Saturday, 13 June 2009

I review prototype. Also I think it's my first review. A prototype review you could say. Ok, I'll stop.

You know what prototype is like?

It’s like going for a piss at a party only to find the floating turd of the last person who used the toilet, because it didn’t quite get flushed away.

Except maybe Prototype is worse because you don’t generally have to pay £40 to find someone else’s turd at a party. Unless it’s one of those kinds of parties. Then £40 is actually quite a bargain, I imagine.

You play Alex Mercer, charm less, boring amnesiac and there’s something about a virus and New York and monsters everywhere. I can’t really say the story is bad because there just doesn’t seem to be one.

The intro is all explosions, you kill a ton of people, there are zombies. Then you start the flashbacks. You escape from a sinister lab, named Gentek (which is a name Alun came up with when he was 10 years old for some sinister company in a story we were making up at the time: that’s how fucking generic this game is.)

Obviously things are more toned down in flashback town. You’re not all powerful, though still basically invincible. Everything is normal, so no zombies.

I wish it was like a tense foreshadowing to what was going on before. But any tension is sidelined by the gameplay and mission structures (we’ll get to the character flaws in a minute). Basically you just run from one location to another. Then everyone shoots at you with bullets which do nothing, because they’re presumably made of pasta, until you eventually decide to consume some random fuck and get some precious memories.

It genuinely doesn’t matter which asshole you consume, since I accidentally threw one of these military geniuses into the sea only for him to re spawn five seconds later in a much more isolated location, so he was even easier to consume.

Smashing stuff up is fun, but only just. The game feels a lot like the Spiderman games and suffers from the same rigidity in the environment. The game never feels real, not the buildings, population or anything. I mean I know it’s a game and most of your running is done vertically, but even so.

It’s just little things, like how the civilians react. You can leap from literally the highest point possible, landing with such force you leave a crater and unless you land within about 3 inches of the populace they just won’t notice, since apparently they’re all too busy walking down the street to nowhere at all. It is impossible to care about these people.

In some ways this is very effective. Since you’re supposed to be a near Godlike monster, your military codename is even Zeus, it makes sense that you’d give as much thought to snuffing out a life as you would scratching your face. I did spend most of my time just throwing members of the public as hard as possible into the nearest wall, or cutting them in half with giant claws and probably I was scratching my face at least a few times I did this.

But the game is too effective at making everything feel worthless because after a while I just stopped wanting to play it. Is that a burn on the game? Who would make a game you’re not supposed to want to play, other than fucking 2K obviously?

Alex Mercer is a fucking fruit of a character too. In some shots he looks almost like a prepubescent girl, despite the constant, ridiculously over the top scowl. Hopefully that’s some side effect of all his mutations.

He’s so wooden, as is literally every character in all the cutscenes, which in turn seem to be randomly stitched together from different moments in the game. In one, early on, I landed near my apartment building. I went inside, a bomb went off and I land on the street. I see a guy in a suit get into an APC and Alex says “HE’S THE ONE!” and so I have to chase him to indulge in Alex Mercer’s schizophrenic fantasies about eating random businessmen alive. I mean you don’t go into a newsagent to buy an ice cream, see they’re sold out and then attack (and absorb into your body) the first person you see assuming they bought the last one. Or maybe you do, what do I know?

Later some chick tells me she needs genetic samples from some buildings. Before I leave for the mission Mercer thoughtfully declares to her “whatever’s happening here…is only the beginning.”

Does he mean the beginning of some experiments? Because I think that’s what we’re working towards by collecting raw genetic material (which manifested itself as giant glowing yellow balls, incidentally.)

The missions themselves are spliced almost directly from the Spiderman games and most of them make no fucking sense whatsoever. For example: the military have these alarms that detect you if you get too close to them. So to protect your safehouse, which has no alarms within two blocks of it, you have to track down and find these immobile alarms for no reason whatsoever, compromising your cover and putting yourself in the line of fire. Which doesn’t matter since you’re fucking invincible.

I have a fucking ton of things I hated about this game, lots of little things about how you progress through missions and the obscene lack of detail. It all comes down to the fact the game isn’t at all polished, the missions are retarded, the characters aren’t characters and the fact it seems like it was put together by the children of Josef Fritzl.

But to end on a more positive note, the greatest strength of the game is that you can absorb anyone. The game was tenfold improved when you’re running up buildings and tearing people to shreds as a doughy old woman. See her throw cars into tanks. See her take down a helicopter with a flying kick. Joy is known.

[edit]

I did find a couple of redeeming features to this game, which sounds pretentious and I feel bad about that. As the infection gets worse the city deteriorates. You leap from building to building, transforming at will, gliding over huge brawls and flaming cars and all this chaos and it’s pretty atmospheric.

When you’re running through the city, helicopters gunning after you, everything exploding, it feels very fluid and engaging, and this is also good.

I also had fun sneaking around rooftops doing “stealth consumes” on various soldiers. Although stealth is a strong word since almost all the military guys in the game barely notice you doing anything weird, such as throwing a car across a street or leaping 500 feet in the air. You’re their number one target, they know who you are. But when they see a dude leap from a building and glide off down the street they don’t even bat an eyelid.

The random cut scenes continue however. One of your allies, later in the game, explains you need to inject this monster with these antibodies then consume it and it will help deal with this cancer thing you were infected with. Mercer replies “yeah…I’ve heard that before.” What the fuck. When has anyone ever heard that? “I need you to cure a mutant cancer by injecting a weirdo monster fuck with this magic goo I invented.”
Definitely it wasn’t whilst I was playing the game that Mercer heard this, and he’s an amnesiac, so if he heard it before I started playing he probably…doesn’t…remember.

You also get five seconds of emotion time with your sister where you both start apologising to each other and she’s all “you’re still my brother”. This is, conveniently, seconds before you’re supposed to give a shit about her – as she’s whisked away by some super beast. It’s just fucking lazy story telling, or like they’re ashamed of their inability to write convincing characters, so they just try to glaze over it. Every single cut scene features nonsense like this. I’m not saying that cut scenes make the game, obviously. It’s just how Prototype tells it story, and it does it incredibly badly.

Oh god and the tank missions. Anytime you have to take a character anywhere you always have to do it in a tank, even though it’s slow as fuck and blindingly boring.
And your passengers never say anything when you take to the pavement and ruin a couple hundred lives by killing some innocent sons and daughters.
One of your road buddies is a fucking doctor and he still doesn’t give a shit.
And the army? They must just find it fucking hilarious when you run them over and blow up their trucks since they never even think about asking you to pull over.

So a couple of neat ideas, but the game doesn’t do anything with them, and then it shovels shit in your face for 90% of the time. Great.

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