Voice work provided by Art Bell, Michael Greyeyes, John William Galt, and Crystle Lightning
Developed by Venom Games and Human Head Studios
Distributed by 2k Games
Tommy is a simple man. He is tired of being part of the Cherokee tribe. He is tired of the reservation. He is sick of his grandfather’s spiritual bullshit and wants out.
The game opens with Tommy staring at himself in a dirty mirror inside a dirty restroom of a rundown bar somewhere on the Cherokee reservation. Tommy would like nothing more than to grab his girl, Jen, and leave that place for good, but neither she nor his grandfather thinks it is wise. Jen is a beautiful woman with the unfortunate face of a she-male. Trust me, it wasn’t on purpose. The developers just had an off day when doing faces.
The DOOM 3 engine has come a long way since its first outing with the space marines two years ago. Not everything has a plastic shine this time, and the organic materials look even more tangible. This beauty does come with a price, however. During rare moments you will witness some slowdown. It certainly isn’t too noticeable but could have been fixed with a little more time. This problem seems to affect the 360 version, but that’s nothing new when we’re talking about games ported from the PC.
With most games that bear the 3D Realms symbol on the cover, we are treated to a realistic environment, at least at the beginning of this saga. The toilets are filthy, the jukebox plays Ted Nugent and Blue Oyster Cult to name a few, and there are drunk bikers at the bar. I love realism in games. The few extra steps taken by Venom Games and Human Head Studios can turn a slightly flawed game into an enjoyable gem in the overcrowded world of first person shooters.
It’s not soon after Tommy puts some redskin smackdown on a couple of perverts at the bar before his truck is mysteriously picked up and dropped through the roof. It seems aliens have descended onto our planet and are taking whatever they can, like looters after a disaster.
Tommy, his grandfather, and Jen are all sucked up into a transport ship and taken aboard an even larger living space station. After a bit of dialogue and flashy uses of the DOOM 3 engine, Tommy is set free by a alien/human hybrid. Now, it’s time to figure out how to rescue your loved ones and get the fuck off the living, breathing Death Star.
Prey plays a bit like DOOM 3, but with more light. Most of the levels are designed to be pretty much straightforward shots with enemies usually appearing in front of you. It never gets too repetitive, especially when you find the little things hidden in each level like the anti-gravity walkways. These help you travel to hard to reach spots and occasionally make you a little sick in the stomach, particularly during the last two or three stages.
Eventually you will die in an uncontrollable situation and be taken to the Valley of the Ancients. Here you will meet up with the spirit of a recently deceased loved one, and he will walk you through the steps needed to be a great warrior. Tommy isn’t too glad to hear this since Jen is still trapped in the giant alien ballsack in space. Luckily, the trials you are put through in this area are not without a reward. At the end you are granted two new powers: Spirit Walk and the Spirit Bow.
The Spirit Walk will allow you to travel directly through some shielded passageways undetected by the alien troops. Also while traveling via this form, you will notice some web-like walkways that will allow you to reach otherwise inaccessible areas to grab ammo and weapons.
The Spirit Bow can only be used while Spirit Walking. The bow must be recharged with the souls of your fallen enemies. Each being you kill, be it normally or while invisible, will leave behind a floating essence that can be picked up by walking over it, or to make things easier, switching over to your spirit form will make the souls come to you.
Death . . . it comes for us all. If Tommy dies, he is immediately taken to a small arena where he can use the bow to strike down bat-like creatures that will recharge his spirit and health. Not a bad trade off, eh? I’d rather go through that than have to reload my game.
Puzzles are not found often in the game, but when they are, it’s an affair that luckily doesn’t turn out to be your typical “move a box from here to here” project. The best puzzle will come later in the game and is known as the “Cube.”
Not all traveling will be done by foot. On a few rare and annoying occasions, you will pilot some alien craft that certainly needed some fixing for console controls. Flying this machine is easy enough, but getting your bearings straight after turning around to fight another ship can be a chore. Fortunately you don’t run into these dilemmas too often and for too long.
Weapons. What would we do without them in a first person shooter? We’d be taking that probe right up the jaxie while E.T. laughs his drunken mug off. If you were thinking this game would have the typical things like a handgun, shotgun, and grenades, you’d be way off.
The weapons in Prey each have a unique alien design. Some of the firearms are actually alive. The first weapon you pick up, aside from the wrench that was already in your inventory, is an organic assault rifle. This pup is alive and twitching and performs two duties. When the alternate fire button is pressed, a small bit of the gun attaches itself to your eye and BAM! You’ve got yourself a sniper rifle with multiple zoom. Ammo for this gun isn’t counted in numbers but bars. As to be expected, the sniper mode uses more ammo than the standard usage.
Though the rifle will probably be used the most through the game, you will also get some little xeno-crabs that can be used as grenades. There is a shotgun that uses acid. You do get your typical grenade and rocket launchers, but I rarely used them unless I ran out of ammo on the assault rifle.
There is one weapon that starts out rather useless at first but becomes the BFG of Prey. The weapon itself is nothing more than an absorber that, when near an outlet, can suck up a certain type of energy and shoot it. It’s not until you reach the last few levels that it starts to become very dear to your heart. The first two outlets you will find most often are freeze outlets and a red energy that never did much more damage than the rifle. The freeze ammo will turn most baddies into ice statues that can be broken. Later, much later, is when you find the mother of all outlets, a power that acts like a concentrated sunbeam. I love you, sunbeam. I love you. You made me so happy when I pointed your bright white goodness at alien testicles.
Prey isn’t without its humor. Tommy is one foul-mouthed bastard. He even takes a cheap shot at a problem everyone complained about in DOOM 3. You will certainly be hearing the word “fuck” as much as you would during any Andrew Dice Clay show.
To keep the realism alive, you occasionally come across alien radios that are picking up transmissions from the one and only Art Bell. Art takes calls from citizens that claim to be seeing lights in the sky, and later on in other levels he has special guests the help further the story by discussing a being known as the Keeper.
The controls are your standard FPS fare. The default button setting works nice, but precision aiming is still a pain when we’re talking about console games. Everything was responsive, but sniping turned out to be more of a hassle; the good thing is you don’t stumble into too many areas that wide open that require gun fighting.
There is no split screen or system link play in Prey. This game is all Live, baby, so you have to take it or leave it. This is a rather disappointing situation, not because of the lack of split screen but because there are only two online modes of play. While death-match and team death-match are standard among most FPSs with online play, they certainly aren’t the only ones, but Prey was ambitious enough to go after that rabbit.
What saves the online play from being totally ignored is the level design. Instead of simple rooms with some stairs, hallways, and so on, Prey gives you the same types of levels seen in the single player campaign. The gravity walkways are there, and they make all the difference. Being able to position yourself just outside of the view of the players on the ground can give you the upper hand when using the sniper mode of the assault rifle. It’s cheap, it’s dirty, but hell, at least you aren’t exploiting a bug like Halo 2 players.
Sure, the Live play screams for so much more than just eight players and two modes, but if they gave us everything now, what would we have to look forward to in Prey 2? Wait, is that a good thing?
While I loved the whole experience, it’s hard to call it a “must buy” since the single player is a very quick run through at about 6-8 hours depending on your skill and difficulty level. As for which format you should purchase, I have included a link to a comparison between the 360 version of Prey and PC rigs of multiple stats over at GameSpot. Personally, I would recommend the 360 version since you can find it at nearly any video rental chain.
4 out of 5
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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