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#1 2020-08-19 22:14:13

Registered: 2020-08-03
Posts: 2,802

Prototype casts the player as Alex Mercer

The last article I wrote for the Kulturecade’s superhero month focused on the inFamous series, the first entry of which was released in 2009.
inFamous was not the only open-world superhero action game to release that year, however.

Prototype also released in 2009 and brought with it a distinctive

if flawed, take on the superhero genre that was full of conspiracies and drenched in blood.
Despite some serious shortcomings, both Prototype and Prototype 2 are fun games that brought a different flavor to the often-homogenous superhero genre, and the fact that a third entry never materialized is unfortunate.
Prototype casts the player as Alex Mercer, an amnesiac who awakens in a morgue to discover that he has superpowers and that a strange infection is spreading through New York City.
Mercer’s powers include the usual suspects (increased strength and speed), as well as some decidedly weirder tools (the ability to shapeshift his arms into all manner of tendrils, blades, and giant fists).
Mercer can also consume other human beings in order to restore his health and absorb the memories of key targets, an ability that’s cool in theory but looks incredibly dated by modern standards.

The first Prototype game is solid

even though some design choices keep it from living up to its full potential.
The New York City of the first game is barren, with little to do between story missions, and while it’s nice that the player is given a significant amount of power to begin with, that also means that progression doesn’t feel quite as meaningful as it should.
There are some other problems with the game, but by far the biggest issue is Mercer himself.
Simply put, he’s an incredibly dull protagonist, someone who is neither likable nor detestable, just a bland player avatar.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the game didn’t try to get players invested in Mercer’s story so much, but as he stumbles through the sometimes-convoluted conspiracy at the heart of the story, players are expected to care about his triumphs, failures, and revelations about his past.
I didn’t, for the most part, although there seems to be a vocal contingent of series fans that maintain that Mercer was a good character (for one game, anyway; more on that in a bit).

Prototype is an entertaining if clunky power fantasy

but it doesn’t achieve anything more than that.
Prototype 2 greatly improves on the gameplay of the first installment but introduces even more baffling story elements.

Former protagonist Alex Mercer is the villain this time around

re-releasing the virus from the first game for reasons that aren’t made entirely clear.
The new “hero” is James Heller, an Army Sergeant who resents Mercer for unleashing the virus that killed his family.

An attempt was made to make Heller a more sympathetic protagonist than Mercer

and it almost works.
Unfortunately, Heller during gameplay is completely incongruous with Heller during the game’s more serious moments.

Despite Heller’s rage and eventual concern for his (spoiler) daughter

who’s actually still alive, he’s incredibly glib about the hundreds or thousands of people he’s murdering.
The mix of forced quips (some of which are so bad they’re good), random bouts of grief, and unbridled rage doesn’t make Heller sympathetic, it just makes him look like a self-absorbed psychopath, unbothered by any suffering but his own.
Story woes aside, however, .

Prototype 2 is an improvement over the first game in every other regard

New York City feels more alive, the progression system is more varied.

Heller starts weaker than Mercer did but grows even stronger

and some of the new powers introduced are a lot of fun.
Like the first game before it.

Prototype 2 has some glaring flaws that cannot be ignored

but it makes a strong case that the franchise could’ve continued to evolve and improve if given the chance.
Unfortunately, that chance never came.

Prototype 2 was the last in the series

and aside from a port to current-gen consoles, there hasn’t been any indication of the series continuing.

The Prototype series might not have been destined for greatness

but it was the epitome of the solid “B.” The series occupied the increasingly small space for games that are of above average quality, but not quite good enough to reach AAA status.
In a world increasingly dominated by huge releases driven by months (or years) of hype and a handful of successful indie titles, there’s always room for gaming comfort food, the type of game that isn’t the best at anything, but commits wholeheartedly to showing the player a good time.

That’s what the Prototype series was more or less about

and for all its flaws, it’s a shame that there aren’t more games like it.
The post A Look Back at Activision’s Prototype Franchise appeared first on Kulture Shocked.

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