It was somewhere in between bowling an old lady from the top of the Empire State Building and halving thirty people at once with a whip of an infected tendril that it finally clicked: Prototype isn't aiming for subtle. Carnage on a grand scale. Enough blood to earn a truck load of platinum donor cards. Civilian deaths in their thousands (onscreen pop-ups take great glee in delivering the toll). It opens with you performing elbow drops on tanks in Times Square - and this is a quieter moment. Once more with feeling: subtle it ain't.
Neither does it subtly hide its roots. A 'superpower sandbox' game, it follows in the footsteps first laid by Spider-Man 2, further enlarged by Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (also Radical's work) and more recently bounded from by Crackdown. While the GTAs and Saints Rows of this world dabble with the destructive abilities of a single human, this game casts you as God. And where those previous examples too often fall down is in casting you as a hero god, shackled by good guy status. But here you'll see bad Peter Parker kerb-stomp a cop's head into a jammy puddle.
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With great power doesn't come great responsibility, but the great desire to use said great power on causing great discomfort to great pedestrians. Uncle Ben's original point was more succinct, but Prototype's is way more fun. Technically, our hero (genero-scowler Alex Mercer) is trying to balance his attention between the army out to neutralise him and the infected hoard eating up New York, but this doesn't mean you have to be kind to the New Yorkers stuck in the middle of it all. They're nothing more than health packs and guinea pigs to test out new powers on.
And what brilliantly vicious powers they are. A kind of pic-'n'-mix of comic book lore, Radical take Spider-Man's agility, but replace Parker's weedy biff-pow-paff fisticuffs with Hulk's brute strength and Wolverine's razor sharp claws. There's a great deal of comedy in using Mercer's diseased biceps to lob people the width of Manhattan Island or splat them against walls (we don't want to know where Radical get the spot-on sound effects from), but the blood-drenched stars of the show are undoubtedly Alex's shape-shifting claws and tendrils.
Bodies are split at the waist, severed diagonally and cleaved perfectly in two - leaving both parts to slurp away from one another in comedy fashion. Claws mince. Giant bony fists pulverise heads into mush. Groundspikes jut from the tarmac to impale folk in an upward fountain of jiggling corpses. Whipfists turn Alex into Indiana Jones, albeit an Indiana Jones who can dismember ten at a time with a sweeping crack. And their arrivals are perfectly paced, so you're always motivated to earn XP to unlock that next bit of unpleasantness. Mindless murder? You can't go wrong.
Luckily, Prototype does mindful murder, too. Alex's forms are geared towards a variety of situations, and morphing between them is the key to not just efficient combat, but beautiful combat. (Well, as beautiful as a taxi through a helicopter can get, anyway.) For example, hammerfists can be used to clear away small fry before you unsheathe your sword arm to go one-on-one with a tank. For a more creative flourish, you could use your whip arm to yank an air vent from a rooftop before sprouting burly musclearms to lob it with added oomph. All while freefalling. From the Chrysler Building.