First Impressions: Gives new meaning to the term ?body surfing.?
Alex Mercer is having a bad day. First, he wakes up in a hospital with no memory of who he is. Next, he discovers that instead of lying in a comfy bed, he's actually on a slab in the morgue, where doctors are about to slice him open for an autopsy. He leaps from the table only to find that he has superhuman strength, speed and bizarre shape-shifting abilities. Hey, maybe it's not such a bad day after all.
Canadian developer Radical Entertainment's new IP, Prototype, follows Alex as he tries to discover who he is, why he has these strange abilities and why everyone wants to kill him. Oh, and all while having fun kicking ass. Lots and lots of ass.
Prototype takes place in an open sandbox version of New York where you'll be fighting the shady Black Watch government troops, zombie-like infected citizens, and even little old ladies. Yup, why help granny cross the street when you can kick her across instead?
Prototype is an action-packed beat-em-up along the lines of Crackdown but much more violent and bloody. The real star of the game is Alex's unique shape-shifting abilities that let him grow huge Wolverine-like claws or giant arm blades that slice through people like butter. He can also harden his skin to protect against bullets, change his fists into massive hammers and even snap out enormous spiked tentacles.
Every attack and move has a regular and a powered up ?charged? mode. For example, Alex can jump quite high by tapping the A button, but holding and charging it will make him super jump like the Hulk. A quick double-tap in the air will let him glide like a flying squirrel ? though you wouldn't want to call him that to his face.
All of these abilities combine to give Alex some pretty sweet moves. He can run up the sides of towering skyscrapers, leap across rooftops, glide several blocks and end with a punishing aerial attack on a tank. On the ground he can use Devastator attacks which pretty much kill anything within a wide radius. For example, Alex can snap out several tentacles at once or cause giant spikes to shoot up from the ground. He can even whip out a tentacle to snag a helicopter, yank out the pilots and hop in for a leisurely ride.
The controls are being designed for simplicity; for example, Alex will go faster the longer he runs (no run button required) and he will automatically plow through people and leap over obstacles (no need to worry about getting hung up on a planter or timing your jumps). The game is fast-paced, full of over-the-top action and destruction, and embraces flow and momentum ? the latter of which can let you use your victim's body as a surfboard to leave a long bloody trail on the street. Come on and safari with me!
While all of this violent mayhem sounds like good clean family fun, Alex's real goal is to unveil the mystery surrounding his strange abilities and recover his lost memories, all of which is somehow linked with the sudden and unexplained destruction of the town of Hope, Idaho 40 years ago. Along the way he will have help from his sister Dana, playing the role of the helpful assistant on the other end of the phone.
The story unfolds through Alex's cool but creepy ability to absorb anyone he kills. This ability not only gives him new skills (like piloting a helicopter or operating a tank) but also lets him disguise himself as his hapless victim. Kill and absorb a high ranking officer and you can walk amongst enemy troops undetected ? very handy when you want to be sneaky. Most importantly, however, is that this ability gives Alex the victim's memories. About 100 individuals throughout the game hold pieces of Alex's past in their memories, and as he kills and absorbs these people, he builds up the game's Web of Intrigue which slowly coalesces into the answers he is seeking. Only 30 of these individuals are vital to the story so the rest are there to fill in interesting (but not critical) details.
Sadly, the game is single player only, a decision that was made early in development so Radical could focus on making the best single player experience possible. However, the game is looking to offer a lot of replayability with the open ?do whatever you want? sandbox and optional challenge events. These challenges include killing as many infected zombies as you can within a time limit or leaping through checkpoints. Like the side quests in Grand Theft Auto, they're completely optional, sometimes silly, but sound like a nice distraction from the intensity of the campaign. Besides, there will no doubt be Achievements for unlocking gold medals in each challenge.
Visually, the game looks great with nicely detailed characters, smooth animation and of course lots of blood and guts. Like GTA, the city plays a central role; the game's version of New York is supposed to be around 70% accurate so you will see a lot of familiar landmarks (it might even be fun to compare it with Liberty City). The streets are lively, filled with innocent civilians, trigger-happy military and those ugly mutated infected zombie thingamajigs ? in other words, Alex won't have trouble satiating his thirst for ass whupping.