Prototype

About a week ago I got a copy of “Prototype” as a late birthday gift. It was the perfect gift after completing Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.

What’s Prototype?

Prototype, in a way, it’s Assassin’s Creed without the subtly. I know there are other games that offered free roaming and an open world way before those two titles I just mentioned, but I couldn’t stop relating both, since they offered the same concept: You can climb buildings, jump form high points and, even if you want, you can go stealth — and I completed Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood just before I started playing this, so the memory was still fresh on my memory.

Up up and away!

Leap of Faith, version 2009.

"This old lady, on the rooftop, probably isn't the shapeshifter we are looking for."

But the thing that jumped most in my eyes to make the correlation between those two titles is the fact that the main character also wears a hood, in all occasions.

Is he Enzio or Altaïr?

But what is Prototype about?

Even with the open world and the free roaming, there is a story behind Prototype. Actually, the story is starts near the end and then you start discovering what it’s happening — which is a damn cool way to tell a story.

When you start, you start with a bunch of powers, destroying everything on your way, taking very little damage and, in a general way, kicking ass. Once you complete this part, you see Alex Mercer — your character — on a rooftop talking to another person. Alex starts telling this other person his story, which he remembers only from the moment he tried to escape a morgue, was shot in the chest and still survived. That’s when your story begins.

As it happened in Assassin’s Creed, the game you play is actually a past event, but without the synchronization stuff. As any other game, when you die, you die; then you have to start over from a save point or last checkpoint — which isn’t that bad, it’s just a different way of saying the same thing.

Basically, Alex’s story happens in Manhattan, when an outbreak of some virus start turning people into zombie-like creatures, while the military try to contain them and Alex, seen, initially, as the worst case of all — later you find out why the military are really after Alex, in a well written plot twist — a rare case in most games, I must say.

Gameplay

As I said, Prototype is a free roam, open world game. You see your powers at work at the very beginning and then “restart” the game without none. Those powers are gaining by either completing missions or buying upgrades — which I’ll explain in a minute.

You take no fall damage but any attack will consume your health. To regain health, you “consume” other humanoids, infected or not, military or normal citizens.

Consumed citizen says: "Alex, I AM IN YOU!"

You can consume several humanoids in a row, creating a really fuzzy image of yourself.

On nom nom nom.

Consuming people also give you access to two things: First, their appearance, so you can, for example, consume a soldier in one street, disappear for some time and then use his appearance to get inside a military base. Second, you have access to Devastator attacks, which consume your health; but the trick is, they are only available once you consume more health than you’re capable of holding — it basically works like a mana bar, which can only be filled once you fill your health bar.

Spike Devastator is just another way of saying "I HATE YOU ALL!"

The game also offers vehicles, which are easy to handle. You can only take military vehicles, like tanks and helicopters, even if there are plenty of cars in the city.

"Vroom, vroom!"

One fun thing about the combination of vehicles is that if you run over a car with a tank, you basically “pancake” the car into a flat piece of metal — and that happens even when the military are driving them.

Progress

To complete the story, you keep following missions. Every mission have a starting point, and end point and the game “resets” after you complete it. Which is kinda boring: move to the place with the yellow marker; do whatever it needs to be done, following the blue markers; do things till your screen turns red; victory. Although it works, it gets tiring very fast moving that way.

Another thing that annoyed me is that you talk to someone to get some mission and then, out of nowhere, they are removed from the game. Not removed in a reasonable way, like dying or having to run away, the missions suddenly are given by someone else. Did they run away? Did they died? Did the military took then? None of this is answered, you simply stop talking to them. Oh, and the new guys? I can remember just two of them making sense joining the story, but the others… no so much.

To break the monotony of such function, you have two additions: Events and the Web Of Intrigue.

Events

Explosive kick to the skull!

Events are small challenges marked in your map with green markers, each one with a different type of challenge: One could be a running challenge (reach some waypoints as fast as you can), help the military kill the infected people and some others. Every event have different thresholds to complete, with 3 levels of each, giving a different medal for it: gold, silver and bronze.

The problem I found with those events is that you can push as hard as you can, but without upgrades, they are incredible hard to beat, specially the running ones. As soon as the first events opened, I tried a running event, which consisted into running on rooftops around a certain area, about 7 different waypoints. I did the event as fast as I can, jumping on the right spots and only managed to get a bronze medal. That’s when I realized that you need better upgrades to complete the events and get a gold medal and, since it was the very start, I had basically none. So I left most of them untouched till I completed all missions — or better yet, till I managed to find a better way to get upgrades (which I will also get more into later).

Apparently, once you complete all events with a gold medal, a new series of platinum events will open. But, again, I left those almost untouched.

(And no, I didn’t get a gold in that “star” event. That’s the mission start point).

Web of Intrigues

This is one interesting concept, to add more story without adding more gameplay. Since Alex can consume humanoids, he can also consume people in other to “steal” their memories. Some special people, marked with an orange head over them, were involved in the infection — either before or in the aftermath. By consuming them, you get those memories, which are shown in broken collection of images and some voice over.

Intrigue A connects with Intrigue B.

Although there is a relation between the elements, it’s not really necessary: The video shows everything you need to know. Also, it doesn’t seem to have a special property for them to appear: They simply do.

One annoying thing about it is that, early in the game, those VIPs appeared in mid-mission, where I had no option to stop, consume them and then return.

Upgrades

By completing missions, acquiring memories for your web of intrigues, completing events or simply killing anything, destroying military vehicles or even some buildings, you receive what’s called “EP” (which probably is the acronym of something I can’t remember anymore). With EP you can buy upgrades, which enable faster/stronger attacks or completely new weapons (which are actually Alex hands shape-shifted into the proper form).

Upgrades.

So everything falls back into completing the events and missions to get more EP, right? Well, not if you can cheat the system.

Cheating the System, the Right Way

As I mentioned, I left the missions till later, accumulating EP from missions and some destruction. In one of the missions, I got an helicopter with infinite ammunition, so I kept flying around, destroying military vehicles and some infected people, ’cause I hate no time to complete said mission.

Later, in another mission — which I had a hard time trying to complete — I found out that one of my new abilities, a whip-like attack, also gave me a ranged grab ability. With that, one can grab humanoids somewhat far away. And seize helicopters that, although without infinite ammo, have more powerful weapons — and there are several of them flying around the city. Suddenly, I had the ability to easily destroy other helicopters for 10k EP, while in an event one get around 50k. Yes, it sounds like events are more profitable, except that flying an helicopter around is more fun ’cause you’re completely free to go wherever you are. Oh, and remember that some VIPs appeared mid-missions: Well, they seem to pop like cockroaches in the night when you’re flying your chopper around, so I got double “pros” for not completing events and just flying around.

Funny Stats

One thing I generally liked, and pushed forward for it, was the statistics the game shows once you get out of combat — as in “complete the mission” or simply “disappear” by moving into some non-watched corner and changing into the same of someone you consumed before.

I'm the reason the military budget is higher than science.

Also, in infected zones, the desolation and destruction made a nice tapestry of what such event would look like in real life.

Bodies, bodies everywhere.

General Annoyances

There were some things that annoyed me — like those VIPs appearing mid-mission — that, although not ruining the game in any way, were, well, annoying.

First, a general problem with Steam. Once I installed the game, I launched it, only for it to crash/freeze during the game start. I launched it again and after the second mission, the game just closed. That’s when Steam decided it would download a patch. It’s not the first time I see Steam launching a game with a patch, and just later patch it.

Second, this is the quieter game I ever played — and not in the good sense. Although the settings the music and the sound effects were set on max, I still had to increase the computer volume in other to hear something.

Then you have linearity in the missions — and not just in the way of “You need to reach waypoint to start the mission, then you follow waypoints and then finish the mission”. In the first mission that I was given an helicopter, I realized the controls pretty fast, but the game still required me to move around with the mouse so the game finally gave me the waypoint to reach — even if I already reached half-way through the city.

Respawns were also a problem. The game feels its free to spawn whatever it wanted as long as I wasn’t watching. At some point, it spawned a full tank on my back, and I was on a narrow sidewalk near the ocean with a wall, and it barely fit there. Helicopters spawning right behind the one I was piloting also happened, more than once. And I won’t even start in trying to clear a street form the military, with more and more soldiers spawning every time I turned the camera, with more and more tanks with them.

The spawn problem didn’t affected just enemies. You can destroy some structures, like a military base or a “hive”, a construction taken by the virus. Those give a nice boost to your EP and are damn easy to take down with the choppers. The problem with those is that, upon destruction, the whole building falls down — but you go away from a few minutes and blam!, the whole building is there again, doing whatever it was doing before. I understand that this gives the player the opportunity to get more and more EP to get upgrades, but it feels like your actions on the world doesn’t really affect you.

Not that all spawns were bad. Some went hilariously wrong.

Due budget constraints, all military people should use civilian cars from now on.

Nice parking, moron.

Another problem I had was resolution. My monitor uses a native resolution of 1440×900, but the game only went to 1280×720 maximum. The game didn’t look bad, though, but still…

And last, but not least, I had to watch the same info screens every time the game loaded, even if I got the idea already.

It's mouse and keyboard. Why not save this at start and let me change it later, in the settings?.

Yes yes, spinning red thingy is "saving". For the 15th time, I got it.

Conclusion

Open world games offer a whole world to play with beyond the conclusion of the game. The thing is: Is there anything really interesting after you complete it? In the case of Prototype you still can complete the events till you open the platinum events and complete the web of intrigue — which require something around 172 VIPs to be consumed.

Beyond that, the story being told — which I hope I didn’t spoil it too much — is really interesting and probably the reason you will still try to complete the web of intrigue even after completing the game. The plot twist was somewhat expected but not in the way it’s shown. And some points don’t really appear till you’re deep down into the web.

And then there is mayhem and gore. Which seems to be one of the main points, as one of the upgrades pointed “more gore” while some of them had words like “destructive” and variants.

It kinda loses its charm when you get all the upgrades (which makes you think “Why am I still trying to complete those if I can’t get nothing with all that EP?”), but you have to go a bit beyond that.

Anyway, a fun game with a nice story.