This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Prototype in a head-to-head cage match against inFamous.
In my F.E.A.R. 2 review I made the point that government supersoldier projects are a flawed premise because any death machine with free will will inevitably notice that there's something iffy about. . .oh, wait, sorry, I've done this one. But you know what's an even worse idea than supersoldiers? Biological weapons that turn their victims into supersoldiers! I see several ways that could bite you in the arse. So here's Prototype, a suspiciously similar game to InFamous, but blatant copying is the foundation of the entertainment industry, so rather than argue over who got the idea first for a supervillain sandbox game (it was me!), let's compare them in a series of clinical trials. It's scientific!
Prototype loses several million points right out of the gate by being about a guy with amnesia and it only goes downhill from there. InFamous keeps things nice and straightforward: magic ball gives superpowers, everyone want magic ball, go find magic ball, psychic trash robots. It does things comic book style, which is probably the right way to go when you're dealing with science so soft you could spread it on a croissant. Prototype, meanwhile, has more of a disaster movie/conspiracy thriller feel to it that gets so confusing that they had to put in an entire gameplay mechanic based around eating the brains of people who might know what the fuck's going on!
One point for InFamous.
(InFamous 1, Prototype 0)
Cole McGrath and Alex Mercer: two ugly men with gravelly voices, but at least Cole tucks his shirt in. Personality-wise, they actually create a pretty interesting contrast. The player chooses whether Cole is a tragic, selfless hero, or Electro crossed with Ming the Merciless, but both personalities are at least consistent. Alex Mercer, on the other hand, doesn't make any moral choices besides "murder everyone" or "murder everyone and eat them as well," but a lot of his dialogue and cutscenes keep trying to paint him as a decent but wronged man just out for justice. I had to laugh at a moment when I was on a mission plowing a tank through a crowded street, and over the agonized screams Alex said, "Gawrsh, I sure hope this is the right thing to do!" It's like if Mr. Bean were a mass murderer.
InFamous wins, if only for coherence.
(InFamous 2, Prototype 0)
The trouble with InFamous is that zapping dudes is really the only string to your bow. Cole is a one-hit wonder, the Vanilla Ice of supervillains, while Alex prefers his killing sprees to be a little more indie and experimental. You can steal people's guns and shoot them, although you won't. You can throw cars and air conditioners at people, but you won't use that either. And you can twist your limbs into deadly claws, blades, and bludgeons, but you definitely won't use any of those, because the ridiculously overpowered extend-o-tentacle does huge damage, extremely long range, and can instantly liberate peoples' top halves from their bottom halves, so you will never use anything else. Admittedly, it's not much help against buildings or armoured targets, but then you just use it to hijack one of the gunships that the military will very kindly send to you in large quantities every time you bully their friends.
One point for Prototype.
(InFamous 2, Prototype 1)
InFamous 's city is kind of small and slummy on account of being a small slum, but Prototype 's city is much bigger, with plenty of really tall buildings you can hurl yourself off of for giggles. But sadly they can't be given any points for it because they just copied Manhattan off Google Maps, which is cheating! Prototype still wins, though, because a sandbox is only as good as the method by which you get around it, and Cole has a tendency to get bogged down with climbing while Alex can shoot blood out of his wrists at jet engine velocity and fly like emo Peter Pan. I'd say it was "made of win," but if I did I'd have to strangle myself.
(InFamous 2, Prototype 2)
Okay, InFamous definitely takes this one, because there's an actual reason to do them (i.e., clearing out the city), whereas Prototype only has it for XP grinding, which you won't need because the extend-o-tentacle only has two upgrades. What's more, in InFamous the side quests can consist of racing, scavenger hunts, escorting, and posing for photos, rather than just combat all the time, whereas Prototype's side missions are mainly just killing, which I feel Alex gets enough of in the day job. There are a few racing and gliding challenges, but lacking context they raise the question of why a brooding anti-hero on a determined quest for vengeance would take time out to see how fast he can climb the Empire State Building.
(InFamous 3, Prototype 2)
Again, zapping people in the balls is really the only schaudenfraude to be had in InFamous, and Prototype absolutely skullfucks it in the "dicking around" event. Eat an old man, take his appearance, run all the way up the tallest building, then elbow drop 200 stories directly on top of his confused and frightened wife. Then sneak up behind two soldiers and eat one without his friend noticing, then when the two of you get back to base accuse your friend of being you in disguise. Then when all the other soldiers are distracted shooting him, eat them, too! If only Jeffrey Dahmer had had this game to blow off steam with - a lot of young Milwaukee gay boys could be walking around uncannibalized today.
(InFamous 3, Prototype 3)
The final scores are. . .three points a piece. So much for the fucking scientific method! I suppose we could say then that the games are equally fun and that there's room in this world for both, but fuck that! History needs to know which is best. So I'm going to award victory to whichever games developer sends me the best picture of the other game's main character wearing a woman's bra.
His body is the ultimate weapon: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Apologies for the Metal Gear Rising error last week, apparently a sequel to a PS3 exclusive also being a PS3 exclusive only makes sense in my little world
They can be doing something other than wearing a woman's bra as long as it's humiliating and sexy