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Can't Play Anymore...Getting Dizzy
Feb 11, 2007 (Updated Feb 11, 2007)
Review by maddogdenny
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Innovative new gameplay, atmosphere, sound.
Cons:Some control quirks, too easy, head spinning...
The Bottom Line: Without much of a multiplayer, and a pretty easy campaign, there's not much replay value, but it is cheap to buy now, so go ahead and buy it.
Let's talk about the Doom III engine. It's been out there for what? All of two years, give or take? Unfortunately, it is already becoming in danger of being obsolete. Prey is a game that could save it. Doom III revolutionized the engine's graphical capabilities, Quake IV showed that it could be taken a bit deeper, and Prey takes it and goes nuts with it.
Recommend this product?
You are Tommy, living your life happily on an Indian reservation, rejecting the "mythology" of your people, and hanging out with your hot girlfriend, and your grandfather, at a local bar when, after one of the coolest opening sequences ever, aliens invade and beam you, along with your bar, up. You're taken up into a giant spaceship called the Sphere, where you're doomed to become alien chow, but you escape, and now it's up to you to save your girlfriend, and ultimately, all the humans aboard the Sphere.
When first dropped into the world of Prey, I was determined to resist, to pick the game apart. Don't ask my why; I bought the thing after all. At first I felt like I was playing Doom III all over again, but then the story kicked in, and I was hooked.
As I've said before, and will say again...many times, until someone tells me to stop, is that every shooter needs a gimmick, whether it be in the form of a great story, revolutionary use of weapons, a gameplay mechanic, or any of the above mentioned. Prey has several gimmicks, and they all succeed.
The first of these gimmicks is the portals. The point of every shooter is to get from point A to point B, and kill everything in between. What Prey does is give you a more interesting way to get from A to B, in the form of portals, which themselves come in different forms. Portals either open up at the push of a button, allowing you to travel quickly from one spot to another, or are hidden in boxes and other similar objects, or any other number of places that the developers thought to stick them in.
The second gimmick is the fact that you not only walk, jump, and teleport your way through the sphere, but you also walk upside down on gravity pads, or alter gravity by shooting green pads on the wall, constantly changing your perspective. Floors and walls become ceilings, and vice versa. All this moving up and down, side to side, and upside down can literally give you a sense of vertigo, but also give you a bit of a thrill, as things aren't always what they seem, and it's fun to do something different.
The third gimmick is spirit walking. Your grandfather was killed when you were taken onboard, but he's not gone. When you first die in the game, you're taken into the spirit world, where your grandfather teaches you that you can loose your spirit from your body, and reach what was originally unreachable. Paths not visible to you in the physical world are opened up, you can cross through forcefields, and slip past your enemies. Along the way your spirit guide, a hawk, points you in the right direction, gives away enemy positions, and serves as a constant companion. Native American symbols on floors hint to you that it might be time to do some spirit walkin', and while they are glowing blue and obvious early in the game, they become harder to find later.
Along with spirit walking comes virtual immortality. When you die, you're taken into the spirit world, where, for a limited time, you fire your trusty bow at red and blue flying wraiths. Red gives you health to carry over once you're alive again, and blue gives you spirit world energy, which allows you to use your bow on enemies from the spirit world. Once you're done, you pick back up where you left off, and keep moving.
All this seems pretty easy, right? Truth be told, it is. With a little patience, it's nearly impossible not to beat Prey. What really keeps you coming back to finish the game is the narrative, which is top notch.
The aliens, only referred to as the Dark Ones, have more in mind than food. I'll leave you to discover the ins and outs of the story, but the story is worth hanging in there for. The story is told through several outlets. Your grandfather gives you clues when you venture into the spirit world for a few levels, and your character says things as you go along. Also, as you pass through the ship, radios are playing clips from the Art Bell radio show. Bell takes calls, and the callers fill in the plot for you. So when you come across one of these segments in the game, do stay around and listen.
Anyway, let's get into the game itself. Along with spirit walking, and solving puzzles, you of course get to fight a slew of monsters, from mutated humans to gargantuan minotaur things, to ghost kids. The ghost kids can be pretty unnerving. At one point, you're crusing down a catwalk, and you see a school bus in the distance. Out come a bunch of little girls who want to play "tag" with you. The sequence can unnerve even the most steely of gamers.
And of course you can't fight these monsters without the proper weaponry. The weapons in this game, while serving the same basic functions as weapons in other shooters, are "living" weapons. That is to say that they are more creature than machine, which really just means they look cooler than other weapons. You have a wrench, which will only be used once, a machine gun/sniper rifle, and a really nifty gun that you fill up by "leeching" off of nodes spread throughout the ship. Some nodes give you regular, but more powerful, ammo, others give you the ability to turn your enemies to ice, and others give you what is essentially a lightning gun.
As for the graphics, I can't say that Prey looks much better than Doom III graphically, but the amount of things going on is more interesting. At one point, you'll watch a plane crash from a window as you're traveling through a corridor, and hear the last desperate attempts of the pilot to make a landing. The Sphere is a massive structure, and it's a blast to explore, from nasty little corridors that make you feel like you're traversing the, ahem, body cavity of an alien, to some of the limited outdoor sequences, in which you'll usually pilot a shuttle, armed with both cannons and a tractor beam, which not only serves a purpose in the game, but also allows you to pick up enemies and send them careening down chasms.
The controls do have some issues, as it mirrors Doom III in several ways, and takes us away from what we're used to. The grenade is not simply tossed with the left trigger, but is a separate weapon entirely. So when you're fighting a bunch of grunts, and want the battle to end quickly, you can't just fire off a few rounds while tossing a grenade. You have to stop, switch to a grenade, and then go back to shooting. Also, there is no action button. When you come across something that is usable, you put your gun away, and use the right trigger to use it. This was an element of Doom III that was carried over, and one that I could have done without. Other than that, the controls work really well, especially considering that you sometimes have to perform actions while looking upside down.
The music and sound are worthy of noting. The music is great, but not overbearing. It's perfectly fits every atmosphere. The voice acting, which I first found repellent, gets better as the game goes again, and adds to the great narrative. The sound effects are great. The weapons are only passable, but the random sounds (guts splattering, your feet on a gravity pad, etc.) are awesome. Some of the monsters don't fare as well in the sound department. The grunt aliens sound suspiciously like the Elites in Halo, but the other creatures, especially the mutated humans, elicit sounds that can send a chill up the spine.
Next, and last, on the laundry list of analysis for the game is the pacing. Backtracking is thankfully rare, as the majority of puzzles focus on the spirit walking ability, and not finding a key. I rarely found myself stuck wondering what to do, which is a nice change. The Sphere, as massive as it is, is surprisingly hard to get lost in, so you're free to go on about your merry way. The levels are also shorter, and compact than say, Doom III. You rarely get the "is this level ever going to end?" feeling, and for you achievement nuts out there, this is the game for quick, easy achievements. Your gamerscore will increase a great deal just by playing this.
Ugh. Almost forgot about multiplayer. This game is a game that's selling point is its single player. It's fun sure, but you only have deathmatch and team deatmatch. This isn't exactly the multiplayer game of the year, to say the least.
Here's the Deal: In playing Prey, you can tell that a great deal of effort was put into making this game not only accessible, but also an entirely new way to play a genre game. It's got great atmosphere, great narrative, and some innovative gameplay devices, as well as the great creepy monsters. It's biggest flaw is that it's perhaps too easy, but it's up to you to decide whether that's a bad thing.
Parent's Note: Not for kids, simply put. The dark, disturbing, and very gruesome atmosphere is enough to keep kids away, and the language makes it a definite mature audience only game.
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