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Game: Prey
Developer: Human Head Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Year: 2006
Reviewed: 2007
Platform: PC
Genre: FPS
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

Prey was originally announced by 3D Realms all the way back in 1995. That’s the same company who also announced Duke Nukem Forever. Unlike that game, however, Prey did eventually get released, albeit more than 10 years and several engine changes and redesigns later. It turned out to be a perfectly good FPS game, although unfortunately nothing too spectacular, and certainly not worth the decade-long development period. Still, it’s an enjoyable enough game for the time it lasts.

Prey School Bus
I don’t remember the bus taking this route yesterday…

Prey, in its finally released form, tells the story of Domasi Tawodi, a Native American living in a reservation that he wants to get away from. The game opens with him having an argument with his girlfriend who runs the local bar, trying to persuade her to leave with him. Unfortunately, it’s not long before the occupants of the bar are being abducted by aliens in one of the most amazing sequences to ever open an FPS game. It really is perfectly done, and the game would be worth playing just for that moment, if nothing else. It’s followed by a nightmarish trip around the alien ship trapped on weird machinery. If the game was full of moments like that, it would be one of the best around.

The Native American theme lends the game a few interesting features. One of these is spirit walking. After a certain point early on in the game, you gain the ability to actually walk out of your body. This gives you the ability to walk through otherwise impenetrable force fields to find a way to deactivate them on the other side. The trouble is that nearly every time it simply involves walking through the force field and pressing the switch right behind it. A couple of times it is used in interesting ways for puzzles, but it mostly feels like a wasted opportunity. Another extremely useful feature is the inability for your character to die. Or rather, you die, at which point you turn up in the spirit realm, spend a few seconds shooting at some flying spirits to recharge your health and spirit meters and then arrive back where you were just before you died. On the one hand it makes things very easy, but it’s certainly better than the frustrating difficulty of some games. You also get your own spirit guide, in the form of a hawk called Talon. When in battle he’ll attack an enemy, which doesn’t do a great deal but at least it distracts them, and it also translates the alien language into English. It doesn’t add a huge amount to the game, but it’s a nice touch anyway.

Prey Wall Walking
I’ve annoyed this alien. In fact I’ve driven him up the wall. (cue groans)

The other theme of the game, the exploration of the alien spaceship, gives the game its other unusual features. The first, the feature the game was originally designed around, is the portals. These can open up anywhere at any time, releasing enemies into the room, or letting you step through to appear in another part of the ship. It is interesting to be able to look inside a small storage crate on the floor and see that it leads into a huge new room, but in the end, the portals aren’t used creatively enough. They’re rarely utilised as anything other than glorified doorways, and you certainly don’t have any control over them like you do in the later game, Portal. It does add to the feel of the game, but again, you get the feel like they could have done so much more with them. The gravity tricks work a bit better. Often, you’ll be able to activate walkways which allow you to walk straight up walls and across ceilings, leaving you shooting at enemies stood upside down above your head. There are also areas where you can shoot switches which switch the direction of gravity in the room, sending everything falling towards the wall and allowing you to reach new locations. These sections comprise most of the puzzles in the game. They aren’t complex puzzles, but they add some variety to the shooting.

The locations are well designed too. The graphics perfectly capture the bizarre, Giger-style feel of the alien ship. Gruesome devices stab and crush trapped abductees in rooms and corridors that disturbingly seem to be organic. The whole ship seems to be a gigantic living creature, with strange fleshy doorways that peel open as you approach and seal shut behind you as you pass through. It’s an imaginative setting, it’s just a shame that it never really varies too much until right at the end of the game.

In the end though, all of these features don’t change the fact that this is a pretty standard FPS game. A highly polished, well presented and thoroughly enjoyable one, but still nothing new. It’s also very short, and is unlikely to last even the slowest, most thorough gamer more than 8 hours.  So it’s not original, despite its attempts to be, but that doesn’t make it bad. For an FPS, it’s solid entertainment and definitely worth a play through if you get the chance. The abduction scene alone makes the game worthy of attention, and the rest of the game is perfectly good, even if the novelty of the twisted setting wears off after a while. I really enjoyed Prey anyway, and it didn’t do a lot wrong, it’s just that it seems like it could have done so much more. But what it does, it does very well.

Save System Review: Save anywhere, the proper way to do it.

Arbitrary Final Score: 3.5 stars

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