Prototype's virtual Manhattan seethes with a veritable wall of humanity
- Incredible sense of power and possibility, beautiful and moody, tons of stuff to do, satisfying story
- Not much difference between different enemy types, some irritatingly drawn-out missions, some sudden jumps in difficulty
I suspect that some people will find their enthusiasm drained more than mine by the shallow enemy gene pool, but even they're bound to get swept away by the myriad pleasures of tearing up town as a ghoulish and preternaturally fleet-footed shape-shifter.
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For most of us, walking around a crowded metropolis is a hellish experience. Being surrounded on all sides by jostling people, honking cars and immense buildings can make you feel powerless and trapped. Prototype's virtual Manhattan also seethes with a veritable wall of humanity -- along with soldiers, infected creeps, and other menaces -- but Alex Mercer is anything but an ordinary pedestrian. For him, the madding crowd isn't an annoying fact of life: it's an all-you-can-eat buffet.
As soon as the game loads, I'm thrust into a world brought low by some horrible biological crisis, and I'm at the height of my wrath. For a few minutes I'm practically unstoppable, crashing through military hardware and doing grotesque things to my fellow citizens with my insane powers. When this short tour of the possibilities and a besieged Times Square ends, I'm thrust 18 days into the past to piece together what happened to New York City and how I came to be this angry and inhuman demigod.
I encounter more satisfying action and memorable unscripted moments in the first five minutes of Prototype than I have in the entirety of many lesser action games, and the whole experience is serviced by a sense of flair and meaning that's compelling without ever becoming suffocating. While so many free-roaming sandbox games commit their resources to ho-hum day/night cycles and dozens of generic four-door sedans, and then bore you to tears with endless errands and uninspired tedium, Prototype makes abundantly clear within moments that you're in for a lightning-paced and intensely cinematic exaggeration of a profoundly damaged urban life.
There's plenty of substance bristling below that stylized surface, too. I could spend this entire review detailing your powers and still not cover them all. As Alex Mercer, I can transform my arms into weapons that range from a single scythe that shreds tanks like an outsize can-opener to claws, bludgeons, and a thick alien vein of a whip. I can sheathe myself in armor that makes Teflon look like cellophane, and run up the sides of buildings. I can jump to crazy heights, glide through the air like a flying squirrel, and slam into the ground hard enough to destroy the cars I won't miss driving. I can even fire the assault rifles and rocket launchers left behind when I devour some poor soldier so I can sneak around in his skin.
Every one of the game's powers is also upgradeable with evolution points, which you earn during the course of your adventures. By augmenting my abilities, I learned how to run faster, uncork new combination attacks, and rattle entire neighborhoods with horrific smart bomb "devastators" that send spikes or tentacles through everything in sight. Best of all, the outstanding controls never get in the way, and let me switch between my powers easily and intuitively.
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