Sunday, August 29, 2010


I wanted to like this game. I really did. Running around the city is awesome. Poking around for the collectables is fun. The side missions are rather varied. It reminds me in great part of Spider-man 2 for the X-Box, which I thought was pretty much the best movie-to-game adaptation ever. But I simply cannot get past my frustrations with this game. Prototype is flawed, and to me, fatally so.

Prototype does a fair bit right. It's got a large area to explore, but it's not onerous to get around it. It gives you a lot of powers, and differentiates them enough that each will usually see some use in its ideal situation. The powers are fun to use, and create suitable carnage. It has a mildly interesting plot.

But it gets some stuff terribly wrong. The controls are terrible. Depending on the situation, they range from adequate to completely moronic. Flying a helicopter requires the mouse and WASD, and V/Spacebar (or mouse wheel). Take a moment to try that keyboard combination. It's pretty awkward. Okay, so ignore V/Spacebar, then, and just use the mouse wheel? Well, since you need to constantly scroll it to change your height, you're going to be constantly thrashing your wheel since you can't just hold it like the keyboard controls. It's a poor control scheme. Of course, there's not much to remap it to, since you're already using 1, 2, 3, 4, tab, E, R, F, and a few other buttons for other controls. Then we go from bad control scheme to bad control reactions. There was a collectable at the top of a building crane's arm. It took me more than 5 minutes to grab it. Why? Because every time I got to the top of the body of the crane, I'd either run right up and over it, or I'd stop short and then backflip off on to the ground. Then when I eventually made it to the top of that, I had to run up the crane arm, and not running off that was an ordeal as well. While just parkouring around, I've had little awkward bounces off geometry, but if you're not aiming for a target, that's not a huge deal. Targeting is iffy at best, as well. Hit tab to lock on to a target. Seems simple. Yeah, right up until you lock on a moving target. Worst example was when I was locked on a tank, and tried to pick up a car to throw at the tank. I was standing next to the car, I was facing the car. The tank was behind me, so every time I hit the "pick up" button, I'd turn around to face the tank and grasp ineffectually at the air in front of me. That continued for a good 10 seconds. Targeting itself is a little iffy as well. Streets tend to be packed with civilians, military, and infected, which makes picking your target awkward. It's difficult to differentiate between the infantry holding rifles and grenade launchers, and not a lot easier to tell the ones with missile launchers, and switching targets between close enemies is difficult. If you're in a tank, trying to track a helicopter is really tetchy, and if it's too high and close, you cannot target it. Lastly, I'm supposed to have an upgrade for the claw power that allows me to slash on the run, but rather than slashing, I do the flying jump-kick. In fact, I do that flying jump-kick a lot of times, and most attacks seem to require you to just stand stock-still and don't move while you attack. Usually, that's fine since there's a decent range on attacks, but if you're going for a moving target, you're going to have troubles gauging where to stop so that you can still hit it while it's running away. Actually, grabbing certain targets while you and it are moving is also unnecessarily difficult. Some sort of intelligent system of prioritizing targets would have been an excellent inclusion, so I stop grabbing the random civilian next to the priority target. These myriad control issues are just asinine, especially the last one in a game that places great emphasis on parkour as your means to get around.

The primary way the game unfolds the story is also pretty stupid for one basic reason: you can miss it through absolutely no fault of your own. The story is contained in the "web of intrigue," which you populate by consuming specified targets and gaining some of their memories. The idea is pretty good, I'll admit. Though since it doesn't tell you when you get one how a memory is linked to the others, it's rather confusing unless you specifically go in to the web menu and start playing linked ones one after the other. But none of that matters, because some of those varied and interesting side missions I mentioned as one of the things done right absolutely destroys it. You get a mission to go consume certain targets. Okay, fine. I'll go nab them, get a bit of a plot dump, and some experience. Grab one, grab the second one. Try to grab the third... still trying... then a tank comes around the corner, fires a shell, and kills the last guy I'm supposed to consume, mission ends, and I don't get the last piece of the web of intrigue that I was supposed to, and I can't repeat the mission. Okay, so have I lost that forever? Will that guy now respawn and show up outside of missions? Heck if I know. Game doesn't tell me. It's pretty bad when the game itself is closing off plot segments.

My last point of contention is this: I'm playing on easy. I know I'm playing on easy. I want to play on easy. I just wanted to run around the city and f*** some s*** up. I had pretty much all the upgrades possible at this point. But I still managed to hit a brick wall for about half an hour in a mission because there were so many enemies that if I got hit once, I'd get juggled and end up losing pretty much all my health. And I can't run away because I'm doing a mission. And that's despite having an air recovery and dodge mechanics. And I don't think I'm near the end of the game or anything. I was on Day 6 of the infection, and I believe it goes to Day 18, if some of the cutscenes are to be believed. I'm not joking, I restarted from the mission checkpoint a dozen times or more, playing the same 5 minutes over and over just trying to not get my butt smeared over the concrete. And this has happened more than once. The worst was an "evade or kill surrounding enemies" objective to finish off a mission. I was low on health, and there were a lot of enemies around, so I figured I'd flee. Some helicopters chased me for a quarter of the city's length, so I stopped to try and kill them. There were only three, and I'd gotten a bit of health back. Except every time I killed one, another immediately spawned in right then and there. No delays. No transit time. As soon as one downed, another was already there. So, I couldn't outrun them or outfight them. Died, had to restart from the checkpoint. Ran around a corner and changed disguises. Instantly lost the military and finished the mission, despite being in plain view of a half-dozen infantry. Of course, I've had the opposite problem as well. I was standing on top of a military base, the meter said that no one was looking at me, I changed in to a military disguise, and I was instantly spotted and went to "everyone be trying to kill you, dawg" mode.

I'll admit, Prototype is fun when you're just cruising around the city, and in small engagements, but large engagements, or when you're trying to hit a specific point, the game can get pretty frustrating. It might be better with a 360 controller, but I don't think I care to find out. It might be worth a rental, but I wouldn't buy it at the $30 price point it's at now on Steam, knowing what I do now.

Addendum: Upon advice with a friend, I did give it a try with the 360 controller. Wow. It's like a completely different game. One where the camera is completely and totally horrible and not invertible. Also, lock-on isn't toggled any more, it's only as long as you're holding the button. And you don't lock on to what you're looking at, say, a web of intrigue target, but the marine behind you. And lock-on moves your camera when it does that, too. The mapping of buttons is less than ideal as well. One thing that didn't change was the game's fascination with killing Web targets just when I go to grab them, with 4 being offed this time. Two by me (one due to not having any idea which button "consume" was on the 360 controller, one because I grabbed a mailbox instead of the Web target, and then accidentally THROWING the mailbox at the target, while locked on), and two by the game (one by a car weaving in to the target, and I'm still not sure what happened to the other). There's a good, solid game in there, somewhere. It's just buried under a completely terrible control scheme.

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