Republished with permission of gamepeople.co.uk game reviews. Prototype Rating: M Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows Developer: Radical Entertainment
Telling the story of Alex Mercer, Prototype caught my eye with its repulsive anti-hero and gratuitous violence. But instead of experiencing a gritty and fascinating super-hero tale that had something meaningful to say, the game concentrated on physical violence and an excess of super powers. I found brief moments of inspiration when absorbing other people’s memories and the faintest of emotional responses as well. But in all other areas Prototype lacked any true heart to carry off its story and left me feeling frustrated and bored by its approach.
As disturbing as it might sound, the chance to experience a darker character, with demons and issues that turn him into a brutal killer is something I can appreciate. Anti-heroes are usually far more interesting studies than a generic space marine, all-American hero. I personally find the most compelling stories are ones that follow an amoral character as he spirals down to humanity’s darkest depths.
But I found Prototype disappointing in almost every way and I was always suspicious that the set-up of Alex Mercer was done purely to fuel the gory violence. I felt quite disturbed when my character swung claw-like hands that dismembered my enemies and any innocent bystanders. There was no obvious reason why Alex should act like this in the beginning and although the motive became clear later, it still didn’t do enough to patch over the opening half of the game.
But instead of experiencing a gritty and fascinating super-hero tale that had something meaningful to say, the game concentrated on physical violence and an excess of super powers.
Once Alex’s motivations had been fully explained the story began to pique my interest. I was sure the plot would take me on journey that might have points to make about viral genetics or about the enemy within ourselves. Sadly I was disappointed that any potential message was swamped by clumsy Hollywood dialogue and the disturbing violence.
I found the narrative confusing as well. The story-based cutscenes established a certain character in my mind from the beginning. Yet the missions and the dialogue were sometimes at odds with my assumptions for Alex and the world. I felt as if two different main characters were in the game and that my actions bore no consequence on the story or on the world surrounding it.
Having my perspective shifted from this problem, even for just a short moment, was a welcome relief and Prototype offered up one intriguing concept – Absorption. This was a technique that enabled the reading of other people’s minds through utterly destroying them. Although I found the violent nature of this feature repulsive it provided a unique personal view of the story.
Having my perspective shifted from this problem, even for just a short moment, was a welcome relief and Prototype offered up one intriguing concept – Absorption.
Through absorbing some mission critical characters I could progress the main story. What I found more fascinating was the optional ‘web of intrigue’ targets that filled in the backstory. These characters offered a far more personal account of what was currently going on than the main game did. It was here that the only real positive emotion of the game surfaced for me.
Throughout these moments Alex was always referred to as ‘it’ rather than ‘he’. This is part of a larger plot point later on but in these moments I actually began to feel sympathy for the character. This little glimmer of emotional connection didn’t last long but it showed me that deep in the dark heart of this game there was the potential for something more.
There were also fragments of the main plot which I longed for the game to expand on more.
There were also fragments of the main plot which I longed for the game to expand on more. The meaning of the Blacklight virus and how becoming more than human resulted in a loss of humanity was never used to its fullest potential. Nearly every comic-book hero tale acts as an allegory for modern issues. That’s why they appeal so much to me and many others. But the recent raft of games based on a general superheroes theme seems to have missed this completely.
I know that Prototype will appeal to many as a Crackdown clone, but I found its potential, just like InFamous, to be squandered. The main game became buried with its fixation on too many confusing superpowers and gratuitous gore. I find dark stories and amoral characters incredibly interesting but with the minimum of emotional connection to the main character Prototype felt hollow and boring.
With such gruesome violence on display I was hoping for a gritty and realistic story to balance it out. But with nothing save for a few fleeting moments of potential, the only emotions Prototype elicited from me were frustration and disappointment. This was a disposable and empty experience that eventually became just as meaningless as the characters portrayed in the game.
Prototype received a rating of Mature from the ESRB for blood and gore, intense violence, and strong language.