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 Game Review - Prototype

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Pirill

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PostSubject: Game Review - Prototype   Mon 03 Aug 2009, 2:30 am



PROTOTYPE


The way I structure my reviews is pretty straightforward: a stats section with general game related stuff, a (crappy) introduction, a story segment, a gameplay segment, a graphics segment and a fun factor segment. All those are supplemented by the game’s system requirements and some links I may have found useful (not to mention pretty pics that I might cannibalize from the net). So, sit back, and enjoy this GAME REVIEW!

Stats:


Developer: Radical Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Sci-Fi Action Adventure
Release Date: 12-Jun-2009
ESRB: Mature

Intro:



Hello, and welcome to my first review hopefully, in a series, in conjuncture with Olim. We hope to bring you some quality reviews, so that you can see if a game's worth buying or not. Our first choice, in the matter of reviews is Prototype, a fast paced Action-Adventure with a super powered hooded gentleman with murderous impulses as a main character. At first, Prototype seems like it has intense action and unique gameplay, well tied up with a solid story about corruption and cool monsters…but we wondered...does it live up to those claims?


Story:



You play as Alex Mercer, a man who wakes up at a morgue with no memory of your past, or how you got there. However you have many new (and deadly) powers, ready to be used at the blink of an eye. That’s pretty much the basic story for the game. As you play, you will find out your history, why you have those strange powers and how Manhattan has descended in a war between the military and the “Infected”. The way the game handles these memories is quite unique. While you discover the story by playing through the game’s missions, you can learn extra info as well as earn Evolution Points (EPs from now on) by consuming certain targets of importance, and absorbing their memories. Some of those memories aren’t quite as useful as others, but together they help fill up the gaps in the story. The consumed memories of individuals form the Web of Intrigue, a very interesting feature, but one that isn’t particularly useful in any way, as you’ll probably never have to recheck a memory and the web’s interface is slightly clunky. The story is mediocre to say the least, and since the game is oriented on gameplay, I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but I feel that a good story could have easily been done, and it would have added much to the game. The characters you’ll encounter aren’t really memorable, you only get to have brief interactions with them and the voice acting isn’t very good at all. In fact, Alex himself is quite unlikable…understandable, because of his quest for revenge. It looks like the developers tried to make Alex humane, but it’s hard to feel that way when all he does is murder and destroy. This makes me take some points away from what could have been a truly unique story.

Graphics:



The graphics of Prototype are good, but not remarkable. Explosions, shockwaves and combat all look great and Alex’ powers, devastator moves and transformations are a treat to watch, but the city leaves to be desired compared to other games which feature the New-York cityscape. There’s a large variety of buildings, but after a while, you start seeing familiar textures and buildings, which is quite disappointing but then again, you won’t get to admire each building, as you zip past them. An especially annoying thing is that ALL military bases, and ALL hives have just one model each, and one destroy animation. That was particularly annoying, as they are quite important parts of the game. Another thing that bugged me is the lack of diversity for pedestrians and vehicles. Sure, they tend to get overlooked or just crushed, but seeing a street full of taxi cabs really doesn’t help the feeling of immersion, and neither do the seemingly lifeless pedestrians…in fact, the infected are more lively that the normal civilians. I think one of the bigger problems, is the draw distance, collectibles are very hard to see, because the draw distance is so horribly low sometimes. This can be a real pain if you’re soaring above the city trying to collect the game’s collectible orbs…The Animations however are smooth, and it’s a real treat to see Alex navigate the city streets, rooftops, walls, pretty much everything in a smooth matter, as well as to see his incredible array of fighting moves, used against the game’s opposition. The graphics lose some points for the aforementioned problems, because you don’t really suffer much from them and there are no major graphic glitches as far as I’ve seen.

Gameplay:



The gameplay in Prototype is what you expect from an Action Adventure, and it’s the part of the game that makes it shine. Getting around the city is great fun, Alex, is able to sprint, jump, glide, or any combination of the above, in order to navigate his surroundings. Moving around can also be done with military vehicles, but, aside from the choppers, they’re usually too slow to traverse the map. Skills can be bought, improved and perfected, using EPs, which you can get for just about anything you do (read: mostly kill), but you can also improve weapon and vehicle skills by consuming military personnel (located in military bases) who possess the knowledge of using/driving the vehicle or weapon of interest. Speaking of skills, Alex has an incredible array of skills, from survival skills movement skills, to various deadly attack moves, and devastator moves. A small problem that comes naturally with a huge amount of moves is the way you activate them. There are so many key combinations, that you might not remember in the heat of battle, thus, many times you’ll have to resort to a few favorite moves. Also, at first it might seem like you have tons of EPs to spend, but soon, moves will cost increasingly large amounts of EPs, and you may have to resort to grinding. The game’s combat sections are intense, and can be approached in many ways: through brute force, using Alex’ plethora of moves, through stealth, by using the innovative consume and stealth consume moves to take the appearance of the enemy, using military vehicles, or even luring the opposing factions into fighting each other. A very underdeveloped feature of the game, are the military and infected control zones: blue and red circles on the map, representing areas where the military or infected have a strong hold. This is reflected in the enemies you can encounter in that area, as well as visually, through a change in the general tint of the game (reddish and blueish respectively). Some of those areas also have a hive or a military base in the center, which, if destroyed, reverts that control circle to a neutral zone. While this might be an interesting concept, it’s entirely pointless, with absolutely no benefit to be obtained (except EPs, or if you have to destroy them for missions). The hives, basically have absolutely no protection whatsoever, being only defended by hunters (the normal infected are usually too weak to do any real damage), but even those hunters can be thwarted with just about any vehicle. On the other hand, Military bases are ludicrously well protected, with up to four viral detectors, two mobile viral detectors, a chopper, tanks, and lots of soldiers. This is quite troublesome, but since you only need to consume one person to enter the base, you can just jump in, consume, then obliterate everything, however, again, it’s pretty much pointless, both Hives and Bases, being reconstructed quite fast. The opponents in Prototype also leave to be desired. There are just a handful of enemies: soldiers, 2 ground vehicles, 2 choppers and viral detector drones, are the military units, and infected, and hunters are all the infected units. There are four extra units (a super tank, supersoldiers, hydras (a sort of tentacles) and leader hunters) that only appear in missions, and I can’t possibly imagine why develop units only for a few missions. It’s incredibly dissapointing, thus your skirmishes with the factions are all pretty much the same, once you develop your strategy. The boss fights are intense, but sadly there are so few of them, and they’re not really too challenging. Some diversity could have really set this game apart, but it lacks badly in several areas.

Fun Factor:



Action Adventure games are all about the fun, and, while it’s fun to run your tank through the streets, plowing civilians or infected, or use your powers in interesting ways and to form deadly combos, it soon becomes dull, because the lack of enemies and lack of epicness, a lack which could have easily been avoided with a bit of extra effort. There are 250 landmark(200) and hint(50) collectible orbs scattered through the city with EP rewards, but I personally didn’t find the effort to find them all worth the reward, and only got those that popped up in my way. The city also has “events” that get unlocked as you play the game, they go from gliding into a target, to speed runs through certain areas, to “wars”, which consist of joining the infected or military and beating up the enemy forces, and even classic kill missions, which involve killing a certain amount of enemies in a certain time with a certain weapon, power or vehicle. Some of those events can become quite frustrating, and when skills start costing millions of EPs, the rewards from events can be quite small in comparison to other means of EP collecting. Also, these side missions seem to have absolutely no connection to the game’s story or anything else. They just exist as a minor diversion when you get bored with killing stuff, and want to kill stuff with restrictions. Also, since most of the missions rely on having your skills maxxed (or at least very much improved), the rewards can become obsolete. Overall I think a lot could have been done with the fun factor, to keep it alive for longer, but right now, I feel a point drop is in order.

Conclusion:


Prototype is a good game. Not necessarily a must-have game, but it shouldn’t be avoided either. Although it has it’s problems it still manages to be fun, and I’m thinking that with some work it could have been very much improved, especially the concept of the infected fighting the military in large epic skirmishes across town, maybe with a greater degree of variation on infected buildings or military bases. Instead, they watered down this concept, added a sloppy story, and sent it to the players. Luckily, the gameplay saves it despite its flaws and makes it a fun game, if not an epic one.

Score*:


Story: 2.5
Gameplay: 5
Graphics: 4
Fun Factor: 3.5
------------------------------
Overall: 3.75

*out of 5

System Requirements:


Windows®️ XP (with Service Pack 3) and DirectX®️ 9.0c or (Windows Vista®️ with Service Pack 2)
Video Card: 256 MB 3D hardware accelerator card required - 100% DirectX®️ 9.0c with Shader Model 3 support*
Processor: Pentium(R) Intel Core®️ 2 Duo 2.6 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ or better
RAM: 1 GB of RAM for Windows ®️ XP / 2 GB Windows ®️ Vista systems
Hard Drive Space: 8 GB of uncompressed hard disk space (Plus 500MB for swap file.)
Sound Card: DirectX 9.0 –compliant sound card
DVD-ROM: DVD-ROM
Peripheral:
100% Windows(R) XP/Vista - compatible mouse, keyboard and drivers
100% Windows(R) XP/Vista - compatible 4X DVD-ROM drive or better (600
K/sec sustained transfer rate) and drivers

*Supported Chipsets for Windows(R) XP and Vista
All NVIDIA®️ GeForce™️ 7800 256 MB and better chipsets
All ATI®️ Radeon™️ X1800 256 MB and better chipsets

Useful Links:


Prototype Website

Prototype on Gametrailers
Prototype on Gamespot

Prototype Game Guide (IGN)


*pics shamelessly taken from Gamespot.
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PostSubject: Review   Mon 03 Aug 2009, 2:32 am

Prototype is an open-world game, this is a game in which you can run around in a giant landscape instead of being thrown around by the storyline. This game revolves around the infection of Manhattan by a deadly virus turning people into.. zombies.. You play as “Alex Mercer”, a cool guy with cool clothes whose hooded head is always tilted slightly to the ground in a sad manner. It is hard to get sympathy for the main character, he seems asocial and self-centred due to the way he clothes and behaves. Despite this, the perspective is always in third person, it gives a nice overview in combat as well as it shows Alex’ crazy outfit and moves. Searching the internet, Prototype is classified as one of the best open-world games out there, but is this the case?

The story in this game is a bad excuse to actually do something. I will not say too much about what happens but it basically revolves around amnesia, zombies, genetically modified supersoldiers and the misuse of military powers to enforce nazi-like laws and actions. Of course our hero has to find out who he is and beat these bad guys in the process, weak. Then there is the world outside of the main plot. Short side missions are essential during “free roam”, as it is referred to, to ensure interest is not lost. The story is often not to be found in side missions, it mostly involves killing as much as you can, getting from one place to another as fast as you can or gliding between buildings to land on a precise spot. In the end, you are given a rating and if you weren’t doing a glide mission, they are going to be bad at first. Then arises the logical question: What’s the point? Very often there is little reward and NO story involved whatsoever. The result is that you will quickly skim through the easiest of the side missions so you can just about buy that new awesome ability or weapon.

The gameplay is superb, you start out with no weapons but your bare fists and your shape-shifting ability. Before you can shape-shift, you must first consume someone, consuming can be done with most living targets, some you have to weaken while others are permanently in a consumable state. When you have consumed one of those puny humans, you can take its form. This is handy to escape when you are being chased by the military, only when you are not seen though, if you shape-shift in plain sight they will not be fooled.
This brings me to another aspect of the game: stealth. Not being chased by the military all the time has its advantages: you can observe your objective and wait for the right moment to strike. The military can be found in most parts of the city, luckily regular marines will not recognize you as the bad guy and pay no attention to you. Then you have the special forces that roam the city, I will not say much about these guys, you can find that out yourself, I will only state here that they will recognize you as Alex Mercer and that they will shoot you on sight.. recognition. Finally there are viral detectors, hunters and supersoldiers, these will not only recognize you no matter what disguise you use, they will alarm the military (except for the hunters, those are just a pain to lose until you get some good moves). If you want to invade a military base stealthily you have to take out all viral detectors by shooting them down with a single hit (preferably from the inside of a heavily armed vehicle) or sabotaging them in which case you need a suitable disguise. You can then do some stuff I will not state here to infiltrate the base and get all sorts of cool weapon and armor upgrades inside.
The military is obviously in the city with a reason, they are there to fight the infected. This is very visible when you view the map, military bases and infected ‘hives’ are at the centre of a controlled area by the faction the building belongs to. Destroying a base or hive will effectively cripple control over the area by that faction. Besides gaining a fair amount of EP, there is not really any point in destroying the buildings. You can’t really take a side and let your faction take control of the city because after a little while the buildings simply plop back into their original place and things will be no different from before. Destroying military bases will cripple the strike teams the military sends after you for a short while, these strike teams are so easy to take down and the time they cannot be deployed is too short to be effective, it can be used to escape at most. Also, hives are protected badly, you can just skyjack a lonely helicopter on patrol and take out all hives on the map with your fancy, newly acquired weapons. Hunters running around can throw cars at you at most, which they won’t because they will be too busy with the ground troops attacking the hive. Military bases on the other hand are modern fortresses. You can still skyjack a helicopter and throw missiles at it but you will be shot down by the many tanks and rocket launchers faster than you can say “deoxy-ribonucleic acid”. Sure you can stealthily disable all viral detectors, stealth consume all personnel, enter and leave every single tank thus emptying them and then just walk inside but that takes soo long! It’s easier to throw cars at the base while evading rockets and bullets and even if you die five times you’ll still have it done faster. Seeing as the number of hives is in general equal to that of military bases, there is no real point in making one indestructible.
Now for the open-worldedness. The great thing about this game is that you can actually do anything you want, it is a good way to take a ‘rest’ after a hard day’s playing through the storyline. In Prototype can go absolutely loose and glide around the city, occasionally dropping down to engulf the peaceful neighbourhood directly below you in utter chaos with a ground-shattering area-attack, smashing simple pedestrians into the buildings some dozens of metres away in the process. The free-running system is great, it feels smooth and looks very natural, this makes it a very quick and fun way to get from A to B in no time. However, after a while you have been running around so often it gets boring, it still takes some precious time to get to your objective. Another disadvantage is that it takes virtually no effort to get from one building to another, most of the times you can glide onto another building and even if it is too high you can just stroll lazily up the building’s side. Perhaps the biggest complaint about the free-running is that there is no penalty for failing. Misjudged the distance? No problem, just smash into the ground and Walk up the side of the building. No matter from how high you fall, you will have zero damage after impact, unlike the people and cars around you when you land..
Which brings us to perhaps the most important part in the game: the system to do as much damage to an enemy / innocent bystander / any suspicious looking object in as little time as possible. When you engage in combat, there is no special mode kicking in to help you find the enemy on your screen or to unlock your weapons, even locking onto your target you have to do yourself if you don’t get damaged before you do so. Of course this is the way to go in an open-world game, things blend nicely from hopping over the city’s skyscrapers to slashing zombies in half. If you want to use a weapon, you can select it using a simple and quick selection screen, you don’t even have to pause. In fact, when choosing a weapon the game slows down for one or two seconds, more than enough to make a choice. The same thing happens when (manually) locking onto a target, this gives you time to correct the game in case it selected the wrong enemy. Selection is all very smooth and natural, but what about the use of what you selected? Every weapon has its own moveset, every ability has its own attributes and switching is essential if you are to complete the game on a higher difficulty. Got your camera stuck in the smoke of a burning car? Switch to heat-vision. Want to make a quick getaway? Get your shield out and smash your way through the zombies. After all, the things you are going to change most are your weapons, a weapon effective against for example a horde of squishy zombies is most likely not effective against heavier enemies. It doesn’t matter how effective your weapon is against a certain type of enemy until you upgrade it. There isn’t just one or two upgrades, there are lots and lots for each and every weapon, skill and move, there are many, many moves once you get far into the game. This is what gives side-missions their main purpose, earn EP to buy some of the many upgrades. You get so many points during the regular storyline however that you will not have to do most to successfully complete it, this renders side-missions mostly useless. Most of the later moves will be bought with the EP earned during the storyline. Because enemies will get better and better later on, you need to buy new moves, but there is a catch. New enemies exist ONLY in the storyline, they are simply not to be found anywhere, no thermodynamic tanks, no master hunters, no supersoldiers, these exist only in the storyline. This is a major flaw, as it is an open world game you should be able to have use of your new moves in the open world.

Last but not least: the appearance of the game. One of the first things you’ll notice is the city, I have never been to Manhattan but it looked pretty real to me. The buildings have nice textures and are of nice heights. There are skyscrapers as well as blocks of flats and there are plenty of recognizable landmarks such as Times Square, the park and lots of buildings (you can collect ‘landmarks’ from difficult places for an EP reward). It looks all very nice but when you have jumped around the city for some time it will occur to you that textures of the buildings are way too repetitive and that the throwable objects on top of most of the buildings look exactly alike. Additionally, you’ll only find a dozen of civilians, copied a thousand times, there are only a few types of infantry, a few types of zombies, one type of tank, one type hunter and some leftover enemies such as viral detectors and helicopters, there isn’t really any variation, just more of the same. What does have much variation is Alex himself. You can destroy one enemy a hundred different ways, ground-shattering, uppercutting, slashing it in half, stomping it into the ground and much, much more. This game focuses not on the enemies but on Alex and how he beats them, gameplay over graphics. Alex looks great, his clothes behave naturally, his moves are smooth and his transformations are awesome, everything about him is very natural and realistic.

This is a game that focuses on gameplay rather than appearance or story, it is more of a playground than a movie, which is great if you prefer that. If you like open-world games I can recommend this game, you will need some patience to find all landmarks, tips, get gold on all side-missions and complete the memory-web. In case you do not have patience you can have endless fun with the many area-attacks and their upgrades. One last tip.. always check whether you are loading your own game-file or overwriting someone else’s over your own..
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