There's been an open-world overload in recent months. It seems as though everyone is trying to make the next big thing by building a big city to play in, and Prototype from Activision Blizzard is no exception. This action packed free-roamer also features a main character who has superhuman powers and a storyline that's unravelled as you progress – sounds similar to another recent video game, does it not? In truth Prototype feels very different to Sony's PS3 exclusive inFamous, and has enough ideas of its own to make it a very solid entry in the genre, even if it doesn't quite come together as we'd have hoped.
Prototype's protagonist is Alex Mercer, a man confused about who and what he is. The game begins with Mercer slicing enemies to pieces and smashing up tanks in Manhattan, packing more superpowers than he knows what to do with . This is Mercer as he's become some 18 days after a virus hit the city, but you didn't think you'd get to play with all the toys from the start did you? After this brief, spectacular opening you're taken back to day one and have to earn all your abilities and upgrades again.
It sounds like the usual trick developers play, but in Prototype you're never left wanting for abilities. As standard Mercer can jump really high, run up walls and use some pretty nice parkour skills to avoid anything that gets in his way, but the abundance of experience points thrown at you for almost everything you do can be spent on a ton of new powers and upgrades. Early on you'll get the ability to glide after jumping, which is ideal for getting about the city, while new offensive and defensive moves and tools give you more options while in a scrap.
There are far too many to list here, but you'll eventually be able to choose between fighting enemies off with massive fists, claws or a huge blade, rip them to pieces with a wave of giant spikes, pick up and throw cars at helicopters, and turn into something that looks like the Guyver. This is just a small fraction of what you can unlock, plus you can buy upgrades to your running speed, jump height and air dash moves.
All this would be largely pointless if the game that required all these moves wasn't actually any good, so thankfully developer Radical has remembered to include some fun open-world gameplay too. The brunt of the action will see you storming through the city, fighting soldiers and large pink mutants – more often than not at the same time. The soldiers pack a punch from the sheer fire-power at their disposal (they call in helicopter strike teams on a whim), while the mutants are just incredibly quick and powerful, sending you flying if you're not careful. Missions generally vary from killing enemies or destroying objects, to getting from point a to b or taking on a disguise.
Disguises are what makes Prototype feel a little different to its open world superhero cousins. Mercer is able to consume people and take on their likeness at the press of a button. The game utilises this by throwing a number of objectives at you that can't be completed unless you've consumed a certain character in the game world, so for example you might need to consume a helicopter pilot in order to walk into the army base and take a chopper for a spin. As long as you remain somewhat in character and don't start super jumping in front of a line of marines you'll stay hidden and be allowed to get on with the task at hand.