First exemplar

For once, Yahtzee disappointed me. His review of Prototype said nearly bugger all about the game, and while it was entertaining enough, as are all of his reviews, I feel he put way too much emphasis on comparing it to inFamous to give any sort of idea of what the game was all about. This must be addressed...

Imagine that GTA IV, Assassin's Creed and Mirror's Edge had a threesome (OK, now I gave myself the image of Altair and Niko Belic going at it with Faith at the same time. Hot, a bit, perhaps, but hilarious, a lot, definitely. The joke potential is out there and there's a pecan nut cookie with the name of who can make the best joke out of this situation on it) from which a beautiful child was born, and then that child got stuck on one nasty acid trip.

So storywise Alan Mercer (that's you, the player) woke up at his own autopsy, and rather than reassure the coroners who hadn't started to cut into him, decided to murder them brutally with appendages that he wasn't supposed to have, as much to his surprise as to ours (if we had no previous knowledge of what the game was all about, that is). So he sees what he did, and someone shoots him for it (fair enough, I'd say), except that doesn't kill him and he resumes his fledgeling rampage. This does alright to set the tone for the game: Everyone hates you, kill everyone.

Well, that's a bit simplistic, really. There's the harmless, innocent civillians, who can do absolutely nothing to hurt you and exist only to kill for a disguise, kill for a tidbit of the story, kill for extra health or kill for the heck of it. There's no penalty for killing civilians, and no law enforcement, at least not the way you'd expect from GTA, where you can't accidentally shoot someone's head off without a whole police station worth of police forces chasing after you. In this game, killing everyone is alright provided you don't let the militray see you do it. Come thi think of it, the Marines (because that's the branch of the military they're going to pick on in this game) are really only concerned about your superpowers, so I suppose they'd be cool with you picking up one of their spare M-16 and going postal on the rest of the populace. I'll ahve to try that.

Onto gameplay then. As I said, the game plays much like GTA, except that instead of driving about, you parkour around. Parkour, in spite of being the definition given of Alan's free running on the manual, isn't really what he does, as I am yet to met any traceur who can leap like Alan, although that's probably a techinicality, run up a vertical wall for as long as there's a wall to run along, although that's probably because most traceurs aren't strong enough to dig their feet into brick walls with each step like Alan, or, for some reason not entirely given neither in game nor in the manual, glide, although that's probably because traceurs are real people without fictional mutant afflictions. Much like GTA, you run around Manhattan (they recreated Manhattan for the game, and quite well, I thought) looking for the lazy bum who sits about and tells you what you need to do. See, this is why I liked Scarface (the game, not the movie, although the movie is good too, just not called upon for this matter). In Scarface, you alone knew what to do next, you didn't need some NPC to tell you what to do next. I mean, you're given control of a character, the character is supposed to somehow embody you in the game. What does your character say about you if he/she can't think for themselves as far as deciding what the next story mission is going to be? So anyway, you run errands like a good little boy with some wierd mutation that allows you to perform awesome feats of strength and agility and twist your body into weapons of bludgeoning, slicing, ripping and whipping (for the S&M crowd, I suppose) and in between there are sidemissions that pop up and sit there until you can be bothered to do them (or don't that's alright). Sometimes (and I mean "in some games") these missions are fun and rewarding and look like they have a purpose and a place in the setting of the game (again, Scarface had you do drug runs, protecting your empire and shylocking, all well within Tony Montana's character and trade). Prototype has you seeing how many zombies (they're not called zombies, but ever since Fallout 3 started calling its zombis "Ghouls" I decided every sort of Zombie should be properly called zombie instead of whatever their creator called it, and if you're not happy, I demand that you refer to my opinions, as I have created them, as "Commandments". So there) or Mrines you can kill in a specific way within a time limit. There remind me of GTA II and III's Kill Frenzies, and are alright enough. Then there's the War Missions, where you join either the Zombies or the Marines and kill the other faction before everyone else in yoour faction snuffs it, and this seems aright as well, although a bit strange, as neither faction actually likes you or goes one iota out of their way to stop themselves from killing you as soon as they kno eho you are. And then there's the races. Why, oh why races? Yahtzee said this, and the races have absolutely no place in this game. Really, if you were to find yourself hunted by Marines and Zombies, with no memory whatsoever of anything and suffering from some disease that gave you superpowers as well as driving you insane with the memories of those you killed, would you set up races or yourself against the clock around some rooftops? I wouldn't either. And Gliding? Those are fun, but I feel they have no place either. I suppose that's where this game should not have taken so much after Mom (that's Faith, from Mirros's Edge, if you couldn't figure it out for yourself).

Combat is where this game realy shines. There's something for everybody: Hack and slash fun makes up most fo the combat, with fluid attacks from your claws/blades/hammers/whips/fists (yes, you can just duke it out in a regular fist fight with super strength, but half the fun goes away, if you do), but there's a rather bland shooter component with auto aim (at least for the 360 version) and only one weapon at a time which you discard as soon as you run out of ammo (again, Faith's colours shining through) and, of course, you can get your hands (if you can find them) on a military vehicle and blast about in it. As this isn't GTA, there's only a handful of things to drive: so far I've found an APC, with homing missiles and a heavy machinegun, a Tank, with a main turret and a machine gun, a transport helicopter, with rockets and a machine gun and a redition of the AH-64 Apache anti-tank helicopter, with tracking all-purpose missiles, rockets and, surprise, a machine gun (go figure). It should be said that usually fliying in these games is a nightmare, as the controls aren't made for flight simulation, and this is hardly any exception, although nowere as nightmarish as, say, Operation Flashpoint, in the late 90's, and even less of a nightmare than in GTA IV. However, once you get down and dirty with melee, combos are a bit dodgy, and the whole thing is button mashingly repetitive and bland, at times, nothing like, say, Samurai Warriors and it's like. Still, there's a wide enough array of things to do with your enhanced mutant flesh in combat, but most of them are a bit ungainly to be done often.

Character progression is always nice, and here, it's a bit of a hybrid. Some evolutions you get as part of the story, and others you buy with experience (which Prototpe calls EP, but as Microsoft hasn't tried to copyright the abreviation XP, I suppose it might as well have used it like everyone else). Yhis is the only reason to do most of the side quests, except those which have you breach a military base and eat up personnel with skills, which you acquire and cannot be had any other way. But even this isn't such a good reason to do the side quests. More on this in a while.

Innovation for this game comes in the Consume gimmick. For any reason, at any time, you can consume people. If you do, they vanish in a brutally violent cloud of groy brutality, your health gets replenished a bit and you can take on the form of whoever you just ate (so you are what you eat, in this game). This is useful to shake off pursuers when you behave badly in front of the Marines, but is also useful to infiltrate their bases, as they don't usually bother you at all for as long as you don't do superpowers, don't kill them and look like one of them, which allows you to do all the things you shouldn't while they're not watching under their own noses. At some foint, it also enables you to point at any Marine and yell "It's him", and the other Marines around (including automated turrets) will shoot the Marine you pointed at for you. You may then ask them who wrote "gullible" on the ceiling, and they'll all look up, even if they're outdoors. Well, you can't, but if there was an action for asking them who wrote "gullible" on the ceiling, they would look up.

Workarounds come in the form of exploiting the Hives (not, not the disease). You see, for some reason, every now and then, the zombies infest a building, and make it a zombie churning hive. Destrying the building, provides XP like crazy for doing hardly anything, really. Just wlak into a base, wreak some havok and the Marines, instead of just fending for themselves, then calling reinforcements, then upgrading reingorcements and so on, immediately call in the helicopters. An then, your day is made. If running about isn't your thing, save your XP until you can get the jump upgrades, the Whipfist power and the one that allows you to grab from a distaance. Now go into a Military base, bitchslap the Commander (or any other Marine) and wait for the helicopters. Then jump up, latch on to a helicopter, "skyjack" it (skyjacket is not a garment worn by pilots) and dispose of the other helicopters. Now unload your rockets into the Hives and let the XP roll. When you run out of ammo, take the helicopter back towards some Marines and hassle them until more helicopters come (i. e., in a heartbeat). Knowing this takes some of the fun out of the game, but the storyline compels me such... Oh, wait, no it doesn't.

Finally, the real nasty dealings. First, there's the useless collectionism. Spread around the city there are phantom fire looking things that are either hints or landmark collectibles. Hints are usually about as useful as "Press the jump button tpo jump", and landmark collectibles do bugger all, in game. Bad to the bone, if you ask me. Then, storywise - ok, hold on. The story is a convoluted mess of starting out knowing nothing and finding out that nowing nothing is probably the way to go. There are some fellows walking around that know stuff, and consuming them lets you know what parto of the storyline they know, and if you can be bothered to stop playing, then go into an unnavigateable menu to see who knew whom (remember the names won't have a face to put it to - because you ate it) and what did they know of the story, then you might be able to learn what the hell is going on in this strange, diesase ridden Manhattan - but, really, why should you care? This is probably where this acid junkie should have taken after one of the dads (Assassin's Creed had a neat story), which leads me to believe Altair was probably the only one - no, I won't do this. I suppose the story might be alright, but the game is enjoyable enough without it, and I don't see how it's going to make it any better, especially because the memories I've been getting are usually much too biased to be storytelling, or only barely relevant (or so it seems, but I haven't really been playng attention). Then, storywise, there came a moment, after a Boss fight where I lost all my powers. What the hell was that all about? So now, for a few story missions, I can't do most of the stuff that makes the game fun? And how would the game explain that I had lost all battle worth powers, but not the ability to absorb people, disguise, run up walls and glide? Major fault, Prototype...

In conclusion, however, this is pretty good. It's not revolutionary in any way, and seems to pick up on many other titles and fames (there's a persistent, undrlying Spider Man thme to the whole thing - young adult in New York jumping from rooftop to rooftop in disguise with figures of authority after him, they could have made a good Carnage game instead), but is well entertaining. So give it a whirl.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark has his last final ever in a few hours.

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