Sierra Spring Event - Prototype

by: Chuck -
More On: Prototype
Prototype is a game that's been generating a ton of positive since its big coming out party at GDC earlier this year.  Outside of knowing Prototype was a third person, open world game where you had cool mutant powers I didn't know a lot about the game going into the event so I went in with fresh eyes.  After seeing the demo though I think Prototype has the potential to be one of the must have games of 2008 and could be the start of another solid franchise.

In Prototype you play Alex Mercer who wakes up with mysterious powers and no memory and while this is a bit heavy on the game cliche side it does work out OK.  It turns out the the powers are the result of being infected with a new virus that's slowly working it's way through New York.  Now that you're up you have to figure out how to use your powers and the conspiracy behind them while dodging the others that are infected and the military.

The game is yet another open world game with emergent gameplay and all that it implies.  I admit to being a bit burned out on open world games after the THQ Gamer's day but Prototype has so little in common with every other open world game that I don't think the standard applies here.  Sure you have almost all of New York to explore and destroy but what separates this game from the rest is that you aren't confined to the ground.  Sure you could leap from building to building in Crackdown, but in Prototype you can run up walls, double jump off buildings, and hijack helicopters.  It doesn't sounds like a lot but this vertical aspect adds a lot to the game as it opens up new ways to get around in the environment and it means that there are a ton of new places to hide.

The second major difference between Prototype and the rest of the games out there is the quality and number of powers you can get during the game.  Sure Alec can pickup standard weapons like every other game but he's also got the ability to turn his body into a series of different weapons.  You can form bladed weapons when you want to take out single enemies, tentacles (no not that kind) when taking out groups, and you can even form shields when you need to add a little defense into the mix.  There's a wide variety of powers and super power ups (larger versions of the powers that let you take out groups of enemies) that you'll be able to earn during the game.  The powers are accessed through a radial wheel and I was a bit surprised to see that the wheel took up the entire screen and was it jam packed with abilities, almost to the point that it might be difficult to find the one you are looking for in a pinch.

You get your powers (and disguises) by absorbing people and items in the world.  Want to command a squad of military troops?  Sneak up behind them and absorb their commander.  Want to evade the military by blending in with the civilian populace?  Absorb a bystander in an alleyway.  The disguises are crucial as they help you blend in and get around the city without drawing attention to yourself.  It's a bit like GTA's Wanted system except that instead of having to escape from the authorities you just have to blend in.

There are two ways to absorb people, either by brute force (which creates a fun rag doll effect of the absorbee being brought into your body) or by a stealth absorption which is a little harder but can be crucial when trying to sneak into a military installation (which is where a lot of the goodies are).  What's fun about the absorptions is that you can use them to set the two sides against each other.  In one example we saw the developers disguise themselves as a human and then draw some infected towards the military which caused the two sides to start fighting each other leaving a base with minimal defenses.  Then it was just a matter of impersonating one of the commanding officers and into the base they went.  Another fun trick you can play is absorbing someone and then pointing them out as Mercer to the rest of the military.  We saw the developers do this a few times and it's really satisfying to see the enemies turn on each other thinking that one of their own is a bad guy while you walk right on by. 

What really impressed me about Prototype was all of the different ways you could play the game and how good the powers looked.  The folks at Radical are allowing you to control the pacing of the game so you can either go nuts and destroy everything or just explore the city and try to solve the mysteries around the infection.  The only real downer about the game is the lack of any kind of multiplayer component to the game.  There seems like there could have been some opportunity for people to join forces (even literally given the absorption skills) for co-op action but it looks like it's not meant to be.  Hopefully they can add this later in a DLC patch as it's really the only thing missing from the game.

What's Works
 - Looks and plays great
 - GTA with superpowers good
 - New twists on open world gameplay
 - Excellent pacing

What's Doesn't
 - Lots of powers to manage
 - Plenty of open world competition this year
 - Lack of any kind of multiplayer
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