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Review: Prey

Prey was very much a game that didn’t appeal to me a great deal during its development, seeing the dark setting, the outlandish weapons and the oppressive looking atmosphere – that setting has never really been my scene when it comes to the FPS genre. That opinion was flipped on its head once I’d gotten my grubby little mitts on the delayed demo from the marketplace. Amazed by death defying gravity tricks, portals, some stunning graphical quality and the beginning of what seemed to be a cracking storyline, I was completely swayed. The very same day I proceeded to my local games shop and pre-ordered Prey. Did the full version of Human Head’s disorientating title live up to my expectations? Click ‘more’ to find out…

Wallwalk Battle!

Introductions And Abductions…
The single game starts out in the toilets of a dingy run-down bar on an Indian reservation. You begin the game staring into a mirror revealing the despondent face of our hero; Tommy. Tommy is a disillusioned Cherokee Indian whose faith in his ancestry has wavered somewhat over time, but fortunately for Tommy; this is something his grandfather Enisi will not let him forget. The other character you meet in the early stages is Jen, Tommy’s love interest and the owner of the bar you find yourself exploring. Soon enough the groups lives are quite literally turned upside down; a strange rumble puts everyone on edge, cars are levitating off the ground outside… Suddenly the roof is ripped off the bar, a strange light engulfs everything in sight as our heroes (and pretty much everything from the bar) are levitated towards the unknown…

Shortly after the abduction, it becomes apparent that you have been transported to some manner of mother ship orbiting the earth. Once firmly aboard and strapped down, you are taken through a merry-go-round that breeds pleasant and nostalgic memories of the later sections of seminal shooter Half-Life 2. Eventually and luckily for you, a mysterious stranger halts the ride and breaks you free. Hearing the screams of your beloved Jen, you diligently race to her rescue. This is where the game starts for real…

Talon in action

GamePrey…
Using the Doom 3 engine, most people will pretty much know how this game plays, while sharing the general feel of the most recent Doom; the controls feel far smoother and far more cultured than the other games created with this engine. As you really should know by now, Prey attempts to step away from the tried and tested (and sometimes tired) FPS genre by providing some new innovations utilising both gravity and portal technology. How effective this is depends on your outlook. While there are some brilliantly worked and disorientating puzzles, they are all too straightforward, and it feels like they are there more to break up the passages of more action packed periods due to Prey’s linear nature, rather than attempting to provide a genuinely taxing section of play.

The usage of portals is generally impressive, and does add a whole new spin to the FPS genre, but you get the feeling that just sometimes the system simply replaces a bog-standard doorway, as if in places the developers were using them for the sake of it. Elsewhere in the games mechanics, the enemy AI is for most part unspectacular, yet of an adequate quality; While enemies seek cover and retreat under-fire as you would hope, any actions that could be deemed as an example of grand intellect are usually pre-determined events, which is a great shame as disorientating gameplay plus top-notch AI could have been a tantalising mixture.

Spirit power

The weapons are pretty much organic and alien takes on human weaponry, very loosely based on Rifles, Shotguns etc. My big qualm with the weaponry is that there is a severe lack of a ‘portal gun’, which would have allowed a real chance to show off the complexity of the portal system. There are also a couple of basic yet fun vehicle sections that see you piloting basic transport, again this helps break up the play and keep things interesting.

My major concerns are the game’s length and to a lesser degree the fact that without a changeable difficulty level (until you’ve completed the game) this game is both too short and too easy. Combined with the fact that you can’t actually die after the first few levels due to the spirit walk, the bulk of the game will last a miserly 6-8 hours. As a result this isn’t going to be a game that you will be playing in a month’s time, and its this aspect that will see the final score marked down a notch, which is a great shame. Where Prey succeeds however is in its solid gameplay and a brilliant storyline.

Dancing on the ceiling...

Graphically Doomed?
The only real and fair criticism I could level at Prey’s graphical style is that it probably looks too much like Doom 3 and Quake 4. That seems to be down to the usage of the Doom 3 engine, does the lack of variety seen over these games suggest limitations with the Doom 3 engine? I’m not sure… Despite this, graphically Prey is impressive on both Hi-def and on standard television sets, however if you play on the latter expect some jagged edges. This makes little difference in motion, as the textures, environments and enemies are all brilliantly modelled and the game runs smoothly and perfectly. While Prey does offer some variety in the locales that you will visit, the settings for most part are dark, claustrophobic and choking, and to be honest: I wouldn’t have it any other way. It suits the story and setting perfectly.

Musically Sound…
Music as many people know can make or break a game, and on this Human Head have delivered mightily. Featuring the work of Jeremy Soule whose other 360 credits include work on the much-acclaimed Oblivion, while much of his score sits in the background to a point where you barely notice its there, it does its job by rising and stirring as and when needed. It really adds to the various types of atmospheres you will encounter throughout the entire Prey Experience. On the sound effects front, Prey again manages to deliver, the guns sound ‘real’ despite being alien in design.

Where Prey aurally shines - in my opinion - is the high quality of voice acting. The story for me is easily Prey’s strongest and most endearing feature, and personally I really found the voice acting essential in making that semi-emotional attachment to the key characters. Obviously when you make that attachment it tends to make games far more enjoyable and makes you feel far more involved in what’s going on.

One of the most enjoyable features of the audio is the regular feature of the monitored radio broadcasts from late night call-in host (and real-life broadcaster) Art Bell. They are light-hearted and in some cases genuinely funny. When you hear them start on a nearby control panel, I seriously advise you to stop and listen.

Organic portal room

MultiPrey…
Ironically, where Prey should really intrigue, is the aspect that sparks the least interest. The prospect of gravity and portal related multiplayer on live would have many people salivating at the thought, but in this case it’s not all that exciting. This is largely due to a lack of modes. While the level design is of a half-decent standard, it all just feels a little average. Again this is mostly down to a lack of modes; sure you’ve got your Death Match and Team Death Matches, but people tend to expect a little more nowadays. Something like adding a capture-the-flag mode could have really made the difference in this game and greatly prolonged its potential online longevity. Other than that occasionally the game does suffer bouts of lag, much in a similar vein to that of COD2 pre-patch.

I’ve Run Out Of Prey-Related Puns… (AKA Concluding Comments…)
Bearing in mind some of my above criticisms contained in this review; you’d be forgiven for initially thinking that I didn’t particularly enjoy Prey. However I actually came away from Prey mostly satisfied. Despite some room for improvement, a linear nature and disappointing lifespan, Prey has a great deal to offer. It has fluent and dependable gameplay, one of the most fantastic video-game stories of recent times, some nifty innovations, a great atmosphere, along with two of the most emotionally harrowing boss-fights ever seen in a game. Prey is a good game, with a little more thought and more expansion, it could have been great.

7 out of 10 – Above Average. (How do we rank games?)

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11 comments on 'Review: Prey'

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VerbalKint?

Buddy oh pal?

Awesome first review.

Comment by Zerodisorder on 2006-08-04 01:37:13 | Reply

yea man, it was real well, i would have given the game the same score and i liked it very much.

Comment by Nekro on 2006-08-04 01:41:22 | Reply

I agree, that demo has almost swayed me to buy the game. Just that it’s too expensive at the moment.

Comment by kobejonez on 2006-08-04 06:42:05 | Reply

Nice review, Good Job guy. Nice to see u getting work after The Usual Suspects. :D

He talked us into it by scaring us with that Keizer Soze story :(

Comment by kobejonez on 2006-08-04 19:20:54 | Reply

lolz :D

Comment by BliZ on 2006-08-04 07:19:16 | Reply

God game, really liking it thusfar.

Comment by BliZ on 2006-08-04 07:19:42 | Reply

in god I mean good offcourse

i kind of love this game!

just rent it 3 days and you get every level an achievement (even if some during 1 min or less)i have 600 points in 2 days :)

Comment by lynX on 2006-08-04 09:39:11 | Reply

gotta agree with the 7 outta 10 :) It’s a fun game, with some original thingies, but it’s still doom3 with a twist. And the gfx really sucked (textures) at some times!

Comment by PaulWillocks on 2006-08-04 11:02:27 | Reply

I loved this game, it was easy to complete but made me want to continue playing because of the story and setting. I’m going to start it on the unlocked more difficult setting soon (the same as standard difficulty but without the little energy pads on the floor).

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