When I first sat down to play [PROTOTYPE] I wasn't quite sure how I was going to feel about it. The trailers didn't really give me a good sense of the game style, only what the game was about - a man, Alex Mercer hunting someone down for turning him in to something. So, the story didn't come of as very unique. Any time I saw someone playing it, it came off as a general platformer: run, jump, attack, dodge, and shoot. Again, nothing stood out as stellar, yet there was a buzz about the game among players that led me to believe it was worth the money.
Yes and No.
You play as Alex Mercer, an apparent test subject who awakens in a morgue moments before being autopsied. Scared, confused and without any memory of who he is or how he got in a morgue, the player must seek out the information on the 5 "W's" but something is different - you're infected with a virus that allows you to alter your genetics at will.
It is pretty tough to try and explain in simple terms how the game both fails and succeeds and harder still, to explain that through it all, it's both somewhat unfulfilling but worthwhile fun.
The game isn't very original in any aspect and I feel that the large selling point was yet another game with an 'open' world. There are lots of 'open' games and each one strives to distance itself from the feeling of what it is - a platformer. I think that the new platformers are 'open': GTA, Spiderman, Fable, and Fuel. All with different elements but all also open. [PROTOTYPE] is a mix of those with exception of Fuel.
In many regards it actually feels like a darkly Spiderman, where Mercer is the anti-hero...the "Venom", neither good nor bad - just focused and singular. Those around him have no general value. There are however a few characters the Mercer seeks out, but it is always for his own ends. It also has a Fable feel, where good and evil are little more than a blurry mesh of perspective toward the overall goals of the game. Another similarity between Fable and [PROTOTYPE] is the manner in which abilities are obtained. The player doesn't advance in levels or have to repeat an action so many times before they are awarded a more advanced ability or version of it, but the player is encouraged to embark on side missions that not only reveal parts of Mercers missing memory leading him closer to discovering the truth about himself and the events taking place in the game, but gain experience points (called 'evolution points') to 'buy' abilities and buffs. This is done by consuming people - yes, you grab them and then basically eat them, and as a result can replenish your health, take their form and learn what they know - like how to fly a helicopter (it's very Matrix in that sense). Hooray for body snatchers.
The game setting is in NY, and yet looks nothing like NY. It is however bustling with people, police, cars, and soldiers who just assume shoot you dead if they don't like you. One of the games biggest downfalls is in the city folk. If the player run through a crowded street and pushes too many people or hurdles too many oncoming cars, they freak out and you have a pretty good chance of being hunted down until those after you lose sight of you. On the other hand if you pick up a car, walk through town and jump 15 stories you'll hear comments like "Wow, look at that!" and people go about their business. The AI seems to have a very skewed and limited scope of suspicious behaviors and it simply detracts from the game-play as a whole. I mean, it's allegedly NY, pushing, and running out in traffic aren't too uncommon; jumping over a small building.... that's much less common. None the less, players may roam around the city freely much like in GTA, but it becomes boring and uneventful (like GTA) quickly unless you take on the mini-missions. In the city travels players can run up walls indefinitely, jump ridiculously high, and glide for moderate distances - so the game takes on a feel of Spiderman.
Wall running and gliding is fun for a bit, and it is a fast way to travel unseen, but it can become cumbersome because players will spend just more time in vertical travel then horizontal. There are however, alternatives - like hijacking a tank or helicopter and just blowing stuff up for no good reason other than to rack up evolution points.
Where the game does itself justice is in the main feel - it plays much like Advent Rising mixed with F.E.A.R. It feels like Advent Rising in the way the story is told and F.E.A.R. in how the story unfolds. Actually, it's almost an identical story to that of F.E.A.R. - 30 years ago some tests were done on a woman.... yada yada yada. I could get into it to detail but why ruin the fun, right? Suffice to say, F.E.A.R. has a more "WTF" kind of climax.
Oh, and like F.E.A.R., the story is given to the players in 50 or so 10 second segments, but unlike F.E.A.R. it's told from several perspectives sporadically. It then becomes the player who has to go over the gathered story lines and connect the memories of other people to learn the whole truth. It's an aspect of the game I rather enjoyed (but I enjoy certain types of research anyway).
The graphics and physics engine for [PROTOTYPE] are about as expected. The models run as though there is a load in their pants, but... running isn't easy to model without at least someone thinking it looks a little off. I will say that the textures get a bit repetitive and the lighting seems a bit generic, however when there is action to be had it all happens so fast and fluidly that those details immediately leave your mind. On the plus side, at least the character faces don't look distorted and inhuman (unless they are inhuman and then that's kind of the point).
The game adds a few little nuances to project imminent power - such as when a Mercer falls 100 or so stories from the top of a building; he lands on his feet but utterly destroys the pavement beneath him sending a shock wave about 30 scale feet from the point of impact killing people and blowing up cars or other vehicles. When Mercer yokes someone up by their neck, they don't come up just a few inches, he's got them as far as he can reach and does so easily... Mercer appears as 'the quiet guy no one fucks with'. And, for a while these little details simply add to what fun can be had - ripping up A/C units, crushing skulls with your knee (one of several random 'consumption' actions), pulverizing the asphalt by dropping a thousand feet from the sky, throwing a person by their neck into a concrete slab... all of the things we dream of doing when we envision ourselves as some bad ass without being called 'psychotic asshole' for doing it. Everyone wins.
All in all, the game isn't bad. It's not the sleeper hit, or instant classic that some would have you believe, but it's proof that developers are coming around and pay attention to the games people remember and want to play. On the other hand the fact that the game mimics a handful or so of other titles over the span of 3 to 5 years also means that Activision may be out of original ideas.
Don't rush out and buy [PROTOTYPE] thinking that the title is a 'must have', it isn't, but buy it if you like the new era of open platformers which give a dark style of story and game play without treading into unfamiliar game territory.
On a scale of 1-5... mmmm.... 3.5 - It's 'alright'.