Prototype Impressions

We get a first look at Radical's rampaging action game.


In a near-future New York City, the populace is gripped in the claws of a vicious war between three powerful factions--the military, the monsters, and you. You are Alex Mercer, a shape-shifting, backflipping, people-eating antihero, and the star of Radical Entertainment's upcoming free-roaming action-fest, Prototype. We recently got a long, hard look at Alex's approaching exploits, and we were horrified by what we saw--in a good way.

The first thing we noticed as the developers ran Alex around the beautifully rendered city streets was his uncanny speed and agility. Alex can run at least 60 miles per hour and he leaps like a frog, bouncing from car to car as if they were lily pads. Actually, he's much more graceful than a long-legged amphibian, and his moves seem clearly inspired by that darling of internet videos, parkour. Of course, his athletics go above and beyond anything remotely human, given that he can also run up walls from story to story, dash in midair, and fall from any height without breaking anything but concrete. This game will put the "loco" in locomotion.

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

When Alex isn't bouncing, dashing, or climbing, he's usually killing, and the environment is bustling with victims. Most of these are terrified civilians, attempting to go about their daily lives in spite of the terrible war going on around them. With a single button press, Alex can brutally kill anyone he sees. He then consumes their biomass, gaining access to everything about them, including their DNA, memories, and especially their appearance. So, in a sense, the people he kills don't die; they join him. Creepy.

And intentionally so, because Alex isn't meant to be good, or even likable. Rather, he's the fearsome byproduct of a corrupt society, the wicked specter of science gone wrong, risen to wreck his creators. He's like Godzilla in a hoodie, though the famous lizard wasn't mentioned by the developers as an influence on Alex. Rather, they mentioned Darth Maul (for his crazy, vicious side), Travis Bickle (the weirdo in Taxi Driver), and Hannibal Lecter (for his sense of taste). But Alex doesn't wield lightsabers; rather, he forms his body parts into lethal weapons, kind of like the T-1000 from Terminator 2.

We saw him turn his arms into sharp, hard prongs and slice people in two, as well as stick his hand into the ground to cause an eruption of stalagmites under a tank, which will no doubt have a massive repair bill. Alex can also grow armor plating to protect him from damage, but at the cost of being able to cut people up or impale armored vehicles. As you eat more people, your body mass becomes denser and your attacks even stronger.

Most awful way to die number 731.
Most awful way to die number 731.

Then again, why break a war machine, when you can suck up its driver and use it yourself? Alex answered this question by hopping on an Apache chopper, ripping the cockpit open, throwing out one pilot, eating the other, then continuing his assault on New York from the air. According to the devs, Alex will be able to commandeer a nice assortment of vehicles, as well as use an arsenal of weapons.

But for what, and why? Evidently, Alex was part of a governmental conspiracy involving covert biological research--a conspiracy that backfired, badly. Part of that fallout is Alex himself, and the other part is the new population of powerful and angry mutants taking over New York a block at a time. As Alex, you have to piece together the plot by eating people who know things, thereby gaining their memories.

And sometimes their mammaries. While you can always try to approach situations the violent way, Alex may also assume the physical forms of people he's eaten in order to sneakily blend in. So if you'd rather not completely destroy New York and its inhabitants as you go along, you may be able to eat only bad people and stalk through the game in their shoes, high heels, or boots, as the case may be.

Army of one down; 10 to go.
Army of one down; 10 to go.

If you ask us, Prototype's New York is absolutely worth saving. Not only does it look good, it's also split into accurate neighborhoods that have either been occupied by the army, the mutants, both (a war zone), or neither (a neutral zone). While we don't know the full implications of this territory system, we do know you'll be able to manipulate the conflict between the mutants and the military to suit your own personal ends.

There's a lot more we don't know about Prototype--the developers say it's only 20 percent finished--but we do know one thing: We want to know more. With its slick graphics, crazy violence, bizarre take on identity, and fascinating approach to dining etiquette, this game looks ready to kill and eat the competition when it rampages into stores sometime in late 2008.

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