Prototype is a game about being an absolute badass. That's the short of it, pretty much. You are Alex Mercer, apparent victim of an experiment that has left you a shapeshifting hybrid of man and death. You can run along the sides of buildings, leap thirty feet, assume the identities of others, and turn your hand into a scythe to cut a man in two. Badass.
After a brief introduction to a city in chaos and fire, you're brought back 18 days before, where Mercer wakes up on an operating table with deadly abilities and a powerful constitution. After withstanding some bullets and completing a few introductory missions, you're let loose upon the city to do with as you will.
Prototype is a game that lets you do quite a bit, at you're own leisure. It's a sandbox title in which your shovel is lined with blades. You see, Manhattan (where this takes place) is a fairly populous area, and you are a man who can make a spiked whip fly out of his arm. When you do the math, you end up with the square root of violence. Which is you. Throughout the game you can earn abilities that make you a whirling dervish of pain to anyone around you, abilities such as a scythe or whip arm, hammer fists, or spiked hands. Each of these earns more upgrades as the game progresses, and each of the have their own uses. Hammerfists, for example, are great against vehicles and other armored opponents whereas the whip is perfect at moving down large groups of smaller enemies. One of my favourites is to bring up my shield and run down the sidewalk, watching the dozens of people literally bouncing off my dashing form.
To avoid military conflict at every step of your journey, you have the ability to absorb anyone you wish, gaining some health and taking on their form. At first it's a simple matter of becoming someone else in order to fool the men with the big guns, but as the game progresses more and more barriers make simply walking around undetected harder and harder. I must say, however, that infiltrating a military base, taking down everybody inside without raising an alarm, then simply walking out is quite the feeling.
You're also given nearly limitless mobility in how you proceed to do whatever you're up to; whether this is jumping and gliding off the sides of buildings, sprinting rapidly down the middle of the street, running up the sides of structures, or just hijacking an army vehicle, sometimes getting to your destination is half the fun. The fact that there are a number of collectibles (200 of them, and 50 'hint' collectibles too) to find and collect along the way certainly makes this part more fun too. The parkour in this game works really well, and it's a treat to run down the street, hopping cars and bouncing off rooftops, or spring up walls. There is a bit of an issue when the things get hectic, and the camera has trouble keeping up, particularly with a mid-air dash move. It can get a little frustrating controlling Mercer at times, and some geometry doesn't work very well with the Parkour, but this is not a common problem.
Now, to progress the story you must play the story missions, but what would a sandbox title be without extra tasks? Prototype has a number of things for you to do in between figuring out what's happened to Alex. There are a number of extra events for you to partake in, from killing a number of people, trying to accurately land on a bulls-eye, racing through waypoints, or even participating in a skirmish (and trying to get your side to win, either military or the infected). Each of these events is graded with a bronze, silver, or gold medal, and each successive level gets you more experience points.
The upgrade system in Prototype allows you to get better attacks, more health, better abilities, and in general just become more and more powerful. Nearly everything you do, with the minor exception of killing innocent civilians, earns you experience points (EP). Completing a mission, collecting...collectibles, beating up enemies, destroying tanks, evading/destroying strike teams, everything earns you EP. Which is good, because those upgrades don't get any cheaper. It's a great incentive to doing side missions or just running randomly around the city, since you know that even if you don't take missions, you're going to get stronger. Still, missions do unlock better upgrades, so there is incentive. If you absorb particular military enemies, you'll also gain extra abilities that assist you with various military hardware.
The island of Manhattan looks sharp, and you can sit on top of the Empire State Building and view your entire kingdom before you. That said, however, Prototype does not have the most impressive graphics. You're not going to notice them half the time, between flip kicks, helicopter hijacking, and frantic gunfights (nothing quite like dozens of feet up to rain bullets, grenades, and/or rockets down on your enemies)...but cutscenes are a different story. When you get a close-up look of Alex, or indeed any other character, you really see the lack of detail in their models. This goes double with periods of quiet in the game, when you're given an opportunity to look at something up close. It's not impressive, but then, it doesn't really need to be in the scope of things. It certainly won't hurt your gameplay.
Prototype is a lot of fun. It's not perfect, though - there are issues with parkour in some areas, controlling Mercer can sometimes be a problem, and when the gameplay gets hard, it just gets frustrating. The camera system also has problems keeping up with you at times, especially with some of the tight moves you can pull. But it's also a lot of fun, and has a lot of gameplay packed into it with a wide variety. More enemies are constantly introduced throughout the game, changing the way you play and never letting you think it's going to simply be the same from then on; this is the same with the upgrades, though they could've spread them out a little better.
Even the lock-on system, a mechanic that many games tend to have problems with, is done fairly well. When you press the lock-on button, the game seems to prioritize the targets in front of you. It can pick out a military soldier in a crowd of civilians, a tank in a crowd of soldiers, and a massive infected beast in a crowd of, well, anything. And if you want to change targets, a simple flick of the stick is all you need.
Again, Prototype is not perfect, but it's a pretty good sandbox title that really makes you feel like you're as powerful as the game says you are. The mechanics are sound, but not rock-solid, the graphics are decent, though not great, and the carnage is excellent, though sometimes disorienting, especially with the less-than-stellar camera. But regardless of it's problems, the game still manages to be quite fun, and quite adrenaline-pumping. Now excuse me, I need to go jumpkick a helicopter, hijack it, then take down a mini army as I cackle, drunk with the power given to me.