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Thursday, 18 June 2009


And why not?

You are Alex Mercer, and you're really angry. And practically indestructible. And in possession of devastating superpowers, such as life-draining tendrils, limb blades and the ability to hoof it vertically up a skyscraper whilst holding a tank, only to then lob it at a helicopter and nosedive fifty storeys into the pavement.

And why is Alex pissed off? Because he woke up in a morgue as two scientists were about to start his autopsy. Whoops. Oh, and the military want to kill him because his body is now host to an experimental virus. Ooof!

Told/played in flashback, PROTOTYPE's story might be pretty standard superhero fare but it's at least presented in an interesting way. 18 days from the start of the game, Alex is stood on a rooftop chatting to a masked soldier, who's evidently one of Alex's only allies. Nice bit of mystery. Until his identity's revealed during a misson before it's revealed in a cut scene. Clumsy!

Playing as Alex, you can also consume anyone in the game, and absorb their memories/abilities (eg absorb a tank driver and you can then drive tanks) and regain health, which is a nice touch. Plus, littered around the city are 'Web of Intrigue' targets. These are people who hold the key to the secret of the virus in their memories, and as you eat them up you start finding out more about it and your involvement in it. These memories are presented in a snazzy mixed-media format, and look very nice. Although, once again, the Web isn't particularly useful as a story or plot device since, during the normal missions, you start to find out everything anyway. Clumsy x 2!

All the action takes place in that mainstay of comics and video games: New York! Although this is both a remarkably small version of NY, and an ugly one. If you took this version of New York home and said "Parents, meet my new wife" you'd get dropped from their will for having such extremely low standards that you married the equivalent of an Eastern European peasant woman.

So, sure, like it's protagonist, PROTOTYPE has its problems. But also like it's protagonist, it doesn't give a shit. That, my friends, is why the game is AMAZING.

Alex is hard. Really bastard hard. And his only real goal is to find who did this to him and to kill them. This means you can sprint through the streets, hacking and pummeling enemies with complete impunity. Everyone's out to get you so why should you show any pity? PROTOTYPE plays an awful lot like HULK: ULTIMATE DSTRUCTION crossed with the Venom bits from ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. Alex has the rage and sheer power of the big green goon, mixed with the symbiote abilities and sociapathic tendencies of the latter.

And I don't think the Venom angle is just my opinion - DC comics have recently started publishing a short run of a PROTOTYPE comic. Could it be they saw how popular Spider-Man's nemesis is and finally got the chance to market their own version? I reckon so.

Anyway. There aren't many games out there that allow you to do everything you see in the intro movie (which also doubles as the game's trailer) and for that alone it gets two thumbs up. It gets an extra thumb for being completely and utterly mental. It loses a thumb for occasional crap game design and f-word generating levels of frustration. It gets half a thumb back for letting you replay the game with all the powers you just finished it with, making it even more insane. Overall score: Top banana!

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