In yet another stunning example of how they thrive at repeating themselves and making it actually good, Activision has released their latest creation Prototype onto the world, and the world has responded well. Being an essentially reskinned version of Spiderman 2, Prototype is one part platformer, one part fighter, and one part stealth game (although I won’t be the last to admit that the word stealth has massive air quotes).
Prototype puts you in the leather jacket of Alex Mercer, an employee of GENTEK, your typical faceless evil corporation. When Alex is experimented on (weather it was voluntary or not is unclear) by GENTEK, he wakes up in a morgue with superhuman abilities and a massive case of amnesia. But of course, like a good protagonist he sets out immediately to find out who infected him with the same virus that’s rapidly spreading through the city, and why it’s affected him so differently than everyone else.
Although I don’t want to give any spoilers, I will say that the training sequence in the beginning of the game is rather innovative, as it takes place, chronologically, at the end of the game. Then it sends you back to the morgue where you begin your life as public enemy number one, codenamed “Zeus” by the militant group that is hunting you. The remainder of the game is played as more of a flashback than an actual sequence, as the periodic cut scenes show.
The game play is, as I’ve said, not exactly new. It’s nearly an exact replica of Spiderman 2 (and possibly Spiderman 3, although I’ve never played the latter) without all the web slinging action and spandex tights. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I did have trouble seeing it as a completely different game. The two games even take place in the same place (Manhattan Island in New York City), and while the idea of running around New York City with ungodly superpowers and a problem with authority is a wonderful prospect, I’ve done it before. In 2004. When Spiderman 2 came out.
Prototype, however, does have some differences that make it stand out. For one, Alex Mercer could kick Peter Parker’s ass all over the sidewalk, and then some. Plus, he’s got a badass leather jacket. The game also allows you to buy or otherwise acquire new and radically different ways of attacking. For example, you can eviscerate a man with your claws, or you can change to your whip arm and take down a distant helicopter with ease. There are five different modes to choose from, and each has its own upgrades, advantages, and disadvantages. For example you can use your Blade arm to tear through a tank in a matter of seconds, but it won’t do you much good against a Hunter. (And yes, all these weapons are attached to your arm.)
Another big feature of the game is the use of disguises to get to where you want to go. For example you can’t get into that military base in front of you without the proper clearance. Solution? Find and “Consume” the commanding officer on site. You’ll then be able to become the officer and, provided no one saw you change into him, you can get into the base without raising suspicion. You can have dozens of different disguises, but there are always 2 basic choices: military or civilian. Neither of them helps you very much, as you have to get the exact right person in order to enter bases, but they can be useful if you’re being chased by 13 tanks down Main Street. Just pull into an alley where they can’t see you, become the prostitute you just consumed, and they’ll pass on by.
The other thing that was added to spice up game play (perhaps because Activision realizes that this is the exact same game they put out in 2004?) is the ability to pilot vehicles. In order to drive a tank, you need to find someone who knows how to drive one and consume him (as their mind becomes yours when you consume them). Viola! You know how to drive a tank! It’s an interesting idea, but perhaps a bit over required in the game. It’s a nice novelty and could possibly make for very interesting solutions to difficult problems, but when the game requires you to steal a tank every three missions, it gets a bit repetitive.
One thing I was very surprised about was how much is going on outside of the player’s field of view. After certain parts of the game, you’ll get a mini update about casualties etc., but there was one time when I was attacking an infected base (called a hive) and I noticed that the “Infected Casualties” Stat was through the roof. Over 900 deaths of infected citizens, and I guarantee I didn’t kill that many people. That means that the military and the infected were duking it out so much that they were able to amass almost 1,000 deaths in the five minutes or so it took me to eliminate the hive and rescue Princess Peach. (Sorry, Alex, but our princess is in another infested hellhole!)
One of the biggest issues I had with it though was how poorly it was ported. This game was clearly made with only console players in mind. At the final production time, some dude probably said “Hey, ya know what might be fun? Putting it out for PC too.” And so they did. The exact. Same. Game. They didn’t even bother taking out the “Press Start” screen! All they did was change it to the press enter screen. And in the cheats menu, you can only enter the typical console controller commands. I don’t need to type in L,R,L,R,U,D,U,D,A,B,X,Y, Start on my PC! That’s not how this works, Activision! You need to optimize!
All in all, despite the fact that it’s largely the same game they released in 2004, there’s still one thing that saves it: Spiderman 2 was awesome! And in reality, I don’t mind one bit that it’s been repeated again. I absolutely loved it then, and I love it even more now. Being able to wipe out large quantities of enemies with a single power is awesome. Despite the fact that some of its elements of game play are a little lax, it’s still a great game.