that might have some information about Alex’s past. After a quick parkour-infused trip through the streets of New York, we arrived at GenTek. We’re not going to show you exactly how you get inside and the cutscene that follows, but suffice to say, you end up back on the street with some infected baddies to fight… but why just fight them? Why not lead them to another GenTek installation and bring the fight to them?
After the mission, we had Activision cheat us up some upgrades (note: ALL of them) and load up the city for some open-world destruction. Keep reading for my hands-on account of some of the awesome things you’ll be able to do in Prototype.
One of the first things I noticed about Prototype is the amount of characters on screen at the same time. There are going to be a lot of civilians in your way. Thankfully, you won’t really be penalized for chopping your way through them. Your mission performance will track the number of civilian kills and you’ll want to avoid doing so for maximum reward, but it isn’t necessary. Unlike inFAMOUS, this isn’t a game where you play it good or evil because of a morals system built into the game. You can play as you like.
You’ll control a memory-less Alex as he attempts to discover his past. His past is being filled, in part, by absorbing “Web of Intrigue” characters. After absorbing one, you’ll view a quick sequence of thoughts and memories from that character. By stringing these together, you’ll piece together the truth behind your origin and the forces behind your creation.
The controls are fluid and simple to use. Holding a trigger button puts Alex Mercer into “parkour” mode, increasing his speed and enables free-running. Instead of manually jumping over each car, you can just run at one, while holding the trigger. You’ll cleanly mantle the vehicle and keep going. There are a few tricks that can be pulled off manually: speed boosts & gliding, which grants limited flight as you descend, but free-running is delightfully easy.
Combat is also a breeze as Alex will lock-on to enemies for certain attacks and most of his moves can hit multiple enemies at once. At the beginning, you’ll be punching and kicking, but after you get some upgrades under your belt, you’ll be elbow-dropping tanks and skating on pedestrians. If you haven’t seen the awesome “Ten Reasons to Buy Prototype” trailer, watch it here:
You’ll be able to pick up guns, but you’ll mostly want to stick to your powers unless you absolutely need a rocket or grenade launcher for the situation at hand. Alex will get claws, power fists, hammer fists (think Hulk), a glaive-like blade, a shield, and a whip-claw that can latch onto enemies and vehicles from afar. You’ll also be able to take the form of any person you absorb, which will play heavily into the mission structure. Need to gain access to a secure military base? Find and absorb the base’s commanding officer.
Switching between Alex’s forms can be down by holding a shoulder button and hitting a specific direction on the d-pad, corresponding to his powers, which are arranged in a wheel. Switching takes a little bit of time so you won’t be able to chain things together as quickly as Ryu in Ninja Gaiden, but luckily, you can run up a near by wall or jump and switch while out of harms way. My favorite attack is the power fists. Charging up an attack and hitting a person turns them into a bloody mist.
You’ll be taking a lot of damage as soldiers pour bullets into you and infected monsters slap you around, but absorbing people or infected will act as a nice medkit. This will let you stay alive while a three-way battle rages on the streets of New York: Alex Mercer vs. Military vs. Infected.
It isn’t all bloody rainbows, however. There were a few things that stood out and took me out of my trance of destruction. The AI of the civilians and soldiers is a bit lacking. For example, if you absorb a soldier and leap off of a roof, landing next to three soldiers, it doesn’t raise their suspicions. I mean, aren’t they supposed to be on the look out for any super-human activity? This doesn’t mesh well with the admittedly cool ability to claim another soldier is Alex, resulting in the “patsy” being shot to death by nearby soldiers. If they are so jumpy that they’ll execute somebody based on “that’s him,” shouldn’t they react to a dude falling twenty feet and walking away?
On the civilian side, most of the time they will rightfully run in fear from the destruction, but there were several moments where I found myself moving from an area of total chaos to calm where soldiers, speeding cars, and destruction were still present. It’s a bit jarring. It’s nice that there are helpless civvies to cut in half, but I still felt like they should probably be running away from me.
I had one issue with the controls and that’s the way the targeting system works, especially while jumping into the air. It doesn’t seem to prioritize as well as it could. Sure, it’ll target a helicopter or tank before anything else, but I found myself locking-on to harmless pedestrians a bit too frequently. It’s a minor inconvenience, though, as lock-on targeting isn’t required for everything.
Prototype is a ridiculous amount of fun. If you are having a bad day this game is a giant stress reliever potentially making Prototype the feel-good game of the year. Prototype will make you smile for all the wrong reasons and is something to play in a room full of friends. It’s packed with “did you just see that?” action and the story seems interesting enough to give the campaign some staying power. Thankfully, the city will remain playable after the game is finished if you want to finish all the side missions, snag all the collectibles, and max out your character. If that wasn’t enough, there will be a ‘New Game+’ mode that will let you restart the campaign while retaining your upgrades.
Prototype ships on June 9th for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.