I will be honest with you; I have no idea why I decided to pick up Prototype again. I did not enjoy my first three or so hours I had with it for a free rental when it first hit shelves. Perhaps deep down, I wanted to play it just for hate’s sake, a reminder to myself that this game was terrible. Maybe I wanted to get the thoughts of this out of my head, since its sequel has sparked some interest for me. Whatever the reason, I must reiterate that this a broken game, a game that feels less like an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 game, and more like something for the Xbox or PS2, if I wish to be extremely nice to it.
And yet, despite that, it is kind of fun. Whenever I entered its virtual world, I had a bit of a smile on my face as I watched Alex Mercer run around the Big Apple, carving enemies in two. Jumping around New York hunting for orbs or running up a skyscraper never fails to lose that feeling of excitement. This must be how Tony Stark felt when he flew in the suit for the first time as Iron Man.
And if it is not the way you get around, it has to be the powers that make this game so fun. Slicing, decapitating, and bludgeoning the military never stopped being fun. Even as they brought out their big guns, a little strategy began to form in my mind as to how to accumulate a boatload of experience to spend on two or three powers and become even more powerful. If there is one thing Prototype nails, it is the powers and bestowing the thought into your mind that you are a one-man killing machine that can handle anything that comes your way.
The story, for what it’s worth, does start out strong. It begins with Alex recapping the events that led to a New York devastated by a nasty virus, and the events that unfold are very cool, in a comic book conspiracy way. The seizure-like Web of Intrigue that gradually unfolds with each target you consume adds layers to an already intriguing plot.
Like a bowl of ice cream accidentally left out in the sun for too long, what starts out a strong game ends up devolving into a melted puddle of what it could have been, as if the developers simply said “what the heck” and shipped it off.
Combat begins to slowly lose its luster, mostly due to the fact that enemies are extremely vicious on the normal difficulty. The military will just fire a seemingly endless supply of missiles at you, while the Infected do nothing but rush you seemingly right out of nowhere. They can break your combos while simultaneously getting you into this endless loop of attacks. You are left with watching Alex clawed to death like a cat ripping on the curtains.
Using your powers ends up being more trouble than it is worth because the power wheel is clunky and only slows down for the briefest of seconds before throwing you right back into the action; shame to whoever thought that was a bright idea. Surprisingly, things get worse because of the massive amount of powers the game has to offer you. Trying to remember each combo is only slightly less confusing than trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in two hours.
It also does not help that this game is beyond ugly. I am talking worse than Saints Row 2 here; the facial animations have the uncanny valley effect turned up to the max. NPCs are recycled, environments look shamelessly copy pasted, and it looks all around terrible. Alex in particular has a particular freaky air about him; in normal cut scenes, he is bad. In one of the prerendered cut scenes when he is done with a flashback, he has this stare and smile that makes him look like he’s about two seconds from jumping out of the screen and ripping your face off.
At the end of it all, Prototype is the game equivalent of a Zack Snyder film. A cool concept with some muddy execution, but the highlights eventually shines their way through the muck. Also like a Snyder film, it is a game that will either make you wonder why not every sandbox game can be this fun, or question some higher power and make you wonder what you did to deserve this.
Then again, the game is called Prototype for a reason.
3 out of 5