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Prey (Video Game)

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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.

Multi-player:
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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GIRLS NIGHT 2 Review – A Terrifying Halloween Treat

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Starring Marina De Sousa, Vincent Conty

Directed by David Teixeira


If you love Halloween as much as I do, you probably also love horror films that take place on Halloween. French Writer/Director David Teixeira uses Halloween as the backdrop for his eerie short horror film Girls Night, which we reviewed here. The film tells the story of three friends who decide to play Bloody Mary and end up butchered by a creepy masked killer. Filmmaker Teixeira skillfully uses atmosphere and impressive cinematography to heighten the scares.

Teixeira is back with Girls Night 2 which will be released in October just in time for Halloween. The only survivor of the massacre, Jess (Marina De Sousa), is suffering from nightmares and insomnia because she was blamed for the murder of her friends. It’s a year later and Halloween and she is staying with Pierre (Vincent Conty). To calm Jess’s nerves they decide to watch a short film their friend David (David Teixeira) made, but Jess can’t stay awake. In her dreams the masked killer is back and wielding a pair of scissors. The film ends in utter confusion and a bloody mess. Is it real or is it a dream and who is the killer? You’ll have to watch the short to find out.

The performances are strong and believable and actress Marina De Sousa is remarkable as Jess. Like the original, Girls Night 2 delivers an exciting amount of intensity and panic in only around thirteen minutes. I highly suggest experiencing both of these short films while wearing headphones to really amp up the terror. Girls Night 2 is currently a semi-finalist at Los Angeles Cinefest and winner for Best Foreign Film at the $2 Dollar Film Festival. The award winning short film Girls Night is available on YouTube and you can watch the Girls Night 2 teaser trailer below.

  • Girls Night 2
4.0

Summary

Girls Night 2 delivers an impressive amount of intense scares worthy of a feature length film in just under thirteen minutes.

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PANTHER RIDGE Review – When Your New Job Takes You To Interesting Locations

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Starring Chenara Imrith, Kerry Hempel, Seth Goodfellow

Written by Ryan Swantek

Directed by Ryan Swantek


Director Ryan Swantek’s graphic-take on a young woman unhappy with her looks in White Willow was in my useless opinion, one of the strongest short films to hit the horror genre in quite some time. It was brutal, unflinchingly ruthless to eyeball, and best of all for a first-time directorial effort, there was no apology for what was put before us – let’s venture over to Panther Ridge.

So what comes around in the second-time in the big guy’s chair? Well, when I’d heard that it was a sadistic look into the BDSM scene, I’ll admit I was a bit intrigued (no, I’m not into that stuff, ya kooks) – I’d just honestly hoped for a bit more than what was tossed to me. This particular short film is titled Panther Ridge, and it tells the story of a young lady who is getting a fresh start in a new career – that of a dominatrix, of sorts. As this presentation begins, she’s smack dab in the middle of a dungeon with a very unlucky prisoner and the woman who will be guiding her in her “training.” I’ll tell ya, first days on the job can be stressful, but with the correct forms of relief, you can make it through the day all the while exorcising some pent up demons as well.

Commence brutality upon this poor tied-up fool and the lass roped up across from him, for they know not what lies in store for them next, but rest assured they’ll be making a blood donation whether they want to or not. Unfortunately my self-imposed hype proved to be insurmountable as Swantek’s second time up to the plate resulted (for me, anyway) in a big swing and a miss. What worked in his maiden voyage with Willow was the notion that you were going to witness the repercussions of a tortured soul as she looked in the mirror, whereas this time we’re watching some poor sap get the snot beaten out of him, and I could honestly see the same thing in a number of other productions for a longer stretch of time (if you dig that sort of thing). I’ll await Mr. Swantek’s third production when it’s time, and hopefully it’ll pack more of a sustained punch than this quickie.

  • Panther Ridge
2.5

Summary

Swantek’s sophomore directorial endeavor unfortunately isn’t much more than shock and torture-porn crammed into an abbreviated timeframe – been down this road more than a few times.

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EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS Blu-ray Review – Savagery & Sexuality From The Master Of Sleaze

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Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Monica Zanchi, Donald O’Brien

Directed by Joe D’Amato (Arisitide Massaccesi)

Distributed by Severin Films


After taking famed sex icon Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) to Bangkok (1976), America (1976), and Around the World (1977) legendary sleaze director Joe D’Amato decided to mash up two of Italy’s most notorious genres by sending his beautiful muse down to the Amazon rainforest, cinematic home to countless hordes of cannibal tribes. The Italian cannibal craze of the late’70s was just beginning to take hold, offering D’Amato a ripe opportunity to satisfy both the bloodlust and, well, regular lust of exploitation devotees worldwide. For the most part the film plays out expectedly, with a reasonably large group of people meeting in the Amazon and trekking off on a quest. By the end, that group has dwindled down to only a few members, all of whom probably have a lot of regret about traipsing through the jungle. Aficionados will get a bit of a “been there, eaten that” vibe from the film, which hits every trademark of the genre sans animal cruelty, but Emanuelle herself spices up this cannibal comfort food with an alluring performance capped off by one helluva genius ending. The film also holds the dubious distinction of showing a penis being eaten less than 15 minutes after the opening credits. You set a high bar, Joe.

When an unlucky nurse has half of her tit eaten off by a newly-arrived mental patient, a girl found in the Amazon jungles, journalist Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) infiltrates the sanitarium to score a hot scoop. Armed with a camera concealed within a baby doll head, Emanuelle surreptitiously snaps a few shots before making the new girl talk via… digital means – and I’m not talking technology. Emanuelle takes her information to Professor Mark Lester (Gabriele Tinti), a museum curator whom she hopes will fund her expedition. He agrees. Then, she goes and screws some random guy in broad daylight down by the river. Later, she comes back and has more sex, this time with Mark. The next day they leave for the Amazon.

Upon arrival, the two are met by Isabel (Monica Zanchi) and Sister Angela (Annamaria Clementi), both of whom have altruistic plans of their own in the rainforest. Their trek soon brings them across Donald (Donald O’Brien), a hunter who is on safari with his wife and a guide. Now that the film has brought together a large group of people, some of whom are more reprehensible than others, it’s time to pick them off and watch in delight as cannibals of the Amazon gut them, skewer them, and devour their flesh while the soothing sounds of Nico Fidenco play in the background.

So many of these Italian cannibal pictures feel interchangeable because the formula is incredibly simple – send a group of naïve outsiders into the Amazon and let an indigenous tribe kill and eat them, usually in the most horrific manner possible. What sets this film apart from so many others is in the title: Emanuelle. Gemser is not only easy on the eyes but she has this magnetic presence on screen, not because she is a great actress but her looks, abilities, and personality combine to create one of exploitation cinema’s most capable and sultry sirens. It is entirely due to her ingenuity here that anyone survives at all. She isn’t a rag doll, tossed around and used for sex and companionship; Emanuelle is a woman in charge of her own sexuality and she calls the shots. This film was made during a time when women were often used as set dressing or spent most of a film being subservient, so it’s a nice change of pace to have one in the lead who takes control and it feels natural, not forced.

Don’t go thinking this is some kind of strong female-led picture that celebrates womanhood or anything. D’Amato never likes to peer too high from his gutter view, and “Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals” is a sleaze sensation; a cornucopia of cannibalism and carnal acts that culminates in the titular heroine literally becoming a god… temporarily. D’Amato takes two of humanity’s greatest loves – eating and screwing – and builds a story around them. Besides all of the aforementioned fornication, nipples are eaten as an amuse-bouche, penis tartare is part of the starter course, a vagina makes unexpected friends with the business end of a machete, a woman is gutted like a deer, and one guy learns a thin rope can still be strong enough to tear the human body in half. Nobody gets out of this thing unscathed… except, maybe, for Emanuelle who seems unfazed by every atrocity the world throws her way.

Ugly films need beautiful music and the lush, soothing sounds of Nico Fidenco make for the ultimate dichotomy of relaxation and revulsion. Fidenco’s score is less the serene soundscape Riz Ortolani composed for Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and more of a funky, porno-lite trip down ‘70s Lane. Oftentimes the composers on these rough Italian pictures delivered scores that felt like they belong to something more refined and accessible, not a movie destined for banning in multiple countries and cut to ribbons in others. Fidenco provided the score for many entries in the Black Emanuelle series and while those films might be past their prime the music is completely timeless.

Severin has provided a new 2K scan from unknown elements, delivering a 1.85:1 1080p image that falls right in line with most of their catalog. The picture has been cleaned up enough to allow for high-def improvements in clarity and coloration to (mostly) shine through, while still retaining a gritty look to remind viewers this is still a grindhouse picture. Film grain is heavy and active, swarming the picture but never becoming noisy. Contrast is variable, as is sharpness, with some scenes looking closer to HD than others. Colors are accurate but a bit anemic, too, with only a few instances of truly popping against the ever-present jungle greens. Detail is swallowed up in darkness, so don’t expect to see much of it when night falls, which thankfully isn’t often. I’ll say one thing Italy sure does make for a fine Amazon stand-in.

Audio is available in both English and Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono, both of which offer a similar audible experience. The standout here is unsurprisingly hearing Fidenco’s score in lossless glory. The ADR work is typically poor and obvious, but everything is understandable and there are no noticeable issues with hissing or audio damage. Subtitles are available in English.

The World of Nico Fidenco – The legendary composer sits down for a new interview, covering his career and the Emanuelle series. In Italian with English subtitles.

A Nun Among the Cannibals – Actress Annamaria Clementi provides a new interview about her role in the film and what it was like working with D’Amato. In Italian with English subtitles.

Dr. O’Brien M.D. – This is an archival interview with Donald O’Brien, who played the wild and wily hunter, Donald, in the film.

From Switzerland to Mato Grosso – Actress Monica Zanchi gives a new interview that covers her career.

I Am Your Black Queen is an audio-only archival interview with Gemser.

A theatrical trailer (in SD) is also included.

Special Features:

  • BRAND NEW 2K REMASTER OF THE FILM prepared for this release
  • English and Italian audio tracks, with optional English subtitles
  • The World of Nico Fidenco – an interview with the composer (27 min)
  • A Run Among the Cannibals – an interview with actress Annamaria Clementi (23 min)
  • Dr. O’Brien MD – an interview with actor Donald O’Brien (19 min)
  • From Switzerland to Mato Grosso – an interview with actress Monica Zanchi (19 min)
  • I Am Your Black Queen – an audio commentary by actress Laura Gemser (11 min)
  • Original trailer
  • Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals
  • Special Features
3.0

Summary

There is no point to making complaints about plotting when watching a film with this title. D’Amato promises viewers nothing more than a sleazy time intended to induce equal parts creep and kink into a span of time. Severin’s release offers a cleaned-up picture and a solid selection of extras that catch up with a few of the principal cast and crew.

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