October 16, 2009

Prototype Spoiler Time

So, I finished Prototype today. A day after I started playing it. I would have liked it to be longer, but I played quiiite a lot, so I'm not mad about its length. Anyway. That's not the concern here. Let's talk about what it did and didn't do right.

Now, I think my record speaks for itself- I'm no graphics whore. But Prototype was UGLY, I'm sorry. Turns out I do have my limits... a PS3 title should not look like this. I still played in, I still enjoyed it, and it didn't really get in the way of that, but from time to time I caught myself stopping, and saying "...Really?" I would call them original Xbox level graphics, but given the number of NPCs on screen and the action flying around, it is better than Xbox, if only through sheer numbers. Fun is fun, though, so let's not worry about graphics too much.

The story, the plot, was piss-poor. It was really, really bad. Okay, the basic plotline was not that awful, and I'll be honest, I'm impressed that they had the stones to do what they did with the main character. It's a classic (I.E. annoyingly cliche) character wakes up with amnesia and mysterious powers scenario, but when you learn the truth about yourself... it's far more harsh than you would expect. 1) You are not Alex Mercer, as you had thought. You're actually a biologically engineered virus that replicates and consumes DNA. You're not even close to human. So that takes some guts to bust that one on you. 2) Alex Mercer, your original host... was actually something of a piece of shit. He infected all of New York with a bioweapon just as a "if I go down you're coming down with me." So it's impressive that they actually didn't try to make you like the character. You're supposed to think that Alex/ZEUS (his military designation)/Blacklight (the name of the project that made him) is a distasteful individual.

Which makes it all the more bizarre that the people you meet and take missions from take your consuming people and ripping them in half in perfect stride. You help a doctor with some research, and transform and then impale people on spikes right in front of him, and he doesn't seem bothered by that at all. Perhaps the developers thought it would be too much trouble, but I would have liked to have had the characters actually be disturbed by it, storyline-wise. You'd have to deal with less nice people, but... well, when you're a flesh-consuming bioweapon, it seems kinda bizarre to be getting help from your host's sister.

And that brings up another weird point... after all the time throughout the story of people not even blinking in the face of your bizarre powers, at one point you make an offhand reference about having killed people in front of your sister, and she flips the fuck out. I don't mind that as a stand alone event, but in contrast to the other people that don't care, and the fact that in an earlier cutscene with your sister, you punch through a dude's chest. It's not like she doesn't know what you do. It strikes me as trying to have your cake and eat it too. It's awkward and clumsy. And when you have such a gutsy premise for a protagonist, you could have at least given him an interesting story to play through. It's a waste, and a shame, especially given that the game is singleplayer only.

Inconsistency is a trademark of Prototype, though. In the interviews before the game came out, the developers talked about how Mercer assimilates the intelligence of those he consumes, and by the end of the game, he's just brilliant, superhumanly smart. I can understand not representing that properly- as a writer and a roleplayer, I know that perhaps the hardest thing is trying to portrait a character that is smarter than you are. But they could have at least TRIED. Mercer learns some things from people he consumes. This is true. But the things he learns are weapons/vehicle skills and memories relevant to his situation. Mass consumption of random civilians heals you, but nets you nothing. That is disappointing. Imagine if you could learn some civilian skills- to drive one of the many compacts going down the road in Prototype's New York, for instance. Or if you had some representation of your IQ going up- maybe an ability to judge the path of aircraft or missiles, or something. I'm trying to think of things that would be gameplay viable, but the options are impressive, and I really wish they were explored.

Another complaint. Mercer generally uses the former of... Mercer, his first host. It's sort of his default, for whenever he's not particularly disguised. So why do the military not have a kill on sight for his face? He's pretty distinct looking, and they certainly have a lot of "Wanted" posters of him in cutscenes. So how come you can walk up to a military officer and he just tells you to push off? And how come, in turn, you can then spin around, still in view of that officer, and run up the side of a building and they merely comment on how weird that is? You have to actually either transform or rip someone in half in plain sight of a soldier for them to go to alert. Except for a few special situations, once they get scanners that identify your genetic signature. That part I quite liked.

Hell, maybe I'll do another one of these posts later. It's a fun game, but I'm not really convinced it's a good game. Well, okay. It's a good game, not a great game.

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