Not many games let you turn your arm into a long steel blade and cut people in half—top half going this-a-way, bottom half going that-a-way. Even fewer let you turn your hands into giant claws to cut off your victims’ legs, too. And as far as we know, not one has ever let you run diagonally up the side of building, skitter over a collapsing fire escape, and take a leaping vault off the roof as your hand—now a 50-yard whip—tags a hovering ’copter and reels you toward the cockpit to the horror of the doomed pilots. Such is the awesome power you’ll wield in Prototype, Activision’s apocalyptic and wildly entertaining third-person action-adventure.
Events begin grimly, as Alex Mercer wakes up in a morgue. He quickly discovers that he’s become a nearly indestructible shape-shifter capable of creating weapons out of his flesh and disguising himself as anyone he consumes, among other interesting abilities—such as making giant spikes pop out of the ground to skewer his enemies. So, when the amnesiac Mercer wanders topside into a plague-ridden Manhattan and finds himself pursued by crazed pedestrians, the military, and genetic mutants, he doesn’t hesitate to break out the cutlery.
Alex's Blade Arm is one of the most effective--and gruesome--weapons in Mercer's repertoire. No word, though, on whether or not you can take it on the plane.
Prototype’s plot is sabotaged by inconsequential characters and the “Web of Intrigue,” a video montage of your victims’ memories that cough up bits of backstory. Like its enormous but undifferentiated re-creation of Manhattan (which you can traverse by running straight up the walls of buildings and leaping rooftop to rooftop from Battery Park to Harlem), Prototype substitutes scale for detail. But that’s fine with us, because Prototype is all about combat and improvising new techniques in crowd control.
The game never lets you settle into a comfy routine. A quiet infiltration into a military base turns into bloodshed when a genetic detector sees through your disguise; that tank you hijacked won’t last long against rocket launchers wielded by ground forces; and that airstrike team will pursue you relentlessly through narrow streets and underpasses and over rooftops until you go down or they do. As the difficulty scales up, so do your powers, which can be upgraded by cashing in the “Evolve Points” you earn throughout missions (keyboard and mouse controls actually have an edge over gamepad controls, thanks to faster swaps between your expanding catalog of abilities).
Once you've latched on, you can bring it down, or hoist yourself up to it for a nasty hijack.
Through the 14 hours of single-player missions, Prototype’s Manhattan essentially becomes a canvas upon which to indulge and refine Mercer’s spectacular badassery. Smash tanks with a 40-story freefall, lash yourself toward a copter with a Whipfist, eat the pilots, and rain missiles on rampaging genetic mutants from the air. And if you’re overwhelmed, let ’er rip with one of your kick-ass Devastator attacks, like the Air Tendril, which pierces everything in the same zip code with your own intestines.
Yes, a less pulpy story and more detailed Manhattan would have been welcome, but what Prototype does well it does awesomely well. Even better, after you finish the story mode, Prototype lets you start a new game with all your accumulated powers intact—why save Manhattan, we thought, when we could rip a hole through it instead? With great power comes great irresponsibility.
Spectacular, bloody combat with plenty of room for replay. Beautifully animated parkour moves.
Uninspired missions and post-game challenges. The story is literally scattered all over the place.