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A shapeshifter takes on Manhattan.

From the maker of...

One of the few successful licensed video games, both ratings-wise and sales-wise, was The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. The developer of this excellent open-world game was Sierra Entertainment, who had also made other open-world titles like The Simpsons: Hit and Run and Scarface: The World is Yours. Now they are working on an all new franchise called Prototype.

You are the ultimate weapon

In Prototype you play as Alex Mercer, a man who wakes up in the middle of Manhattan without a clue as to who he is or how he got there. All that you do know is your name and that you have some strange powers. These powers range from the subtle to the much more obvious and fantastic. Some of your less obvious powers are the ability to run at sixty miles per hour and to leap multiple city blocks in a single bound. On the more fantastic side you are able transform your hands into massive person-rending claws and create a bullet-proof exoskeleton. While most of your abilities are melee based, you do a have a few ranged options. One of these is the ability to plunge your fists into the ground and have massive spikes emerge from the ground a few yards away capable of impaling multiple people at once as well as sending vehicles flying through the air. Or if all else fails you could just grab a car or rip a lamp post out of the ground and then throw it at you foe, utilizing your amazing strength.

All of these amazing feats are organic, and require a certain amount of biomass to execute. This biomass comes from probably the most plentiful resource in Manhattan: people. You have the ability to grab people off of the street and absorb them into yourself. Once these people are part of yourself, you can then assume their identity by transforming into them. This is useful as it introduces a stealth aspect to the game, which otherwise is focused on fast, brutal, vicious action. You could assume the identity of just some random pedestrian walking the streets of New York in order to blend in with the faceless masses, or you could consume the body of a military official and get the high-level clearance that is associated with their rank. Also, quite handily, you don't consume the appearance and biomass only you also get your victims' memories. These memories either are a node on the Web of Intrigue (see below) or the same abilities that the now-eaten person had, such as the skills to pilot a helicopter or drive a tank.

A Web of Intrigue

When you consume certain people, you can obtain their memories which will fill a node on the Web of Intrigue. This web is a series of close to 250 interconnected nodes that reveal different aspects of your history, as well as what is going on in Manhattan. Once you complete a branch of this web you unlock a significant portion of information, and luckily this does not happen in a linear manner. Each of these nodes being unlocked brings about a revelation of sorts that manifests itself in a variety of ways; it can be a quick cut scene or an audio recording or a map location. Chances are that only the most persistent of players will actually find all of nodes, but the idea of you and your friend having discovered separate parts of the story and piecing together the larger story is part of the fun.

Hundreds vs. Hundreds vs. You

You start to kill and eat people in order to learn what happened to you and for good reason. For at the same time that you showed up in New York, a top secret military group called the Black Watch Special Forces, shows up and establishes martial law to fight some sort of intelligent viral epidemic that is radically mutating the New York populace. This idea of having two distinct entities vying for control in Manhattan (the military and the virus) and then throwing you, a wild card, into the mix is seen even in the environment. Manhattan is divided up into sections, each of which is in four different states. These states are either secure (controlled by the military), infected (controlled by the virus), neutral (both the military and the virus have left it alone), and warzone (currently in conflict between the military and the virus). You, as the Prototype, have the choice of just passively observe the ongoing fight, or you can interfere and therefore influence who controls a given section.

All in all...

Prototype seems to be a very promising new game in the open-world genre, from the same people who gave us The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. The games have a lot in common in that they both have incredible amounts of destruction taking place and a great open-world environment. This game is not coming out for a while though (Fall 2008 at the earliest), but it should definitely be a very exciting and unique game. However, it is assured that it will receive an M rating, mainly because of the person-rending claws, that are reputedly capable of cutting a grown man in two.