Prototype (video game)
|Release||Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
July 14, 2015
Prototype (stylized as [PROTOTYPE]) is an open world action-adventure video game developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Activision. The game was released in North America on June 9, 2009, and in southwestern parts of North America as well as Oceania on June 10, and was released in Europe on June 12. Versions for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were released on July 14, 2015 alongside the sequel as Prototype Biohazard Bundle. Separate versions of the games became available on August 12, 2015.
Set in Manhattan, the game follows a powerful amnesiac shapeshifter named Alex Mercer who must stop an outbreak of Blacklight, a plague that mutates individuals into hideous violent monsters. During his quest, Alex tries to uncover his past while also coming into conflict with both the US military and a black operations force called Blackwatch. Parallel to the game's storyline is the ability to play the game as a sandbox-style video game giving the player freedom to roam Manhattan.
The game was a critical and commercial success, with critics praising the game for its originality and engaging gameplay. Many reviewers compared and contrasted it with Infamous, another open world action-adventure game released one month prior to Prototype, by Sucker Punch Productions which features a superpowered protagonist with developing powers in an urban world.
Alex's primary superpower is his ability to shapeshift, changing his body into anyone. Going hand-in-hand with this power is his ability to "consume" others, absorbing them entirely. This process allows Alex to quickly regain health by absorbing the biomass of his enemies. This also allows him to take on the forms of the human enemies he absorbs, thereby allowing the player to move about the enemy as one of them. The disguise will only last as long as Alex remains inconspicuous. Alex has incredible physical strength, and will kill most humans in a single punch. He can perform various melee attacks without shapeshifting, as well as more gymnastic moves such as air combos, sliding along the ground using any humanoid enemy's body, and a high-speed rolling cannonball attack.
Alex can also transform parts of his body into a selection of martial implements acquired over the course of the game, either as purchased upgrades or being given them. Offensive powers include the large and powerful Blade arm, fast razor-sharp Claws (which can also erupt large spikes from the ground), the telescoping Whipfist, Musclemass that augments his strength, and the slow but powerful Hammerfists. Defensive options consist of a large shield on Alex's left arm for blocking ballistic attacks that needs to regenerate after excessive damage, and full body armor that exchanges agility and speed for toughness in hand-to-hand combat; both will allow Alex to plow through most obstacles when active. Vision modes include thermal vision, which allows Alex to see enemies through smoke and other obstacles at the expense of a decreased vision range, and Infected vision, which highlights those infected with the BLACKLIGHT virus as well as military units. Both vision modes muffle all of Alex's other senses, such as hearing, in order to concentrate on his sight. One defensive and offensive power may be active at a time, and using either will negate Alex's current disguise. In addition to his own abilities, Alex can take the weapons from defeated or absorbed enemies. These include automatic rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and missile launchers. He can also seize control of military vehicles, such as tanks and helicopters.
Alex's most powerful attacks are the Devastators, which require Alex to be in Critical Mass- either a state of near-death or the exact opposite, having excess stored biomass and increased health. These include the Tendril Barrage, which fires impaling tendrils from his body in all directions, the Groundspike Graveyard, which erupts massive spikes from the ground all around Alex, and the Critical Pain, which fires a single beam of hardened biomass from his hands to severely damage a single target.
For movement around the city, Alex uses his increased physical abilities. When sprinting, he will automatically hop over cars, barriers and other obstacles without losing momentum. Alex will also scale any wall he comes into contact with and simply knock aside any humanoids that get in his way without stopping. He can jump great heights and distances, enough to clear five-story buildings, and can sprint at extreme speed indefinitely. Falls cause no damage to the player even from the greatest heights. Even small jumps are enough for Alex to dent the ground beneath him, and falls from sufficient heights will create shockwaves at the point of impact which will kill most humans nearby and send objects as large as cars flying. Falling height also factors into several of Alex's melee attacks.
Enemies in the game are the Infected: those infected with the BLACKLIGHT virus, and the Military. The Infected consist of ordinary civilians infected with the virus that are generally not a threat to Alex. However, the Hunters, huge creatures created from Infected water towers, are one of the main enemies in the game. Evolved Hunters referred to as Leaders are one of the most powerful creatures in the game and are incredibly hard for Alex to kill. The Military consist of ordinary soldiers which are usually not a threat to Alex, although they are capable of operating weaponry that is extremely dangerous to Alex, such as tanks and heavily armed helicopters. The Military also consists of BLACKWATCH, an agency dedicated to combating biological and nuclear warfare. BLACKWATCH is one of the intricate parts of the game's story and create some of the most deadly biological weaponry to combat Alex, including viral detectors capable of detecting Alex even in his disguise, and, introduced later in the game, the deadly poison Bloodtox, capable of slowly killing Alex and the Infected. Introduced later in the game are heavily armored and durable soldiers referred to as Super Soldiers, capable of fighting against Alex and some of the strongest Infected.
In order to gain more advanced upgrades, Alex is capable of sneaking into Military Bases using a disguise and stealthily consume various officials within the base. He can also set off an alert within the base, in which the only way to escape is to slaughter whoever is in the base. Alex can also gain upgrades from the Infected by collecting genetic data. Infected Hives, like Military Bases, are located all over the city, and produce genetic data constantly. Alex can destroy the Infected Hives or simply absorb the data on the outside as it is being produced. At the start of the game, only small factions of the Infected and Military are present in the city. However, as the game progresses, the Military and the Infected begin to expand. Territory in the city is made out of three distinct zones. Blue Zones are in Military control and are relatively clean of the Infection. Red Zones thrive with the Infection, although there still remains a strong Military presence. In some areas of the city, a Blue Zone and a Red Zone might converge, creating a new and distinct Purple Zone. In these Zones, the Military and the Infected are in a constant battle for control. How the player decides to act in these Zones determine which faction seizes the territory.
The game takes place in a medium-sized version of Manhattan with all its famous landmarks, including the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Trump Building, the One Chase Manhattan Plaza, the Conde Nast Building, the Metlife Building, the One New York Plaza, the New York Life Building, among others.
The game follows Alexander J. "Alex" Mercer (voiced by Barry Pepper) who wakes up in a morgue in the basement of Gentek, a genetic engineering company based in Manhattan, sending a pair of scientists that were just about to perform an autopsy running. Alex escapes, and witnesses the scientists being gunned down by military operatives. Alex is discovered and attacked. He survives bullets being fired into his chest, and leaps over a wall to safety. He soon discovers he now possesses powerful shapeshifting abilities, superhuman strength, speed, agility, durability, senses, endurance, weaponry and the ability to "consume" people to gain their memories, skills and appearance. With no memory of his previous life, Alex decides to find and consume those related to the conspiracy in order to uncover the truth. During his quest, Alex faces two factions: the United States Marine Corps and Blackwatch, a Fort Detrick special forces unit dedicated to combating biological warfare; and the Infected, monsters created by a virus known as BLACKLIGHT that is overrunning Manhattan. Captain Robert Cross (voiced by Jeffrey Pierce), a Blackwatch officer, is given orders to find and contain Alex.
Alex makes contact with his sister, Dana (voiced by Lake Bell), who assists him in tracking down targets, leading to the infiltration of Gentek headquarters. He finds a young woman called Elizabeth Greene contained in the building. Greene is a host for BLACKLIGHT and upon her escape unleashes it upon Manhattan. Dana directs Alex to Karen Parker, his ex-girlfriend. She agrees to aid him in stopping the virus, while requiring Alex to bring back samples of the virus. Karen later leads Alex into a trap, where he is confronted by Cross. During their battle, Alex almost defeated Cross when Cross mentioned 'Penn Station', triggering a flashback that leaves Alex dazed. Alex is injected with a parasite that threatens to kill him. Alex seeks help from Dr. Ragland, a pathologist linked to Gentek. Ragland helps Alex remove the parasite and turn it into a weapon against Greene. However, it has no effect on Greene as her body rejected the parasite immediately, and the rejected biomass forms a monstrous being, the Supreme Hunter, which Alex kills. Alex later finds and kills Karen in revenge for setting him up.
The origins of the virus and Elizabeth Greene are uncovered through a contact: in 1969 the government tested the virus' predecessor in Hope, Idaho, designed to target predetermined races. Although the entire town was infected, no ill effects manifested until Elizabeth Greene's infection. An anomaly in her body's biology accepted the virus, rewriting her genetic code and causing her to take control of the infected town, becoming hostile in the process. The entire population of Hope, Idaho was liquidated by Blackwatch with only Greene and her son, codenamed PARIAH, surviving. Although kept separate, the two were held in captivity for further research. With samples taken from Greene's blood, Gentek's team led by Mercer synthesized the current strain of BLACKLIGHT virus.
Alex discovers his own past: Blackwatch shut down the Gentek project due to leaks and ordered all project personnel eliminated. Alex Mercer took a sample of BLACKLIGHT as "insurance". Eventually pinned down by Blackwatch in Penn Station. Alex, in a final act of desperation and vengeance shatters the vial containing the BLACKLIGHT, releasing the virus before being gunned down. The virus entered Mercer's bloodstream through the bullet holes and repaired his body at the cellular level.
The contact and Alex pump a new "BLOODTOX" biological agent underground in order to drive the virus above ground where it can be fought directly, causing Greene to emerge, encased in a towering monstrosity. Greene falls from the monster in human form once she is defeated, and is consumed by Alex. Through her memories, it becomes apparent that General Randall, head of Blackwatch, is prepared to destroy Manhattan with a nuclear weapon. Alex, with the help of the contact, revealed to be Cross, infiltrates the USS Ronald Reagan to stop Randall. Once Alex consumes Randall, Cross is revealed to be the Supreme Hunter, who assumed Cross' identity after consuming him, and attacks Alex, asserting that when Blackwatch leaves NYZ (New York Zero, the name given to the city after the outbreak) they will no longer be searching for infected, and that after he consumes Alex, he will then be strong enough to survive the nuclear detonation. Alex defeats the Supreme Hunter and moves the weapon out into the Atlantic Ocean with a helicopter, where it detonates and catches him in the blast. His remains float back to the city and regenerate after consuming a crow.
During the credits, it is revealed that the public considers the military to have been the one who stopped the infection; a US Senator is heard telling the media that the events in Manhattan were a case of nuclear and biological terrorism, and promises retribution upon those responsible. Alex, reflecting on the events that occurred and the truth he uncovered about himself, claims he has "become something less than human, but also something more". After the credits, Manhattan is shown to be slowly recovering, with the virus close to eradicated. Alex, standing on top of the Reuters Building in Times Square, comments that his work is almost done.
Development and release
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The main protagonist Alex Mercer is voiced by Canadian actor Barry Pepper. Alex's sister Dana Mercer is voiced by Lake Bell and the primary antagonist, Robert Cross (CODENAME: THE SPECIALIST) is voiced by Jeff Pierce. Phil LaMarr voiced Dr. Bradley Ragland, who was helping Alex when Cross injected him with an Anti-Blacklight virus. Alex Mercer ex-girlfriend Karen Parker is voiced by Vanessa Marshall. Alex's boss Dr. Raymond McMullen is voiced by Paul Guilfoyle who also played Jim Brass in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Gordon Clapp voiced Gen. Peter Randall who wants to contain Alex. Randall 2nd in-command Ian Taggart is voiced by Richard McGonagle. Kari Wahlgren voiced Elizabeth Green also known as "The Mother" who was infected with the virus in 1969. Brian Bloom voiced a Blackwatch commander who is yelling at the time when Mercer transforms into his disguise in the base. All additional characters are voiced by Dave Fennoy, Dave Wittenberg, David Andriole, David Lodge, and Diane Hsu.
The game received favorable reviews from critics, garnering 79/100 on the PC and PS3 platforms and 78/100 on Xbox 360 according to aggregation website Metacritic. Prototype was released on Steam as well as in retail stores and topped the Steam sales on the week of its release. The Xbox 360 version of Prototype was the top selling game of June 2009 in North America, with over 419,900 units sold. This made the game a Platinum Hit. As of March 2012, the game had sold 2.1 million copies worldwide.
GameSpot gave the game an 8.5/10, praising the game for its "intriguing storyline and protagonist" and "massive arsenal of moves and abilities", but criticized the game for its "occasionally fiddly controls" and "dull scenery". The Escapist said the game was a perfect "summer fling," praising the combat and movement systems as well as the unique mechanic of the Web of Intrigue. The A.V. Club gave the game an "A" ranking, calling the movement style "exhilarating" and saying it was a "mature, science-fiction superhero fantasy that somehow makes players feel simultaneously powerful and vulnerable."
Prototype was released two weeks after Sucker Punch Productions' Infamous, a game with many similar concepts including a character with superpowers, and a large open world environment that can be traveled by climbing up buildings and gliding about the city. This led many game critics to compare and contrast the games. In his Zero Punctuation review of Prototype, Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw compared the two games point for point, and determined that he could not tell which was the better game - Prototype won on open world gameplay and combat, while Infamous won on story and side missions. To decide which one was better, he jokingly stated that he'd award the best game to the team which created the best picture of the other main character wearing "a woman's bra". To his surprise, both development teams rose to the challenge, producing said images, and forcing Croshaw to call it a near-tie, edging out in favor of Infamous, though he still noted that, like their games, both images created independently were nearly equal in the themes that they included.
Prototype 2 was released on April 24, 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and on July 24, 2012 in North America and July 30, 2012 in Europe for Windows. Prototype 2 takes place three years after the events of the first game and stars a new protagonist, U.S. Marine Sergeant James Heller. Alex Mercer, on the other hand, becomes the franchise's main antagonist - altering from anti-hero, to main villain after journeying across the globe and losing his faith in humanity. When Alex returns to Manhattan, he releases the virus once more, which earns it the name of "The Mercer Virus". After returning from his tour in Iraq, Heller discovers that his wife and child were killed in the second viral outbreak; the same virus that was halted by Mercer in the prior installment. Because of this, Heller started to suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), leading to a burning hatred for the one responsible; Alex Mercer. According to the intro cinematic, Heller, at this point, has a homicidal desire towards Alex Mercer and a complete disregard for his own safety. Thus, Heller requests a transfer, and due to a rise in infected, he was reinstated and assigned to the most heavily infected part of Manhattan; The Red Zone. Here, Heller is infected by Alex Mercer after his unit was ambushed, giving him the same viral powers as Mercer. For a while, the narrative attempts to lead the player to believe that Alex is being framed and gave Heller his powers to help him stop the "real" culprits, Blackwatch. Heller goes along with Alex in order to take down Blackwatch in an attempt to avenge the deaths of his family and, in tern, free the oppressed people of Manhattan who are being used as test subjects. However, when it is revealed to him that Alex was lying, Heller switches his focus to taking down both Blackwatch and Mercer, the latter of which possessing an infected army.
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