Alex Mercer is a government experiment gone wrong, now lashing out while looking for answers to his life before the transformation. He’s built for killing, and despite trying to stop an infection from spreading through New York, has no problem taking hundreds of civilians out during his missions.
Mercer is not that likeable, wearing a hood over his head that make him look like a modern day Alitar. The gruesome blood splatter that accompanies each kill is undoubtedly gory fun, although the game has issues with itself. One would think after millions of dollars in damages, the government would resort to reason, but they keep coming in droves.
Simply put, the game puts Mercer in situations of extreme excess. There are countless times where the player is overwhelmed to the point of ridiculousness. It becomes tiresome as the game reaches its crescendo early. Instead of feeling unique, each mission is a mess of bullets and bloodshed on the scale of the one that came before.
The game opens with an all-out assault on Times Square in which Mercer has all of his available powers, smashing through tanks, helicopters, cars, and countless helpless humans. It is epic in scale, although it spoils much of the intrigue and mystery of unlocking these same powers later. Likewise, it is the pattern of all challenges to follow.
Prototype comes from the Crackdown school of open world games, and it’s interesting to note that Crackdown focused on guns, Infamous used short ranged electricity as its core attack, and Prototype uses its fists. Each stands out, and while Prototype lets Mercer use guns, a terrible targeting system offers little satisfaction in doing so. Punching is far easier to execute, effective thanks to the power behind each thrown blow.
Mercer is out of control, both in the game in the players hands. He is unweildly, jumping around cars, rapidly changing direction, and failing to stay on a straight path. Running up buildings is a fun trick, but when you accidentally do so in the midst of combat, it is nothing short of frustration.
There is a lot to do in Prototype, from the variety in the side missions to the main story itself. Exploration of course offers hidden objects to collect, more or less because that’s what these games tend to do. Finding them offers experience, not necessarily a feeling of success. The 200 blue orbs are hidden well, which takes away from the joy of searching. Crackdown offered a flow from one hidden orb on a building to the next; Prototype places them randomly.
Mercer’s powers are limiting, and unfortunately he becomes a victim of development. No doubt time was of the essence, and a destruction engine was not in the cards. However, when someone can blow up a tank with their thick, infected hands, one would think that glass building next to it wouldn’t be a problem. It would have made Prototype infinitely more enjoyable, and maybe some of this could have been taken seriously.