I have to admit I wasn't all that jazzed about this game going in. The marketing campaign was a little too... I don't know... self-aggrandizing and yet emo. Reading about it made the game's concept sound like something a bored junior high school student came up with in an hour when handed an assignment entitled "come up with something totally rad."
But, after playing it, I have to admit, that middle schooler has a pretty good idea of what's "rad."
Prototype is a 3rd person action game that puts you in the shoes of an amnesiac anti-hero who has been infected with a genetically engineered disease that gives him superpowers. He's a super-angry badass with a gravelly voice who, thanks to his infection, can shapeshift to look like other people, physically absorb people into his body to heal himself and/or take their place, form cutting blades and smashing clubs and any other number of weapons, sprint up the side of buildings and, of course, absorb an unbelievable number of bullets without dying. You get plopped out with no memory in the middle of manhattan with the disease "outbreak" coming into full swing, turning people into mutant killer zombies and the army coming in to try to contain the situation. And everybody wants you dead, but you're just too goddamned badassedly deadly for them to get the job done.
I know it sounds corny and over the top. I groaned as I installed the game. But you know what? Give your inner Jr. High student a hug because he hit this one out of the park. Yeah, it's like somebody took Venom, Hulk and Wolverine and threw them in a blender and poured this out as the result, but you know what? It's goddamned fun to be Venulkerine. I also felt echoes of Assassin's Creed, GTA and Resident Evil. Put em all together and you've got one big amalgamated game of "you are unbelievably powerful and you can pretty much do anything you want."
The gameplay itself is extremely reminiscent of The Incredible Hulk with one important difference: They did it right this time. Similarities? It takes place in New York, you have full freedom to explore the entire game area, you can take part in minigames or go find trouble on your own or just go straight for the plot advancing missions. But everything else is better. The graphics are better, the controls are better, the fights are more fun and less bullsqueeze, New York feels like a crowded city again with hundreds of people on every street, and as laughable as it sounds, the character progression is more believable.
For the achievement/unlock crowd, the game has lots to do. There's the usual "find all 400 of these glowing balls in the world" scavenger hunt, of course. But the game also takes a page from the drug dealer handbook: The first mission gives you a taste of your character's full power... and then it takes it all away for the second mission. From that point on, you have to buy upgrades to your abilities and whatnot using points you collect from doing all the things you do in the game.
For the exploration/sandbox junkie, there's absolutely nothing stopping you from just going on a rampage and doing your own thing for as long as you want. There's plenty of guys to fight outside of doing missions or minigames. You don't even have to be a particularly good guy, as the game doesn't seem to penalize you for hacking up innocent civilians along with infected zombies or military troops.
Of course, no game is absolutely perfect. There are a couple issues - the plot takes itself WAY too seriously, and the dialog is often locked in "see how much we curse? That's how you know this is a mature game" mode. The camera and controls, while better than Hulk's, still have some issues, especially when trying to turn quickly or fight something behind the camera. Sometimes it isn't entirely clear exactly how you're supposed to go about accomplishing the mission objectives, and often the description of a power or upgrade isn't really informative enough to help with the decision to buy it or not. And finally, often the minigames feel a little too contrived and the requirements to complete them successfully are too stringent for too little reward.
But by and large, the game is a fun romp through slaughtertown. And yes, you get to kick helicopters out of the sky with gusto. I heartily recommend it to anyone who isn't afraid to paint the town red with entrails and isn't fazed by a little blue language.