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1 rating: 4.0
Shooter / FPS video game by 2K Games for the Xbox 360

Tommy is a member of the Cherokee nation, and his life was going nowhere until the sky fell upon him. A menacing alien spaceship abducted Tommy and his people, forcing him to look deep inside of himself. He has awakened the spiritual powers from his … see full wiki

Release Date: July, 2006
1 review about Prey

Prey - You turn me upside down

  • Aug 24, 2006
Pros: fun, unique gameplay, engaging puzzles

Cons: multiplayer is terrible

The Bottom Line: A diamond in the rough, this could be the first of a revolutionary new franchise. The shoddy multiplayer clouds this, but players should be able to see the sun.

Prey is a game that was under development for years by the company that made Duke Nukem 3D. Long delayed, the game was finally released for the Xbox 360 and PC. Was it worth the wait? Does it redefine the first-person shooter genre or merely add to the already expanding catalogue?

Read on, dear reader....

•• Story ••
Quite simple in its premise and effective in its delivery, this is the story of Tommy, a Cherokee living on a reservation. He is anxious to leave the reservation and the mysticism and legacy of his people behind. His girlfriend, Jen is not so ready to leave the reservation as she realizes her home, family, and happiness are right where she is.

Then the aliens come, suck them up into their ship and all hell breaks loose. After that the story is a pretty basic rescue, kill, and revenge story. Taking a page from Joseph Campbell's rise of the reluctant hero of mythology,
this is obviously the Big Event that allows Tommy to grow into the hero that he knew he was destined to be. The story is all too familiar, but well told in an understated and effective manner.

•• Gameplay ••
Prey is a first-person shooter which means that the player takes control of the character and sees the world from his eyes, from his perspective. The arm of the character is in front and wields whatever weapon the player currently has.

The control of Prey are familiar to any who has played a shooter before. The triggers are primary and secondary fire and the shoulder buttons cycle through weapons. The Y button is Spirit walk mode which we'll go into later. No surprises here and anyone familiar with the genre will be able to pick up and go.

To call Prey a science fiction shooter doesn't exactly do it
justice. This term conjures up memories of Doom and Quake 4 which are pretty vanilla shooters, especially the latter which hasn't seen much improvement in years. No, Prey is as much a puzzle game as it is a shooter. Actually the shooting is fairly sparse and when it doesn't occupy the game, the puzzles do. I don't mean puzzle like flipping switches in order. But to explain the puzzles, let me go deeper into what the game offers...

Since the story takes place in space, there is no up and down as we know it. Those perspectives are defined by the source of gravity. And in Prey, this can change. Therefore, by switching gravity pads, the entire world may flip upside down. As well, there are certain pathways that allow the player to walk on walls and ceilings, thereby destroying any notion of up and down. It is this gravity-disrupting that constitutes the majority of the puzzles in the game. The player must often scale huge vistas by riding anti-gravity panels while flipping the gravity pads at just the right moment. Usually challenging and rarely frustrating, the puzzles in the game are truly unique and never tiresome.

Adding even more to this are portals that take you to various places in the map, sometimes upside down, sometimes not. As well, Tommy is taught the Cherokee art of Spirit Walking which allows the player to disconnect from the physical body and walk around as a spirit. This allows the player to walk through force fields and do things mere mortals cannot do. My only beef with this is that it got very repetitive. The extent of the design of this was to spirit walk through a force field to turn off the force field. Then return to your physical body and continue on past the force field. Sometimes when I expected to be able to Spirit Walk, I was unable to. And why couldn't I fly as a spirit?

The only time you get to fly are on the few missions where you get to pilot a small craft. These missions are a nod to the Descent game of early years. While certainly not meant to be a sim or a space shooter, the flying moments are a nice break from the wall-crawling shooting.

As a shooter, the game is fairly run of the mill. There are only a few enemy types and they are all defeated in the same manner - brute force. the AI is typically dumb, with a little bit of evasion. But usually they just stand there and take the damage. And even toward the end of the game, there just aren't that many enemies. It rarely becomes the shoot-em-up fest that other titles like Halo become.

One interesting thing the designers did was lose the old death system tied to coin-op machines. In arcades, the game was designed to kill you off so that you'd plug quarters in to keep playing. Last I checked, my Xbox 360 didn't accept quarters so what is the point of maintaining this mentality? Instead of dying and taking you back to checkpoint or making you start from the beginning of the level, when you die, you become a spirit and must shoot down other spirits. Depending on whether you shoot red or blue ones, you will return to the game with either more spirit life or human life. This mini-game of sorts is a refreshing change of pace and very helpful during boss battles. You see, when you come back, the boss keeps the same amount of life/damage as when you were killed. So no need to start the boss battle over again.

On the whole, the game can best be described as next-generation gameplay whose sum is more than the parts. Individual areas of the games don't quite realize their full potential, but all add up to a solidly fun game with some very unique twists.

•• Graphics ••
The graphics in prey are a bit of a mixed bag. The environments are fantastic as I would expect from a game using a modified Doom 3 engine.
I'm sure had the team used the Unreal engine, the graphics would have been even more stellar, but alas, I'll wait for Gears of War for that.

The environments vary from standard interior space ship decor to monstrously huge, open areas that give even the most composed player a sense of vertigo. The care that the team put into these moments of flawless animation, wonderful effects and detailed environments show clearly. But then you look at the character models and you are thrown back to Xbox 1 level graphics with low fidelity textures and unbelievable animation.

•• Sound ••
The voice work in Prey is top-notch. The actor portraying Tommy does an excellent job of conveying the dread and anger that he feels throughout the game. While Jen comes across as more shrill than anything, all the actors in the game do excellent jobs. I'm glad to see VO taken more seriously in games.

The music is quite good as well. Symphonic and dynamic, the music is understated when it needs to be and exciting to amp up the action. Playing on a common theme and varying it depending on the scene, the music is memorable and haunting.

•• Multiplayer ••
In short, the multiplayer is suck. Sporting only deathmatch and team deathmatch, multiplayer was an after thought. It's also buggy, laggy and no one is playing online, probably because of the previous reasons mentioned. The few people I found were newbies and quickly left. The maps were horribly designed with no balance. Once a person got a bigger gun, he dominated the rest of the match.

But the real problem is the lag. It became unplayable very quickly. There is a recent patch to fix crashes in MP, but nothing that fixes the network code to make it playable. This is a real bummer because I can think of all kinds of different game types that would be great with the gravity switches. It would loads of fun to flip the gravity just as your opponent was delivering a flag or using it to knock him off a ledge to his death.

•• Achievements ••
The achievements are satisfactory in this game, but don't expect to get the multiplayer ones unless you enjoy being punished. While most of the achievements are rewarded for competing the campaign, some are for multiplayer. The ones not linked to buggy MP are quite attainable and don't really reward the player for going above and beyond. Instead they reward the player for just playing the game. As an Achievement junkie, I like getting easy points, but I always feel dirty because I didn't do anything but play the game.

•• Parents Should Know ••
This game is rated M for Mature and rightly so. Lots of foul language abound and as well as scenes of gory death.

•• Conclusion ••
A diamond in the rough, this could be the first of a revolutionary new franchise. The shoddy multiplayer clouds this, but players should be able to see the sun.

Related reviews:
Xbox 360 Console - The Comprehensive Launch Review


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