Prototype Preview - 08/04/2008

Open world specialists Radical Entertainment, developers of Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Scarface, are once again using their expertise to provide a highly open ended game, but this time for next-gen consoles.

Coining the term "Open world, Open mind, Next generation thinking", Radical Entertainment bursts on to the next-gen scene with their new game Prototype which may define open world games as we know them.

Prototype introduces the character of Alex Mercer, a powerful shapeshifter hell-bent on regaining his past as he has no clue who or indeed what he is. In order to regain his memory and true identity Alex must absorb the memories of the people who know what happened to him by assimilating their dead bodies into is own, thus making their personalities a part of his. Doing this will lift the shroud of mist hanging over Alex's past, will shine light on his origin and, in the process, will lead players to uncover a massive conspiracy that branches further than anyone could possibly imagine.

The game is set in New York City where players make use of deceive or destroy gameplay which allows them to either blend in with the populace and stealthily progress through the story uncovering the plot and keeping as low to the ground as possible, or fully unleash Alex's powers, devastating the city and turning it into a slaughterhouse, violently extracting the answers that he needs.

Don't expect the odds to always be in your favour.

The game will be set on a grid interface, meaning the player will always be able to see all accomplished missions and choose which mission to progress with next (I assume this will be similar to Spiderman 3's mechanic, although I hope for everyone's sake, a lot better). This facility lends a new air of freedom to the player as they can easily dictate the speed and level at which they complete missions and thus how quickly the game's plot propels forward.

The aforementioned city of New York has been infected with a mysterious virus and many people have succumbed to the mysterious disease. As a result the military has moved in and is attempting to control the outbreak, scanning for infected people and attempting to implement quarantine. Players will face a two way battle between the military, and the infected who will both be searching for Alex. It has also been revealed that Alex is somehow linked to the infected although it is unknown how, and that special breeds of said infected can locate Alex because of his abilities. New York will be divided into four different zones that will continuously change throughout the game. Secure zones controlled and protected by the military, neutral zones where people try to live their lives as normal, outbreak zones where the infected have overrun the city and war zones which are basically hell on earth (sounds similar to GTA: SA turf war system).

Innovation seems to be on the menu with Prototype

To combat all the enemies you will be facing, Alex is infused with amazing abilities seemingly brought on by the same virus that is overrunning New York (similarity to Dark Sector anyone?). Although Alex can appear normal, at the press of a button he can break into a 60mph run, scale buildings, propel himself thousands of feet and lift impossibly heavy objects. A difference to any other super-powered character in other games is that Alex can create or combine new powers depending on the situation he faces, creating an ever evolving character with increasingly complex abilities. All abilities are gained by completing the game's missions and can be upgraded to higher levels for more effect. This will result in Alex being able to turn his hands into razors, slicing enemies in half, or causing spikes to erupt from the ground impaling all opponents in the target area. Also new to a game of its style, Prototype won't implement limited use of Alex's powers and you will not have to collect anything before being able to use them. As soon as you have a power, flip a switch and presto!

As mentioned, Alex can absorb the bodies of enemies or plain civilians disguising him as those people. This can be useful for hiding from enemies or even infiltrating places like a military base. Once inside you can play the soldiers against each other by labelling someone else and impostor, thus getting all the soldiers afraid of each other and to begin firing upon each other, allowing you to complete your mission easily and undisturbed.

We're looking forward to seeing this in action, hopefully at E3.

Weapons will also be available in the game, which Alex can pick up from dead enemies. However they have no ammo count and once used up are thrown away leaving you to find another one if you want; pistols, rifles and heat seeking RPGs will all feature in the game.

A breath of fresh air to games nowadays is the stance of the leading character. Alex isn't your usual type of anti-hero, he isn't just out to right some wrongs. He is one extremely pissed guy and will use any means necessary to enact revenge on anyone that wronged him so that he can regain his memory. The developers said that to give the character a sense of depth different skills, abilities and traits were derived from the likes of Darth Maul (Star Wars) and Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal).

Prototype is a highly interesting game and I peg it as one to watch. With its altering environment, constantly upgrading abilities and changing situations, including the possibility of luring your two enemies (Military and Infected) to face off against each other so that you can pick up the pieces I doubt Prototype will ever become repetitive. Radical Entertainment are masters of the open world genre so expect a hugely rendered New York to traverse and highly destructible environments. Prototype is an interesting concept and a nice change to all the re-hashes and ports floating around next-gen consoles nowadays, expect more on this from us when the dust settles.

- Alex Goodenough


Sierra Ent.
Radical Ent.
PC - PS3 - 360