Crackdown meets Biohazard……..sorta

June 15, 2009 1 By Radix

So generally the first thing I look at in a new game is, how much like an older game is it.  Immediately Prototype struck me as a Crackdown/Devil May Cry/Biohazard/Mirrors Edge rip-off, but boy was I mistaken.  It’s not too often that I am completely blown away by a game, but this was one that did exactly that.

So short version of the story goes, you play as Alex Mercer.  The game begins 16 days after a military virus (original huh?) is unleashed in Penn Square on Manhattan Island.  You have all your powers which randomly shift throughout the beginning scenes to give you a bit of a sneak peak at what is to come.  The street is littered with zombie like creatures called Infected, and some big nasty guys called Hunters.  So you hack and slash your way through the opening bit until you realise, this game was written/produced/directed by Quiten Tarintino.  After seeing all your cool powers, you are ripped back in time to the beginning of the outbreak.  Much like the beginning of Shadowrun, you start off not knowing who you are, why you are, and wth is going on with these mutations your body is going through……..

For the remainder of the game you will bounce back and forth from present time, where you talk to a masked soldier who is asking you all kinds of questions about things that happened over the last 16 days, and the past where you actually unfold the story.

First off, the gameplay is amazing.  You have multiple powers to chose from, each with its own strength and weakness against the NPC’s in the world.  There are basically 2 things you fight.  The Infected, and the Military.  The military wants you dead for some reason, and the infected want you dead for some reason as well.  I played through it on PC and the controls seemed to fit well and were easy to handle.  It uses the standard FPS WASD mouse+keyboard bit.  Once you get into the aerial maneuvers it gets a bit tricky, but after about 30 mins or so it starts to feel more comfortable.

There are 5 “realms” or power that you can hotkey from.  Much like the newer Shadowrun, you get a weapon, a defensive stance, your disguise, and an extra power that is really only helpful every once in a while.  In the game pressing R will bring up a circular menu that you then use the mouse to scroll around to pick your primary powers.  These can be changed at anytime by pressing R again.  When you bring up your powers list, the game goes into a sort of bullet-time so you have a second or two to make your decision.  Time will slowly speed up to normal if you leave the button depressed for to long and you will get owned.  Another cool feature is the targeting system.  You can press TAB once while looking in the direction of the target you want and hope the game selects it for you, or you can hold it down and pan across the screen to select the one you want.  This comes in handy later on.

I’m not going to list all the crap that you can get cause this would turn into a novel, but your powers are acquired over time and by gaining EP or Evolution Points.  Every time you kill something you will gain these.  The harder the NPC the more you will receive.  As you progress through the game, upgrades to your powers will also be unlocked.  A lot of the standard stuff like more health, faster regen, etc.  Some of these upgrades are unlocked by infiltrating military bases and consuming (cool looking deal where the virus shoots out of you and merges a target with yourself) certain targets.  Most of this has to be kept on the downlow or the guards will be alerted and rape your face (Assassins Creed ring a bell?).

Ok, so along with your normal attacks (combo’d by using button combinations) you also have Devistating attacks.  These can only be used if your heath bar is over a certain amount and it will drain a portion of it to initiate the attack.  Like everything else, these are trained and can be updated to arial versions, etc.  These attacks also have a charge time with them so trying to snake one out while being beaten on by a mob of infected probably isnt a good idea, UNLESS, you are in Adrenalie Surge.  Adrenaline Surge happens when you are about to die.  For a short amount of time you get one free devistating attack, whichever one you want.  If you dont use an attack before your surge wears off, or there are too many to pull it off safely, run, disguise and hope for the best.   Basically, if you need to do a sh*t ton of damage quick, this is one of the moves to do it with.  Most of these attacks will clear a large radius to give you some room to work with.

On the left of the screen if your hud essentially.  It shows your disguise, and the threat level associated with it.  You can only have one disguise at a time, so if you need to swap, you have to consume whatever it is you want ot look like.  Its always handy to have a soldier outfit ready to rock in case you need to get into a base.  If you dont have one, its easy enough to stealth consume a straggler.

Threat is your position in the world.  This will determine if the military is hostile with you or not.  If the eye on the bottom is closed, you’re golden, if its yellow, the military around you are suspicious, and if its red, well……you wont be too worried cause there will be tons of people shooting at you and calling in strike teams to take you out.  Threat is lost over time while you are just being a good citizen minding your own business and not pissing the military off.  The minimap is fairly straight forward.  The arrow indicates which direction you are pointing and the icons show the different challanges that are near to and what level of completion, if any, you have achieved.

The mini games are alot like the achievements in Crackdown.  You walk up to a particular one, activate the light pillar and start.  There are 6-7 different types as well.  Off the top of my head I remember:

Movement: Follow waypoints from point A to point B as fast as possible

Gliding: Glide Alex into a bullseye, closer to the center, the more EP gained

Faction fighting: Take the side of the infected or military to fight off the other faction

Combat: Specify’s a power  or weapon that you must use to kill stuff with

Arty: Blow up as much stuff as you can as fast as you can with tanks and APC’s

The movement controls are great.  There are really no bounds as to what you can or can’t do.  Alex is able to run up walls, air dash, glide, jump massive distances, and incorporate attacks into it all the while.  While you cannot “fly” you can do extremely long glides by air dashing as you start losing hangtime, then glide again.  Air Dash is a skill that has to be bought with EP, but doesnt cost much and is fairly important to move around the map quickly.  While in the air, you can also attack and board helicopters.  If jumping at one, (and with the proper skill) you can latch onto a chopper and hijack it (GTA style though, rip open the door and throw the pilot out).  For exploring, helicopters are the way to go.

There is also the Web of Intrigue.  This is formed by important people that you consume.  Alex holds the memories of everyone consumed and it starts to paint the picture of what is really going on.  On the mini map you will see a read head appear.  This is a target of intrigue.  Consume them all to complete the Web.  Each one has a quick memory cut scene that will flash images pertaining to that persons actions.  These can be skipped and watched later in the menu.  Your end stage objectives will also be stored in here with its respective video.  This really plays a big part in the story line since there is so much going on, it helps to be able to go back and look at who was involved and how.

Ok, so the game rocks, yeah, but its not without its issues.  While these will not apply to the console world, there is a very interesting “bug” with sound cards that have very high bit rates.  Prototype’s sound WILL NOT WORK PROPERLY unless you have your stream rate set to 24,000KHz.  Anything more will put you into Alvin and the Chipmunks mode.  Also, alot of people are complaining about errors and lockups while playing the are associated with USB devices.  Activision has yet to come out and say what it actually is and when the will have it fixed, but its recommended that you remove as many HID compliant devices as possible, basically just leaving your mouse and keyboard.  Again, console versions most likely will not see this.

All in all, this is the best game I have played this year.  I was a bit skeptical at first, but really, this game kicks ass.  Theres way to much stuff that would ruin the story to add in here but I reckon you get the jist of it.

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