Superheroes have to put a lot of effort into hiding their identity. Spider-Man, Batman and the X-Men have to wear figure-hugging costumes and masks, Superman has to make sure he doesn’t forget his glasses and Bruce Banner has to make sure he controls his temper. For Alex Mercer, star of Activision Blizzard’s Prototype, the answer is much simpler: he changes shape.
The fact that Prototype is one of the few titles that survived the Activision and Vivendi merger shows the promise the publisher sees in the title. Claiming to shake up the superhero sandbox genre, the game allows players to unleash themselves on New York City with a variety of devastating powers.
Gamers take on the role of Mercer, a man who has no knowledge of his past but instead has a range of shape-shifting abilities. As they explore the Big Apple in search of answers, players soon discover Mercer is part of a conspiracy that originated 40 years ago. Not only do they have to uncover these secrets, players also have to deal with a strange viral outbreak, known as the Infected, and the ruthless Blackwatch troops that will mercilessly slaughter innocent civilians in their efforts to stop its spread by any means necessary.
The key to the game is Mercer’s array of attacks. His ability to change shape manifests itself in a range of offensive capabilities, each of which will be crucial if he is to survive the dangers of the infected city. From slashing his enemies with sharp claws to pounding them with his hammerfist, Mercer has the upper hand in any battle. These can all be upgraded as players progress, so improving the claws with a ground spike enables Mercer to burrow under his enemies and erupt from the ground beneath them.
Of course, our mutated hero isn’t invulnerable so players will need to be careful to maintain his defensive powers as well. These range from transforming his arm into a sturdy shield of bone to an entire armoured exoskeleton that makes Mercer completely bulletproof and capable of barging through crowds of enemy soldiers.
These powers need to be charged up before they can be used. To do so, Mercer can consume and absorb any and every person he encounters. This process has a range of handy side-effects, as the protagonist gains his victims memories and any special abilities or powers they have. Not only does this improve his own abilities, the knowledge he absorbs also brings him closer to discovering the truth.
This ability can even be used to give players a new way of approaching the game. Rather than running around the city streets in broad daylight, drawing unnecessary attention to themselves, players can assume the shape of their last victim.
All they have to do is consume some poor, unsuspecting passer-by and they can blend into the crowd, pursuing their objectives without being hassled by Blackwatch forces.
However, the majority of gamers are certain to travel with a little more style. Mercer can traverse the city in the style of a super-powered Parkour runner, sprinting up walls and swinging between buildings, making for exhilarating chases through the iconic city.
Prototype is set to impress gamers the world over, with the action-packed gameplay and intriguing storyline certain to be a draw. In the summer of heroes, this game is guaranteed to pack a special punch at retail.