PC REVIEW: PREY
Gamers prayed for years for Prey, and it's almost worth the wait. Almost. by D'Marcus Beatty

July 13, 2006 - Prey has been a long time coming. MIA for almost a decade, Prey has finally found its way to the Xbox 360 and PC. While Prey brings a lot of innovation and fun with it, it's not quite the system-shattering killer app that a decade of delay should promise. It is, however, a solid FPS with many never before seen features and an interesting and original storyline.

Prey screenshot

Tommy, the Native American protagonist of Prey, is the definition of a reluctant hero. When the game opens, Tommy is trying to build up enough resolve to ask his love interest, Jen, to leave the reservation with him. When introduced to Tommy's grandfather, the game quickly establishes that Tommy has little interest or respect for the mysticism that his grandfather espouses. The opening scene is in Tommy's grandfather's bar, where your character can interact with the jukebox, play some video poker, blackjack, or slots, or even a poor version of Pac-man entitled Rune-Man. The game begins in earnest when an unorthodox and frighteningly aggressive alien abduction occurs, snatching Tommy and everyone around him from the bar into a strange new environment.

The storyline begins as the fairly unoriginal and standard FPS fare with one man against all odds taking on an army, whether that army is comprised of aliens, Nazis, or just generally evil people. However, the story does throw in a few twists to separate itself from the pack. For starters, at the game's beginning, Tommy isn't a hero. He is just a man thrust into a horrible situation and is forced to fight to save himself and his love. Also, the Native American theme feels genuine and not like a tacked on afterthought. Although players aren't beat over the head with it, Tommy's heritage is established early and remains with the player for the entirety of the game.

Prey introduces two completely new elements to the gaming world. The first is the use of portals. In-game, these are represented by circular passages between separate areas. Prey does a great job of animating and utilizing the effects of the portals. These passages act as doorways between different sections, but with more interesting effects. One particularly interesting portal is always behind you, so that when you enter, you see yourself leaving the area. Another shrinks Tommy just in time to watch the approach of a now giant foe. Prey makes great use of the portals to keep the action flowing, turning what could have become a simple gimmick into true originality.

Prey screenshot

The other innovation that Prey brings is the constant manipulation of gravity. Throughout the game, there are lighted pathways that allow Tommy to walk across them, whether the path leads across the room, up the wall, or across the ceiling. There are also sections that force Tommy to shoot objects to alter the direction of gravity in that area. It is common for Tommy to have to battle foes that may be on the ceiling or walking the walls. There are also places where Tommy may need to make his way to the ceiling or wall to progress. This can become dizzying, so if you're easily nauseated you may want to pass on Prey.

Despite Tommy's lack of interest or respect for the mysticism of his ancestry, spirit-walking quickly becomes an integral part of gameplay. Early in the game, Tommy learns how to leave his body and become a non-corporeal entity, capable of passing through forcefields, sneaking past enemies, and even firing a powerful "spirit" Cherokee bow that is replenished by the spirit of fallen foes. Using this ability, along with the gravity manipulation and the portals, comprises the majority of Prey's simple but interesting puzzles. Also, whenever Tommy is killed, he is taken to the spirit world to battle "disgraced" foes in the form of flying creatures, each representing either his body or spirit strength. He is allowed to replenish his health by killing these spiritual foes, and after a moment, is returned to exact spot where he died. This is a unique approach to the "extra life" and keeps with the Native American theme, but can make the game feel fairly easy, as there is essentially no true penalty for dying.

Prey screenshot

Prey has an organic feel to it that slightly changes the normal approach to the FPS. For example, the standard grenade isn't present in Prey. The grenade is replaced by a strangely volatile creature called a Crawler that explodes when its legs are removed. Tommy is healed by a purplish gas passed from health spores that decorate the walls and floors. The weapons, which are also organic looking, all come with two modes of fire and replace the standard FPS weaponry. The Acid sprayer acts like a shotgun with powerful close range blasts that decrease with range. The Launcher is a sort of Rocket Launcher that uses the Crawlers as ammunition for its primary mode and creates a shield with its secondary fire. The Leech gun draws energy from nodes in its secondary fire mode, and in primary mode fires this energy. The nodes are varied, and so the energy can take the form of a freeze ray, plasma burst, and even electricity. While most of the weapons are original in appearance, most of the effects can be attributed to standard FPS weaponry.

The graphics are gorgeous, especially when creating organic environments. Early on, a number of the human models are unimpressive, but that's only during the intro. When the game begins in earnest aboard the alien vessel, the visuals are amazing. The environments showcase an organic feel, and the game's visuals pull this off wonderfully. There are times that the player will want to cringe away from the repulsively alive environments. The faint of heart should beware, as same of the images in the game are very disturbing.

The background music is usually appropriate for setting the mood, and the voice acting is especially good. Most of the human voices are crying out in terror, praying, or rambling incoherently, always doing a good job of conveying their desperation. The actors for the main characters also all do a great job of bringing believability to the story and of connecting with the gamer.

Prey screenshot

Prey is a great game. Fans that have been waiting since its first announcement won't find a game that will change the world or the way games are played, but will find a rock-solid game filled with innovation, a compelling story, and gorgeous graphics. Even after the relatively short single player mode is finished, Prey still has an excellent Xbox Live multiplayer filled with the same features as the game. Fans of FPS games, this may be the game you've been praying for. At least until Gears of War and Halo 3.

By D'Marcus Beatty
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Prey (PC)
4.5
Graphics
Visuals start off a little weak and then explode into WOW!
4.5
Control
Rock solid even though the game designers throw quite a few wrenches into the mechanics of a FPS.
4.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound as a pound all around, baby, yeah!
4.0
Play Value
Short single player campaign will leave you more time to dish out punishment online. Longer would have been better though.
4.5
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
Preview by Devin

Enter yet another Next-Gen First Person Shooter. However, the affectionately titled Prey offers up much more than just run and gun game play. Prepare to walk on walls, cast your spirit and take the Doom 3 engine on a ride like a bat out of hell.

Prey is one of the first previewed titles for the Xbox 360 to showcase the system's awesome physics capabilities. Human Head Studios is also pushing the system's processor to the limits with an incredible new feature called "Wall-Walking." Throughout the many insanely detailed levels of Prey, you will find Anti-Gravity Tracks that will run up walls and across ceilings. Obviously this will grant you access to the once un-scaleable areas. As you run along these tracks, the entire room and every little detailed nook and cranny will rotate and shift to match your ever changing position. The camera seems to respond smoothly while staying tight to the First Person point of view.

We continue our walk in Prey with "Spirit-Walking." The background story found in Prey runs deep into Cherokee Indian Folklore. The Cherokee themes allow your character the power to cast his spirit. In the Spirit form you can float onto catwalks that otherwise cannot be accessed, you can go through walls or doors and you're armed with some sort of spirit bow to ward off any enemies. Unfortunately while in spirit mode your body is left in suspended animation. It's unclear at this time that if while in the Spirit form, what will happen if your physical self if it is attacked? Can the spirit survive without the body?

It's nice that we can walk on walls and float around in our spirit, but who do we have to kill to see some action around here? Just like any good FPS, Prey will be chock full of baddies. Some enemies, which range from whacked out looking aliens to grotesque mutants, will be lounging around or just taking a nice, brisk walk. And as you're walking around trying to achieve your goal or find some enemies, portals will appear out of nowhere allowing the enemies to find you. These portals also open up different areas of the map, allowing you to climb through to possibly advance. From the released footage, the portals will be used quite often in order for you to get to your final destination on the map.

The graphics in Prey are definitely top notch. This is due to the combination of Next-Gen technology and the fact that Human Head Studios built Prey upon the Doom 3 engine. Both the enemies and the environments are modeled and skinned to near perfection. The lighting in game is so astounding that it adds to the overall creepy ambience.

Human Heads Studios seems to be stirring up quite a gaming experience with Prey. Between your ghostly self-projection and the ability to walk on the ceiling, Prey will be an awesome Next-Gen space shooter, definitely worth looking forward to.

Features:

  • Built on an enhanced Doom 3 engine, the most impressive 3D engine used in a released game.
  • Portal technology adds a new dimension to gameplay, allowing enemies to appear out of thin air and create new and completely original puzzles and gameplay styles.
  • Several never-before-seen gameplay elements such as Spirit Walking, Wall Walking, and Deathwalk.
  • Highly organic, living environment that itself can attack Tommy.
  • A deep, emotional story of love and sacrifice.
  • Tommy has a sidekick, a spiritual hawk that can help him fight enemies and decipher the alien language of the living ship.
  • Multiplayer game support that takes advantage of the unique gameplay styles in Prey.


Click For Media
Prey box art
System: X360, PC
Dev: Human Head
Pub: 2K Games
Release: July 2006
Players: 1 - online
Preview by D'Marcus

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best