Reviewed by Jimmy | 07.25.06
Introduction:The developers of Prey must be all on a heavy dose of special lemonade because this long awaited shooter is one unique puppy. On the flip of everything you'll literarily be turned upside down playing the role of the reluctant hero. Prey has arrived and I'll try to make sense of life, the universe, and everything, oh and provide a review for the latest shooter for the Xbox 360, Prey.
The Game:Prey is a project that started ten years ago and has under gone many changes to get to it's finial release in 2006. With three development teams behind the Xbox 360 release, 3D Realms, Human Head Studios and Venom Games and Take-Two's 2K Games publishing brand, Prey has finally arrived. Even though it has taken more then a long while to reach this point, it's good to see the end results. From the surface you might mistakenly take Prey for a Quake-esq clone, but Prey is much more then the graphics engine powering the game. Obviously Prey is influenced by other games in the same genre like Quake, Doom and Turok with a dash of classic sci-fi body harvesting thrown into the mix, but Prey explores new concepts and proves to be surprisingly original. Give Prey a few seconds past the overly extended intro and the long winded scripted conversations, because the laws of the universe are about to be ignored as you get abducted and set one weird mind bending adventure.
Your character in this adventure is the Tommy, a Cherokee native Indian who is rebels against his heritage, and the ways of his fellow natives who are content with life on the reservation. Tommy wants a better life, and he wants to leave the reservation and build a future with his girlfriend Jen. Well, life won't be stagnant for Tommy anymore because he gets abducted and set on a crazy adventure where he plays the typical reluctant hero trying to save his love, while fighting an unknown alien force. The plot unravels the more your progress in the game and even though Tommy fights against his heritage, it's the one thing that can save his life. The plot is half decent for a shooter a never really gets in the way of the action, the native Indian approach helps open up new gaming ideas that get juxtaposed between the future and the past. Like any true adventure the surprises keep coming and in the end Prey offers a satisfying meal.
3D Realms and friends have really gone outside the box when the developed the concept behind Prey. On one level this game is as basic as they get, then on another its one of the most ambitious and innovative shooters I have played. Come to think of it the term "outside the box" is perfect for Prey because half the time you will be going in, around and outside of boxes, boxes that contain whole other levels. Prey uses portals like no other game in the past, and you might think they have gone a little portal happy. The concept of portal holes is great and they are used for everything in Prey, from in game puzzles, ambushes by the enemies, or simple navigation. The portals definitely spice the game up and showcase the processing power of the next generation.
An interesting twist in Prey is the concept of a continuous moving game without the typical die/re-load syndrome. In Prey when you die you're instantly warped into a mini-game of sorts in the spirit realm. In this realm you have to shoot two types of Spirit Wraiths which translates back into health and spirit in the real world. This concept as a whole works with the unique aboriginal lore setting they have created, but it also makes the game easier then using a normal system. Without death you can really breeze through the game and it becomes a lot less challenging. On the good side this system keeps you more involved with the game which makes it a lot less frustrating. It also keeps the train rolling and you never have to experience any long load times. Actually, the only load times in Prey is between levels which can take upwards to a half hour to finish. I really like the idea, but it has raised some concern amongst gamers. Again, you have to give a round of applause to the developing team for trying something new.
Now even though Prey is innovative and delightfully fresh with its approach towards portals, gravity shifting, and the spirit realm, it does slows down in some other areas. The part that holds Prey back from being the new Halo or Half-Life is the bland approach to everything else. The enemies all see to be borrowed from another game; they are lifeless and really hold no personality. Besides the ghost children, not once was I really interested in these aliens besides their neat portal trick. Even the Keeper was set off as a joke in ways with a funny radio broadcast he makes to earth, which went something like "Hey Man, We are coming to harvest You."
Other problem areas in Prey are the weapons. Now they do look neat and alien like, but when you get down to it they are just disguised chain guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles. They really could have pushed the creativity a little more given how creative the rest of the gaming concepts are. Also in that vein would have to be the environments. At times they have a unique twist given that you have the chance to walk on all four walls, or spirit walk across impassable crevasses, but other then that they indoor narrow environments that could have easily been borrowed from Doom. Finally my last gripe with Prey is Tommy. Tommy on paper is a good character, but once you hear him complain about everything, disregard his grandfather and his heritage all, he becomes a little annoying. They try and push a false sense of urgency to save his girlfriend Jen, and he uses a lot of profanity which is unnecessary. I know 3D Realms wanted the game to seem more frantic and more real, but I think Tommy is trying a little too hard and becomes unbelievable.
Prey also supports multiplayer, but it really seems like the multiplayer was an after thought just have that expect component. Like Doom 3 the multiplayer is a let down and only supports deathmatch, and team deathmatch which a little watered down for multiplayer vets. Given the strangeness of the single player game you would think it would carry over well to the multiplayer world, but it doesn't. Prey multiplayer is unfortunately is really weak and it's too bad because Prey's multiplayer potential is gleaming to be explored.
Before I end Prey on a low note, the multiplayer. I have to talk about a few more positive points, and before it slips my mind is Tommy's sidekick the hawk. Tommy's childhood connection his pet hawk carries over to the afterlife and helps Tommy pinpoint interactive object, distract the enemy and help keep Tommy driven towards goals. It was a neat idea to include the hawk and graphically, and gameplay wise the idea of a spirit animal adds character. Another small, but nicely placed addition is the ability for Tommy to focus and decipher alien code into English. It really doesn't add to the gameplay besides the number puzzles, but it helps build atmosphere. One question that has been bugging me about this is why do the aliens write with strange unfamiliar characters, but talk in English? Again, not a big deal, but having an alien dialog would of helped patch up any forgotten holes in the storyline.
Bottom line is that Prey is one of fresh twist on shooters with a solid story backing up some interesting game ideas. The gameplay in well rounded in every aspect, as long as you can handle a little vertigo. I'm glad that Prey has finally seen the light of day and in the end doesn't disappoint.
Graphics & Sound:Prey utilizes ID Software's Doom 3 engine and if you have seen any of Doom 3's offspring you would be able to tell in an instance. Using the Doom 3 engine is a good idea given how long the game has been in development, although you also get the feeling like this just another Quake or Doom just from the graphics. 3D Realms does manage to throw in a few tricks that really help push the game away from its comparable ID friends, but in the end there isn't much that makes Prey stand out graphically then other games. The cramped environments really do the game no justice and the human characters really don't seem that human, also the worldly objects and the weapons really seem to have no weight. They should have tried to have more of an impact bridging the controls with the look of the weapon. For example the default blunt weapon in Prey, the wrench really seems to be make out of paper, and even though I'm beating someone to death with it, it just seems unrealistic. Complaints aside Prey just passes over the hump and can be considered next-gen, it's a good effort with a slightly dated gaming engine.
In the audio department in Prey we have a convincing cast of voice actors, and sufficiently programmed effects. The background music is used with good taste and never becomes to overbearing or annoying. Prey also features a nice variation of licensed tracks which even includes classic metal band Judas Priest. It's strange that they would go through the trouble of grabbing all these licenses just to uses it in a few spots within the game. The audio is spot on in Prey and delivers the right amount of punch that is needed.
Mojo:The mojo is split between a double sided portal of impressive and dull. Like Prey in its entirety the game really has a lot of promise and then never really goes anywhere too new. For mojo you can easily spot the coolness in Prey that pushes the bizarre and creep factor up. The use of dead spirit children, creepy Naked Lunch inspired creatures, funky weapons, and the lack of respect for gravity is pretty damn cool. Prey defiantly has some great moments; the problem is after a few hours it dulls away. The funky mojo vibes just gets stagnant; really it's hard for Prey to keep up with the standard they set early in the game. Overall Prey is pretty cool and defiantly has the mojo; it's just too bad a guy like Tommy is running the show.
Lowdown:Prey does a great job exploring new gaming concepts while trying their best to give gamers something fresh in the tired genre of First Person Shooters. Prey is unique and bizarre, and at the same time familiar. If you enjoy future themed shooters you're going to love the ride the Prey provides. Shooter fans need to check out Prey, but I'd weigh the rent-buy decision on your cash flow. Prey can be completed in a day or two, so if you have a lot free time for gaming, it will feel like it's over before it started. Rent, or buy, make sure you check out Prey, I'm sure you haven't played one like this before.