|a game by||Take 2 Interactive Software|
|Platforms:||XBox 360, PC|
|Editor Rating:||7.8/10, based on 3 reviews|
|User Rating:||9.0/10 - 2 votes|
|Rate this game:|
For an enihraling few hour out-there first-person shooter Prey blew my mind. The opens with some edgy extratrials abducting your ass and dropping you into their organic, pulsating, Death Star-sized ship, which houses a bevy of awesomely otherworldly rules. To wit: Rooms with multiple gravitational fields create M.C. Escher-esque scenes, as enemies walk on walls while you stand on a different floor. Your ghostlike spirit lets you both spirit walk (leaving your body behind as you sneak through force fields and pick off enemies) and death walk (in which, upon dying, you head to a trippy shooting gallery and take potshots for health before popping back where you left off). Finally, both you and enemies can see, shoot, and hop through portals to reach other parts of the ship all quicklike. After this multihour undertaking of discovery, though, it seems an creativity gets sucked away. The level design sevolves into the straightforward, corridor-based layouts you'd find in any generic FPS, and each innovation stumbles to some degree (as the other guys will point out). Prey's atmosphere and creativity deliver it's the uneven execution (especially with the portals) and multiplayer (just deathmatch and team DM, plus lag) that holds it back.
Spend a couple hours globe-trotting Prey's extraterrestrial fun house and witness your mind turn to mush as it soaks in all the bizarre gimmicks portals, walking on walls, immortality that help the game stand out from other ho-hum shooters. Well, at least until the wackiness wears thin. After that, the game is about as interesting as any game involving fugly demons and a balls-out hero (i.e., any first-person shooter from the '90s). Being immortal (thanks to death walking) is cool, but once you realize you can't die, the challenge goes down the crapper. Bosses? Who cares about 'em if you're a wiseass Cherokee god? And while the multiplayer does its duty, having only two play options is pretty pathetic not to mention that the action suffers from nasty lag if slow-connected users join your game.
Wow, I remember the days when Prey was billed as the first-person shooter that would change (PC) gaming. That was a decade ago (I'm not kidding). The intervening years have made portal-hop-ping and wall-walking no less unique, but a retrotastic residue remains. Mowing down biomechanical aliens and fragging online elicits the involuntary Hell yeah! old id games did (like Doom) If only it stepped past that. But the story misses a chance to elevate the game further (think Half-Life), instead delivering a narrative that amounts to nothing more than a reason for the hero's cool supernatural powers.
3D Realms' latest project continues to shape up into one of the most gorgeous corridor shooters ever. As Talon Brave, a Native American abducted by aliens, players will have to free themselves and--what else?--save the world.
A brand-new engine will power Prey's explosive action, and the game will only run on PCs with 3D accelerator cards installed. Expect hi-res graphics, cool lighting effects, and levels that change while you're exploring them (for instance, structures can collapse). Based on these mostly environmental screens, we can't wait to see more of the enemies. And with Quake II, Hexen II, and Unreal waiting in the wings, Prey will have to be worth its lengthy wait.
More often than not, I find myself conflicted. Games are usually a combination of many different design concepts, tossed together like a good salad. This means you can usually find something to love about any given game, and just as easily something to despise. If that didn't make much sense, rely on this: Prey is a fun romp, an enjoyable FPS ride that introduces some really entertaining new game features, original ideas that haven't been played with before. Yet for all of its development, all of its vaunted hype, it rarely climbs above the heights of mediocrity.
First, I did enjoy playing Prey. It was by no means a bad game. I also happened to have beaten it in just over five and a half hours. I'm a fan of shorter FPS titles, as I don't really like a slog through endless repetitive combat, but I insist on getting my interesting and varied gameplay. Much like my experience with Doom 3, Prey is set inside a banal bio-organic environment, something that's designed to look creepy, disgusting, and all-around not very inviting. I wouldn't complain about it if there were something more to look at than a claustrophobic bloodstained environment, but this entire game feels like one giant corridor, even when you're set loose into some of the more movement freeing sections.
The storyline is equally boring, standing out only in its use of a Native American as the main character. It wouldn't be so bad if the game writers had considered adding more characters, plot, and exposition to the game, but at least they didn't seem to marginalize Tommy, your character, considering his nationality.
Rounding out the experience are the three major gameplay improvements that Prey has introduced. Taking full advantage of the nature of a digital environment, you can wall-walk with certain floors in the game, completely reorient the gravity in certain scenes, and coolest of all, open portals that let you move about the game in completely weird and surreal ways. Although they didn't put much work into using these elements to their fullest in the single player campaign (portals make for a slightly different take on linear gameplay), they make for great additions to the multiplayer experience.
Visually, the game looks good, but as I've said, the environments offered little variation. I was happiest to learn about the soundtrack, composed by Jeremy Soule. He's the composer responsible for such great game soundtracks as Total Annihilation, Icewind Dale, Guild Wars, and Oblivion. For my musical tastes (as video games go) there's this guy, and then there's the guy that did Halo, and that's about it. I'm sure Tommy Tallarico factors in there somewhere, but he didn't do the Total Annihilation soundtrack.
All in all, I can sum this up with one tired phrase. Been there, done that. There's a little bit here that's new, and the game looks great (and just like Doom 3), but this is really just covering the same old ground.