Prototype Review

(This is quite late.  I’ve been sitting on this review waiting for the breathing space to actually upload since mid-August.  Better late than never though eh?  It’s probably available quite cheaply now as well.)

It’s no secret, but i quite like super-powered characters.  I’ve been a fairly avid comic book collector for many years now, and one of the key draws for me has been super-powered characters.  I think it’s the “what if…” that always rings most true to me.  What if someone could fly?  What if someone could control things with their mind?  What if someone became a lethal, sentient, super-disease?  And that’s really what you get to have a go at in Prototype.

From the same people – Radical Entertainment, who gave me one of my favourite Superhero gaming experiences to date in Incredible Hulk : Ultimate Destruction – comes a game with a very similarly powered character.  In fact, with several notable exceptions, you could practically play the game and pretend you were the Hulk.  You can throw cars around, deliver deadly shockwave-style attacks, even give yourself a pair Hulk fists. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if what they wanted was to just make a next-gen Hulk game, but lost out to some other developer.

You control Alex Mercer, and to start off with you are pretty powerful.  This is a flash-forward to what will be and gives you a tantalising glimpse of what’s to come.  Then it goes back to the beginning.  A city on the verge of an epidemic that would belittle even real world tabloids’ paroxysms of apocalyptic hyperbole.  With no memory and the interest of some zealous military types, you are on the run, in the big city.  Slowly piecing together the events that brought you to where you are.

Unlike most games the story is something you have to actively seek, this is done by absorbing specific characters and it is the absorbing that also provides you with some upgrades and new abilities.  I found absorbing to gain the story was interesting, but made the story a little piecemeal.  Possibly this was due to my not finding the people to absorb, but it did become a little hard to keep track of, especially as the story was basically made up of snippets of experiences taken from hundreds of people.

Whether it’s a Hulk wannabe or not, the game’s still got plenty of other gameplay mechanics to offer.  As mentioned before you can absorb people to gain memories and skills, the same mechanic also awards you with the appearance of whoever you last absorbed.  This means you can use it to help you evade capture and also to infiltrate bases.  When running parkour style about the city a leap of a building can be followed by a glide, you can take over tanks and helicopters and commandeer these, you can call in artillery strikes on targets, pick up guns and rocket launchers, and generally bring about as much havok as you feel comfortable.

For the most part it’s pretty good fun being the most destructive force around, only problem is to counteract your super-ness, the game just really stacks the odds against you.  In fact if ever there was a game that i’ve played this year that induced a lot of swearing it was definitely this one.  Swarms of enemies with lots of knockback attacks and explosions and unstoppable combos really can be a bit much, even if you’re in control of a supposed power house. 

But this isn’t my biggest gripe with the game.  Over the course of the “story”, Alex never really sits easy with any particular type of morality.  He’s not really either good or evil, which is fine, the grey area is a place that most game characters find themselves in.  It’s more that when you find out what actually happened, well it made Alex seem like, at the very best, a malicious idiot.  His moral standing, or lack thereof, was irrelevant.  I felt an odd shame of being in control of him the whole time. 

Still if you can get over this, then there’s a quite a lot to do, and it often looks and feels cool to be doing it.  If a dislike of the character you are controlling is still a problem, then you can just pretend you’re a slim-line Hulk in a hoodie.

Published in: on 22/10/2009 at 2:03 pm  Comments (3)  
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Bob’s 2009 gaming wishlist – Revisited

A while back i posted a list of hopes and dreams of games to come.  As time has passed five of them i’ve picked up (Batman Arkham Asylum, Prototype, Scribblenauts, Moving Notepad, and Sacred 2), one of them i became a lot less interested in when i had a chance to play (Ghostbusters) and one of them is due out in a few weeks time (Modern Warfare 2).  The remaining five have all slipped back to next year.

I’m pretty sure that two of these have made the move because of Modern Warfare 2 (Bioshock 2 and Red Dead Redemption).  DC Universe Online and Final Fantasy XIII are more likely to have been the victim of over-expectant development schedules, and Infinite Space is most likely fallen foul of the difficulty with which niche JRPG’s have in finding Western publishers.  (Something which is annoyingly keeping Demon’s Souls from having a European release although it’s reviews and demand is exceptional.)

Unusually for this time of year, the actual crop of games due for your release has diminished, with many blaming the assumed might of Modern Warfare 2 causing many publishers to shy away to the start of next year.  To be honest, i’m not too bothered by this.  Yes it gives me the task of avoiding buying some games so that there’s something to want for Christmas, but there’s still one or two gems to come.

For a start Borderlands is out on Friday.  With it’s local co-op splitscreen and absurd, and supposedly neatly distinct and varied, range of weapons counting the “Bazillions”.  I’ve been keen on this for a while, and the unique selling point of “Bazillions” of weapons seems to be holding out quite well.  I would have liked to have been able to customise them to my liking rather than having the random, RPG-esque loot drops, yet i’m still pretty psyched about it’s arrival.

Then there’s the almighty L4D2, with a whole host of new special infected, weapons, additional gameplay modes, alledgedly more dynamic AI director, and stronger – although that might just mean existent – story line.  This was shamefully missing from my original 2009 wishlist – possibly not announced at that point – but has been the cause of much excitement and expectation.  Roll on the demo! 🙂

Published in: on 22/10/2009 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Going cross-platform

Not long ago…  (Ok, quite long ago judging by the apparent death of this blog in recent months.)

I’ll start again…

A while back Giles raised the point of fanboyism. I responded to this post with the story of my resisting the PS3 and how i went from being a Sony fanboy to a hater.

My resistance to the PS3 was pretty much one part feeling of betrayal and two parts baulking at the price tag, with the second definitely contributing to the first. This meant that when the PS3 Slim came along, what was once stubborn refusal soon gave way to a nerdish desire. I had always coveted Little Big Planet and have been a big fan of the Sony exclusive God of War series, so having an opportunity to acquire these, or at least the console that would let me play them, and at a more palatable price, got me down to Game and putting down a preorder.

In the time after getting it, i’ve restricted myself to PS3 exclusives, favouring the Xbox for the cross-platform games due to having more Xbox owning friends. I’ve not done the maths but it strikes me that there aren’t that many must have PS3 exclusives. I picked up Little Big Planet and Killzone 2 immediately, and have regretted neither. Shortly after i also got Uncharted : Drakes Fortune, Infamous and Ratchet and Clank : Tools of Destruction. Uncharted and Ratchet and Clank have had considerable play time, Infamous considerably less (due mostly to the outstanding quality of the other games when compared to it!)

It didn’t take me long to get reacquainted with the PS3 controller, very familiar, light and a good rumble pack, but let down by stubby lower shoulder buttons – i guess i’m spoilt by the great big triggers of the Xbox 360 controllers.  I did find that for £3  handy plastic extenders could be bought that made them a lot more user friendly.

Getting online was pretty easy and completely free, and the online store uses real money, so no guessing how much you’re actually spending when using it. The web interface is usable and allows access to both iPlayer and Youtube, which is nice.

It’s also practically whisper quiet which means little to no distracting whirring when playing a stealthy part of a game – i always find that a bit of a mood breaker on the Xbox, even when i think i’ve got used to it.

All this said, i’m quite aware that it doesn’t appear to be an essential purchase. If you’ve got an Xbox and are focussed on the games available for it, then you can happily live in ignorance. However, if, like me, you’ve looked at the world of games and seen several gems that will always be out of your reach and find it hard to live with that, then i would say go for it. There’s very little comparable to Little Big Planet and the upcoming Uncharted 2 on the Xbox. It’s also free to go online, but with sparse to non-existent party and comms support. (Surprisingly a mixed blessing as i’m also yet to experience the pain of an annoying 12 year old screeching abuse at me when playing online.)

(Note : It’s yet to be seen whether Playstations other big steps towards game types outside of the Xbox’s scope (MAG and DC Universe) will be additions to the list of must-haves, but the potential i’ve seen and the lack of lag i’ve experienced in other games bodes well for both of them.  That and i’m a massive DC comics fan. 😉 )

Published in: on 07/10/2009 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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