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anglebender [Celluloid 06.23.09] post apocalyptic review video game

PLATFORMS – PC (XP, Vista), Xbox 360, PS3
DEVELOPER – Radical Entertainment
PUBLISHER – Activision



The game details the exploits of Alex Mercer as he unravels his scrambled memory and fights an infected horde of zombies during a viral outbreak in Manhattan. Of course there's a government conspiracy, of course you need to “get them”, of course the main character has amnesia. Aside from the pleasantries of a storyline and a plot, there is a HUGE amount of whoop-ass to be had.


This game entails a gargantuan heap of zombie slaying. Between missions, the player enters a free-roam mode. I usually head straight to an infected area, hijack an APC and paint the town red. The sandbox aspects of Prototype are what makes this more than just Grand Theft Auto with zombies. There are events you can enter like races and wars, and events where you need to consume a certain number of military or infected.

Alex routinely “consumes” people to gain their skills and appearance which he also uses as a disguise. Consuming people gives Alex their memories, and if they had anything to do with the conspiracy then it isn't a secret anymore. The progression towards the endgame is disappointingly linear, but the unlocking of memories from people you absorb can lessen the otherwise slight drudge.

Some quests can't be started unless you have a specific power, which I feel ruins the suspension of disbelief. It's things like this that detract from a game for me. Being told I haven't been developing my character correctly is a bit of a slap in the face, but I think it might show how tricky it can be to meet a video game production deadline.

Your primary mode of transportation is running up the sides of buildings and pulling intuitive hyper-parkour moves from rooftop to rooftop. Most of the fighting is the same way- it's really little more than button mashing, but slaughtering hundreds of zombies is rarely this easy. It becomes a bit repetitive at times, but the gorehound in me was briefly sated.

Most of Manhattan is richly detailed. I had the opportunity to play this with a Manhattan native, and while he wasn't able to find his old apartment in the game's environment, he was able to locate an old haunt or two. The crowed skyline is sufficiently authentic- they didn't use Google maps or anything, but you can use this high altitude terrain to your advantage. Some of the more evolved zombies are fairly ferocious even when the game is on the “easy” setting.

Crowds of zombies, running people and flaming wreckage look great, but there is a definite pattern to the carnage. It goes beyond the Flinstonian passing of the EXACT same couch 5 times, but I had a few moments like that. There is something ephemeral I can't put a finger on, but there is a very slight fakness to the whole experience. Don't get me wrong, it looks great, but maybe if they used a little more diversity with the building textures, maybe if there were more “things” on top of buildings, I probably wouldn't feel so put off by realizing I was in a simulated environment.

The music in Prototype is irritating, so I turned it completely off most of the time. I re-enabled it occasionally for this review to see if it still sucked and was rarely proven wrong. The action/thriller music is very ironic when you're dieing in combat or simply lost. However, the sound effects for pretty much everything leveled out my opinion of this title's sound. There's lots of “booming” going on here (especially from landing from great altitude), so sub-woofer owners are in for a treat. Alex never receives any damage from falling, so if you have a sub-woofer, jump off the Empire State Building a few times to dissolve any gall stones you might have.

Prototype is a tough one to pigeon hole. There are elements from several gameplay styles and they seem to be fairly well merged. I'd classify this game as an action/platformer/fighter, and while you can purchase skill upgrades and additional mutant powers, there aren't any stats to develop so I omitted RPG from that classification-slashy thing I just did. Is it worth buying? I might wait for a sale.

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