Prey (Video Game)

Prey Xbox 360Available on PC and Xbox 360 (reviewed)

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

Single Player:
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.

Prey Xbox 360 Prey Xbox 360

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.

Prey Xbox 360 Prey Xbox 360

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 Xbox 360 Prey Xbox 360

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

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Mike Phalin

Mike Phalin is a contributing writer, reality television star and engineer.

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