These two games have been pitted against one another since rumors about both began to spread, and rarely have I read anyone discuss one without mentioning the other. While I do see the similarities between the two—ranging from character to powers/moves and the open-world setting—those similarities are, I feel, superficial at best. What we have here are two distinct games that offer two distinct experiences, and you need not loathe one to love the other.
I’d been anticipating inFamous
for months, and reading the write-ups and user comments slamming the game for its predicted “identical” nature to [Prototype]
instantly turned me off to the latter. I loathe the console wars, and as much as I have my own preferences and loyalties, I’m not going to flame a game I haven’t played because of its exclusivity, nor am I going to judge my experience with a game based solely on its comparison to another.
When I finally got my hands on inFamous
, I proceeded to play it for about six straight weeks. I’ve finished it about 5 times, and—as mentioned in my discussion of trophies—finally earned my first platinum from the game. As I was playing, the gaming site reviews started pouring in, and—again—most of them, including the review here on Destructoid
, simply had to put the games against each other.
I mean, I get it. Both games are about a character suddenly fused with new and unknown powers they must learn to master. Both are open sandbox realms—[Prototype]
set directly in New York City and inFamous
’s “Empire City” comprised of three islands suspiciously reminiscent of NYC. Many of the powers are similar—Cole’s “Static Thrusters” vs. Alex’s “Glide”; they can both climb buildings; Alex “Consumes” enemies, marked targets, or pedestrians for lunch, while Cole can “Bioleech” for a quick power up and in pursuit of evil karma. Both cities suffer from a type of plague, an impending reality in [Prototype]
and a containable, mind-altering toxin in inFamous
. Both have searchable sources for evolving the backstory for the game (“Dead Drops” / “Web of Intrigue”) . . . and more.
While that seems like virtually the same game on paper, the context, intentions, interface, enemies, storylines—basically everything that adds layers of depth and thus the experience of the game—these are all different. One point I left out above, and that I’d like to argue, is that both are “Superhero” games. inFamous
is the story of the the birth of a superhero. A blast imbues our man Cole with electrical abilities he must learn to master. The game opens with him wounded and terrified at Ground Zero of the blast, and he painstakingly makes his way through the game, earning Experience Points (EP) at a slow rate and on the side of “good” or “evil.” This is a comic book game without a comic, and many have said it’s the best comic game they’ve ever played, despite its lacking of pulpy origin. It’s a game about someone coming to terms with a life he never asked for, responsibilities, enemies, and moral decisions most normal men (or women) never face. It faithfully adheres to many comic themes in this sense, and its conclusion clearly promises a continuation in which our Cole will not only have a power base he can finally build upon, but a man hardened by loss and the weight of bearing those powers and all they’ve cost him and the world the player has decided to protect or destroy.
I don’t believe, however, that [Prototype]
is an actual “Superhero” game. Alex may be super at a lot of things—jumping, eviscerating, spawning tentacles from every pore of his body—but he isn’t what I’d call a “hero.” At least…not yet. I’ve yet to finish the game, so I don’t know what he becomes, yet the superhero genre pounds its pavement straight away, setting the limitations, contacts, and projecting the character’s goals early on to place the player within the heroic realm. Alex Mercer is a loner, answers to no one, and has virtually no option but to kill or be killed. And he doesn’t just kill—his attacks spray the game’s every texture and plane with gushing torrents of blood and strewn limbs, and Alex seems to revel in the perpetual slaughterhouse that follows in his wake.
But again: I’ve yet to finish the game, so I don’t know what will become of Alex—if regaining his memories will instill a conscience; if he’s going to fall in love or have someone he loves ripped away; I don’t even know the scenario that’s playing out in cinematic intercuts from the near-future, or the present, or the whenever . . . (a very interesting story tactic—for gameplay to take place in the “past” whilst your character narrates from the supposed “present” or . . . yeah, whenever). I don’t know to whom he’s telling his story or why, and I’m very curious to discover this game’s resolution, especially
if it does
turn into a superhero game. To transform from filet-happy sociopath to a hero with massive quantities of blood on his hands would be a gratifying twist, something the next installment’s Alex would have to reconcile within himself—but now I’m projecting too far when I should just shut up and play.
Anyway, my experience with [Prototype]
is entirely and inherently different than that of inFamous
, not just because of the gore and lack of super-bitches bugging in his ear (poor Cole), but because the games are built differently, have different stories and goals, and characters that are drastically dissimilar. I’ve seen many people complain that Cole’s powers aren’t worth shit—that enemies can take him down too easily, he ain’t much of a superhero, etc., while Mercer’s bad-assness is apparent from moment ONE. Yes, they can both climb buildings, but Cole struggles to angle his way from ledge to ledge while Alex dashes straight up the sides, almost uncontrollably. This isn’t because Sucker Punch didn’t want you to have as much fun climbing buildings, but because all of Cole’s weaknesses and struggles on a physical, active basis reflect his internal change and conflict. Alex is literally a force of nature gone awry, a genetically mutated being on a mission to recover his past and . . . well, I guess I’ll find out.
But these games aren’t mutually exclusive. You don’t have to hate one to love the other. And, now I’ve played both, I find the cast-off reviews even more hollow than I did before, as the experience of each game—while there certainly exist echoes of familiarity—are, for me, entirely singular. I loved inFamous
, and I’m now enjoying [Prototype]
so much I stayed up until 7am before I realized I had to work in . . . oh shit!!
. Others I know who also love both games seem to enjoy certain parts of one over the other—story here, powers and mechanics there—but from my perspective, the story, the powers, the characters and settings are all enmeshed to reflect upon and create the games themselves.
That is the mark of a truly great game, and both of these, I believe, live up to their respective, however intertwined, expectations. read