Late To The Xbox Live Party: Prototype (2009)

Much like the last game I finished–Red Faction Guerrilla–and the next game I just started–Crackdown 2Prototype is an open world sandbox game that allows you to run around doing side missions while also taking care of the more important missions when you want. Once again, I didn’t pay attention to any of the cut scenes, so I don’t really know what was going on with the story, but you’re a dude named Alex who gets different morphing abilities as the game progresses. You run around NYC fighting increasingly hard to kill monsters and military people because some virus has been unleashed and you have a version of it, but you’re also trying to stop it. Your different abilities include super strength, a huge blade hand and a whip-like stretchy arm among others. You can also glide, jump really high and not get too damaged if you fall from a great height. Combine that with the fact that Alex is running around none other than New York City and it becomes pretty clear that Prototype is, essentially, an updated version of Spider-Man 2, another game that Activision created back in 2004. On one hand, I’m cool with that because I like these kinds of games, but on the other hand, it feels like it should have been bigger and possibly more open than it was, like the game engine could use not just a face lift but a reconstruction.

As I mentioned, in addition to doing the main missions which usually pit you against the military, some crazy zombified citizens or both, Prototype lets you do all kinds of side missions. These vary from vehicle-based and destruction based to foot races and a jumping game where you need to land as close to the bullseye as possible. Fun stuff, though I certainly liked the last two kinds more than the others. Had I been more interested in some of these side challenges, I probably would have earned more points which would have in turn made me fight better. Ah well, I’m not that invested in these things.

I wish I could say that I loved the game, but I didn’t. I had a somewhat deja vu feeling as I traversed places in the game that I remember visiting as Spider-Man and some places in real life. Another negative I found was that the controls weren’t very crisp. You can select a variety of different offensive and defensive abilities using the D-pad, but I can’t tell you how many times I went to select one and another popped up for no reason. I could reasonably blame my less-than-dexterous thumbs for that, but what makes it all the worse is when I went to hit that button to turn said power off, it would continue on. Not sure what the deal was, but precision wasn’t the name of the game. Speaking of which, the aiming function was pretty annoying. If you were facing one enemy or a group of the same kind, it worked great, but if you’re trying to fight one very powerful villain in a crowd with the less-powerful, the targeting got wonky. You’d think it would zero in on the most powerful and dangerous (especially in the final boss battle) but nope. I’d be in the middle of a pretty heated battle, grab something heavy to throw at the big bad guy and all of a sudden would be aiming taking out some chump with a gun by way of thrown helicopter. Wah wah. There were other control or focus problems, but I would generalize them as being part of a game that wasn’t completely hashed out by the time it was released.

However, I think I liked the game overall. I didn’t pay too much for it used and considering the sandbox format is a favorite, I had a good time running and jumping my way around NYC. I think it nailed the parkour aspects better than something like Mirror’s Edge (which I quit). Maybe the developers just tried to put too much into the game and certain things suffered. While the city searching was great, the vehicle stuff just seemed tedious (but that could be because I don’t like driving in games). The combat was pretty good, but the aiming wasn’t. The powers were fun to play with, but I got the feeling that one or two were better than the others. So, while the game was no where near perfect, I think it’s a good enough example of this kind of game that will be worth your while if you’re a fan of such things.

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