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Prototype

Feature: Why this sandbox bloodbath could be one of 2009's finest

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Admittedly, the city of New York itself has been served up in videogame form on a tri-yearly basis for most of recorded history (and Ghostbusters will soon put the place through armageddon yet again), but as soon as you play that opening Times Square level you'll see what an utter play-ground of destruction Prototype has made it. Once the game proper begins you'll have the run of the place, whether you're stirring up hives of Infected and leading them into the military to kick off impromptu battles or simply attempting to climb the highest skyscraper you can find, giggling inanely with a struggling policeman in your left hand. The city will genuinely react to your presence and your actions; the days that people would ignore you or mutter something like "Hi Spidey" as you pirouetted into the middle of 34th Street in Spider-Man games are long-gone.

"We're pushing some serious volumes of pedestrians at the player during the action, because when you unleash hell with these devastating powers, it's more fun to see 100 people run in terror than it is to see twelve," reckons Bennison. "Pedestrians will react if they see Alex biologically transform his arm right in front of them. Some of them might decide to run onto the busy intersection because they're terrified, resulting in a taxi driver swerving into a military truck and causing a huge explosion. These kind of dynamic moments of mayhem are what we think Prototype excels at, because it's just so much fun to unleash Alex's powers and witness the world come crashing down around you." Seeing as this is NYC, people will also swear at you if you jostle them in the street; although whether they'll get through the whole "Hey, I'm walking here," without being hurled at a fire hydrant is quite another matter.

If they scale the difficulty correctly and if the pace of the storyline doesn't let up, Prototype could well deliver the action experience of the year. Even when starting out there's a feel-ing of power currently entirely unparalleled in gaming, and that's before you even start raising Mercer's attributes and abilities up into the stratosphere. You'll struggle to find a more gleefully amoral game, and you'll love it for that. There's a phrase about how power corrupts, and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, today we threw a screaming woman off a building and watched her body being crushed by a tank - and then did roughly the same thing to five more innocent pedestrians. Some of them were on fire. As glib phrases go, it isn't a bad one.

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