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Prey is an incredibly under-rated FPS game that never really found much of an audience but is a very unique and rather fun game that, while too easy, has some very clever sci-fi ideas and some great graphics.
Most noticeable about this game is that it is one of the few games to be about Native Americans and their way of live; you are an Indian man who is in a bar when suddenly a portal opens in the middle of the room and you are dragged into it. You awaken in a strange alien world, where you are "prey" to the monstrous enemies around you, and must adopt their weaponry in order to take them down, using a complex series of portals to navigate their world, while also trying to save your girlfriend and her family, who have been kidnapped.
The nicest idea that this game has is of spirit walking, where you can, at the press of a button, leave your body and move as a spirit throughout the level, allowing you to reach areas your physical body cannot in order to solve puzzles and such. It adds a new dimension to the game and is pretty original indeed. However, the game is also INCREDIBLY easy, because if you're killed, you are just resurrected again without any punishment, meaning that essentially the worst that can happen is that you start back a few steps away from where you were! It is also a very short game and can be beaten in about 5-6 hours.
It may not have been worth the £30 it cost at launch, but it's now residing bargain bins and well worth a go if you want something simple and unchallenging for a night in.
Although Prey has fantastic graphics and generally enjoyable game play, it's the kind of game best played under the influence of mind-bending drugs, since that's the only way you'll ever understand the plot.
You play as Domasi Tawodi, a Cherokee garage mechanic who is abducted by aliens. Yes, I'm afraid you heard me right, a Cherokee Indian abducted by aliens. The rest of the game is focused on trying to navigate your way through the ships biomechanical bowels, armed with a monkey wrench (a non too subtle nod at Gordon Freeman's trusty crowbar) and a wide variety of squirming flatulating things that this game passes as weapons. To survive you must use the ships own mind-mangling array of technology to your advantage, whilst occasionally calling upon the ghost of your pet pigeon (sorry, I mean hawk) for guidance.
Prey in general is completely average. Although it has several good points these are outweighed by just as many bad points, creating a kind of generic sludge that is only good for killing the time whilst waiting for much more successful releases. On the positive side the graphics are top notch and the biomechanical atmosphere of the UFO is suitably repulsive, adding a certain uniqueness to the experience. The ship, or the Sphere as it likes to be called, has plenty of quantum thing-a-me-bobs hidden up its sleeve to keep you suitably amused, some of which are actually quite inventive. In order to get from A to B you often have to utilise gravity walks, collapsible space pods and a collection of miniature wormholes, which considering this game was pre-Portal was quite an original touch. You also have the ability to spirit walk, to literally step out of your body and reach previously unreachable destinations, whilst taking a few sneaky enemies out with your sprit bow along the way. Unfortunately, there is also a downside. The game play, whilst nevertheless entertaining, is insultingly easy. You practically can't move for ammo and the weapons are disproportionately powerful in comparison to the enemies, which makes even the most climatic boss fight a walk in the park. It is also impossible to die, since 'dying' simply teleports you to the 'spirit realm,' where you are free to recharge your health bar by taking pot shots at a flock of ethereal bird thingies. However, all of this is forgivable. Unfortunately there is one thing that isn't: the story. For one the game sufferers from the most appallingly lazy narrative I have ever seen, which combined with the hideously convoluted plot makes the story about as easy to digest as broken glass. On more than one occasion you'll be told 'Domasi, go to this place and kill this thing,' before being told 'actually I can't be bothered waiting, here's a short cut instead' shortly after. Like I said, lazy. And then of course there's the ending. I won't spoil it for you, but the ending has got to be one of the most monumentally stupid climaxes I have ever had the poor fortune to come across, so bad it goes way beyond the boundaries of poetic license.
Although Prey has a lot to offer in terms of graphics and game play the mutilated story line completely ruins it, sending what could have been quite a reasonable game straight into the bargain bin.
Being a fan of the FPS genre I was looking forward to Prey, especially having heard the praise about it's graphics. Unfortunately it turned out to be a disappointment.
You take on the role of Cherokee mechanic Tommy. Whilst in his girlfriend's bar aliens attack and you are abducted along with your girlfriend and grandfather. You manage to break free from the alien device holding you and set off to free your grandfather and girlfriend. Unfortunately almost immediately you see your grandfather die and his spirit grants you powers.
Throughout the game you can switch between the "real" world and the spirit world. Entering the spirit world enables you to pass through bars etc. One of the most annoying aspects of the game occurs when your character dies. When you die you are transported to the spirit world, you must then use your bow and arrow to "kill" spirits who will then bestow upon you health or spirit energy. To do this every time you die becomes annoying very quickly. You will however start from the place where you died, not a checkpoint.
The gameplay is nothing great in my opinion. There are some puzzles but they're not particularly difficult, some of them will require you to constantly switch between the real world and the spirit world, others require you to pass through winding routes with mirrors. The sound could be better, I'm not keen on the voice acting at all. The graphics also failed to impress me. There's very little replay value and lasting appeal due to the fact that the game won't take you long to complete and the requirement of entering the spirit world every time you die will put you off playing it again should you have been otherwise tempted.
I am also a member of Ciao and this review is posted there.
Games come and go as far as I'm concerned and rarely do I get excited when the new release is paraded across the gaming press. The main exception to this, for me, is the First Person Shooter genre that I find quite interesting. I think it's something to do with the story-telling element and I think it works better in this genre than most others. Like other genres, the FPS one does have its own 'A-list'. On the PC, these are generally regarded as the Doom series, the Quake series, Half-Life and, I suppose, Halo.
Prey was a strange game in that it was originally announced years and years ago (possibly as far back as 1998), and then simply disappeared. However, it returned with a bang in 2006, built on the Doom 3 game engine and follows the reluctant hero, Tommy.
Right from the start, you, as Tommy, are trying to persuade your girlfriend, Jen, to leave the reservation. Tommy isn't enthralled by his heritage and tradition, pushing them away while Jen embraces it all and is reluctant to leave. During yet another late night discussion on this very topic, strange things happen. Weird coloured lights appear in the sky and before Tommy realises it, he's taken away along with Jen and his grandfather, Enisi.
Shortly after arriving on what appears to be a huge alien spacecraft, Tommy finds himself released from captivity by some unknown ally. There are only two things to do, and that's find some means of releasing his girlfriend and grandfather and then finding a way to escape the spacecraft and return home. Easier said than done
Graphically, Prey is good. The engine on which the game is built, Doom3, is an excellent FPS engine as can be seen from Doom 3 and Quake 4, which both used it to good effect in different ways. Prey follows the Doom3 route where most of the levels are closed in affairs, rather than the Quake method that also introduced outdoor areas. I felt that this gave Prey a claustrophobic feel to the game which was crying out for some variation at times. The game does use the engine quite well, although like Doom 3, was a touch too dark for too long for my liking. I also thought that the graphics were a touch too same-y throughout the entire game and that's an issue with the game designers rather than the engine. Apart from that, and a weird design that gave Jen HUGE ears, the game does well in the graphics department.
As far as the audio is concerned, it's fairly forgetful. The voice acting is of a high standard, but I'm struggling to remember to music involved or the sound effects within the game. I suppose, that could be a positive note as if it were atrocious, I'd certainly remember it.
Performance-wise, I found the game ran well. On my PC (specifications listed below), I set the resolution to 1024 by 768 and the detail level to medium and found the game played well - it was smooth and the effects were impressive.
The designers have introduced some new and unique gameplay features which do enhance the game somewhat. On the alien side, there are portals which are capable of transporting you across untold distances (and it is fun to look and shoot through these portals, which are only visible from one direction) and often require reorientation before you can continue due to another feature of the game. It's not unusual to go through a portal only to find yourself upside down and will fall to the floor and need to get your bearings again before continuing.
The designers have included two means to defy gravity. The first are powered walkways which appear throughout the game. On them, you're able to walk up walls and even upside down, while anyone else nearby that's not on the walkway has to obey the laws of physics. This does provide challenges in that it can be hard to get your bearings while running up a wall onto a ceiling while trying to shoot some of the bad guys that might appear. It's doubly difficult if the bad guys are running for the control panel of the walkway to turn off the power, rendering you at the mercy of gravity again. These were great fun to use, though reminded me a little of some levels of the Star Trek FPS games.
The second feature is a series of switches that change the direction of gravity. These could be found all over the place, and shooting one of these switches meant that gravity would then operate in the direction of the switch. For example, shooting a switch on the ceiling would mean that gravity was reversed. Shooting a switch on a wall to your right would mean that would mean that the wall to your right would become the floor and everything in the room that wasn't nailed down, would fall in that direction including bad guys, crates and everything else.
At times, the main character does run into some problems that require a little lateral thinking to solve. Some of them revolve around the gravity switches, while others force you to use other means of solving them, such as spirit walking etc. Generally, I found the puzzles to be logical and solvable without too much frustration or hair pulling, which does make a difference from other games where such puzzles might be completely unfathomable.
The weapons are your bog standard fayre for FPSs, though are done well with decent sound effects and a good balance between the numerous types. I found myself switching between most of them throughout the game, which I've not done in a game for a long time. Usually, I find a favourite that tends to be fairly good for all situations, but in Prey, some weapons are good in some circumstances and useless in others, forcing you to continually switch.
The main character in the story, Tommy, is a Native American (Cherokee), and his mythology is explained in a little detail. However, not all the added features related to this are positives. In terms of gaming, the mythology angle introduces two features, the first of which is the ability to 'spirit walk' i.e. leave your corporeal body and walk through forcefields etc. This is an excellent feature as when looking at the world in 'spirit vision', other paths and solutions might present themselves, though is arguably not explored to its fullest potential. It's up to you to spot the clues as to when this might be.
Sadly, the second feature is a HUGE negative aspect to the game. When you die (which will be often), you are transported to the spirit world where you must do battle with the spirits of the dishonoured dead. Fighting these spirits raises your physical and spiritual health until you get sucked back into the physical world. Essentially what this means is that dying does not have an impact on your progress and you're pretty much granted 'God' status. The only negative aspect is that you have to spend thirty seconds or so in the spirit world getting as much physical and mental health as possible. In terms of gameplay, this severely reduces the lifespan of the game. In my case, it was about nine hours which is far too little for a full priced game.
The story is a strong point and is interesting, although there are several unexplained areas that seem to crop up once or twice and are never resolved, such as who or what are the ghostly children and why are they intent on killing you at every opportunity?
Additionally, I didn't have any real empathy for the main character. When faced with (pre-scripted) decisions through out the game, more often than not chose the path that I couldn't see myself taking. This does have a real impact on my enjoyment of the game because I think it's important in games such as this to be able to immerse yourself in the story and atmosphere and anything that stops your from doing that cannot be a positive.
I don't think Prey is a game I could possibly recommend with too much enthusiasm, especially at the current price of £25. It's an average FPS game with some innovative features that does help to maintain interest, but the negative aspects do hinder it at the same time and may even outweigh the innovative and fun features. It's far from a disaster, though, so if you can find it cheaper or are prepared to wait until it drops under the £20 price point, then do so as it would offer significantly better value for money.
My advice would be to try before you buy and the demo is available online at:
Prey's recommended PC specifications:
Intel Pentium 4 2.5Ghz / AMD Athlon XP 2500+ processor
1GB System RAM
ATI Radeon X800 series or comparable card with latest manufacturer drivers
DVD-ROM (Limited Collector's Edition)
2.2GB of uncompressed free hard drive space
100% DirectX 9.0c compatible 16-bit sound card
Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP with latest service pack installed
Mouse and keyboard
DirectX 9.0c (included)
My system specifications (for performance comparisons):
AMD Athlon 2500+ processor
1GB System RAM
ATI Radeon Atlantis 9600 256MB graphics card
Soundblaster 7.1 soundcard
Windows XP with SP2
Mouse and Keyboard
Direct X 9.0c
Imagine a place where gravity isn't always down! It can be controlled, twisted, flipped, and even wrap around small planetoids. Imagine walking on walls and ceilings? Can you handle this new challenge?