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ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: 3rd Person: Action

I think I was one of very few people that bought Crackdown to actually play the game and not just use it as a key into the Halo 3 online beta. I was, and still am, a huge fan of the game. This leads me to my next point, Crackdown was one of the reasons I was drawn to Activision’s latest release Prototype, as I perceived there to be similarities between the two. So with this in mind, this then may not be the most objective review out there, but really which ones are?

The premise of Prototype is that you are somehow infected with a virus that allows you gain significant enhancements in the form of physical powers. The game immediately gives you a taste of what you’re capable of offering up a couple of minutes of gameplay in the beginning with a full suite of powers at your disposal before doing the flashback bit. Upon ‘flashing back’ you are stripped of all the powers you just got to try and the beginning of the core gamplay actually commences for real and you start to play out the events of the game. I’ve seen this before in other titles, perhaps to better effect than it was used here, but nonetheless having had a chance to try a fully powered up character really wetted my appetite for more and I wanted to see what led up to one man being so powerful.

As Alex Mercer, you are tasked with finding out just what the heck happened to you, and of course all the environments around you. You roam the city and choose missions much like you do in a GTA game. These missions progress the game along at a pace of your choosing. There are also event challenges throughout the city such as getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible or killing a specific number of bad guys within a time limit. There are also lots of collectibles too (think Crackdown’s orbs).

As you progress through the game and earn XP and gain access to new abilities which can allow for such things as increased sprinting speed, greater jumping ability, or powered up attacks. The XP sort of acts like cash as each new ability costs a certain amount of XP and can be added at seemingly any point in the game provided you have enough to get your preferred ability. To me this is really the meat of the game and the most compelling reason to play it, but I think I preferred the more organic way of enhancing abilities that we saw in Crackdown. There are some pretty sweet power ups though and many area reasons for you to earn as much XP as you can in order to acquire some pretty neat abilities.

Your locomotion in the game is pretty awesome. Instead of scaling buildings, which you can do if you want, you can actually make Mercer literally run up the sides of buildings using the sprint button giving a very “parkour to the nth degree” feel to the game. This does take away some of the exploration element that I so enjoyed in Crackdown. I had a riot trying to find ways to scale the taller buildings in Crackdown where there was a certain degree of uncertainty as to whether or not it could be done at first. Not so much in Prototype though as I have not met a structure I couldn’t scale with ease. Also worth noting is how you run around the streets of your environments. Sprint along a road or alleyway and the game will automatically hurdle fences or cars making for a very seamless experience. This allows you to focus on navigating rather than being hindered by a myriad of collisions. Run on a crowded sidewalk and Mercer will push and shove his way through a crowd automatically and you do not have to worry about any extra controls. These little touches make navigating through the game’s environments very fluid.

Prototype also allows you to consume NPC’s that you have defeated. Certain NPC’s offer up clues to the story that are told through flashbacks that within that person’s mind. A neat idea but the whole jumping back and forward in time through these flashbacks can be a bit confusing at times. You can also assume the appearance of those you have consumed adding a stealthy and strategic layer to the gameplay. This was unexpected on my part and something I enjoyed more and more as I played and learned how to use it effectively. Combat is pretty fast paced with a lot of things going on all at once. At first it can be intimidating and a bit confusing but once you come to grips with the controls and combat, things really pick up for the better. The game does a good job of making you feel like one bad ass mofo.

In today’s day and age the lack of any sort of online mode, cooperative or adversarial, seems out of place. I can overlook no co-op, but I would have liked to have seen some sort of online play. Perhaps even being able to do the challenge events head to head with a friend would have been fun. Either way, the lack of online play didn’t hurt my overall gameplay experience too much but it could have definitely added to the overall feel of the game.

Graphically things are pretty decent. There’s a nice draw distance, something that is important in a sandbox game like this one, and there is a nice amount attention to the small details such as a very satisfying amount of gore, body parts flying around and lots and lots of stuff on screen with no apparent effect on the game’s framerate.

Despite all the neat game play elements offered in Prototype they just don’t manage to come together to form a truly compelling package that would put it amongst the elite games of today. Personally I have enjoyed my time with this title and I would definitely recommend that anyone who managed to enjoy Crackdown to give this one a go as you may just find it your cup of tea. That being said, I don’t think this game will be for everyone though and those entering with a blank slate may want to do so with caution.

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