Prey

Review

posted 7/26/2006 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: 360

When a game is cancelled it's usually safe to say that you'll never see it on the store shelves.  Yet Prey is one of those rare exceptions to the rule.  It's a game that was cancelled back in the late 1990s and recently resurrected as a next generation PC and Xbox 360 game.  But now that the shock and amazement has warn off we're left with a game that is solid … but probably not worth the decade-long wait.

Proving that not every story has been told in a first-person perspective, Prey introduces us to a misguided Cherokee Indian named Tommy who finds himself at the wrong place and the wrong time.  Tommy isn't much for this "faith" thing; he's had enough of the ways of his ancestors and just wants to leave with his girlfriend, Jen.  But before he can convince her to tag along they are both sucked into a giant alien spaceship and forced to fight their way out.  Somehow Tommy breaks free of the alien's trap and finds himself on an adventure killing aliens in hopes of saving Jen and (wait for it) keeping Earth safe from the impending alien onslaught.

For the most part Prey plays like your normal first-person shooter, you have plenty of cool alien weapons and a whole lot of corridors to explore.  But it doesn't take long before you see some of the new elements that make Prey unique.  For example, Prey features portals that you (and the aliens) jump in and out of.  These portals allow you to warp from one part of the ship to another; you can even see (and shoot) into the portal before you take the leap.  These portals can work against you, too.  From time to time you will see aliens jump out of the portals and attack you, giving you an uneasy feeling that you could get into a fight at nearly any moment.

The portals aren't the only innovation found in Prey.  As you progress through the game you will find a number of walls that you can walk on, allowing Tommy to literally walk on the ceiling and fire at enemies in an upside down state.  You can also alter gravity in some parts of the spaceship, which can be both disconcerting and highly amusing.  Prey uses all of these elements in unique ways, often making you think about how to solve a puzzle using these new game play gimmicks.

Although there is a lot of combat to be found in Prey, much of the game requires you to solve puzzles before you can make your way to the next area.  Don't worry, though, you aren't going to be forced to go through Myst-style brain teasers, most of the puzzles found in Prey are nothing more than figuring out how to open doors and turn on the walls you can walk on.  A few might give you a short pause, but by and large these puzzles aren't very difficult and the average gamer will blaze right through them without much fuss.

Early into the game Tommy is teleported into a spirit world where he meets up with his dead grandfather, a character that teaches him all about something called spirit walking.  Although Tommy has turned his back on his ancestors he quickly realizes that it's a good thing his ancestors haven't turned their backs to him.  Spirit walking allows Tommy to literally leave his body and explore the world in a ghost-like state.  This mode even gives you a new weapon (a bow and arrow) which allows you to kill many enemies in only one shot.  But that's not the only advantage to spirit walking, you will also be able to walk through certain force fields and obstacles that the corporeal Tommy can't.  As you might imagine, spirit walking is used to solve more than a few puzzles scattered throughout Prey.

But spirit walking isn't the only tool Tommy's grandfather gives him, you also learn that when you die you aren't really dead … you just go to a half-way world that allows you to shoot at wraiths for a short amount of time.  This is something of a mini-game; all you need to do is hit the wraiths flying around you to gain health (red wraiths) and spirit energy (blue wraiths).  After a short amount of time (15 seconds or so) you will be sucked through a big hole in the middle of the arena and you're right back where you died.  This means that no matter how many times you die you will always have another chance to take out the enemies and solve the puzzles.

While this spirit area is a unique idea it also has a way of making this game feel very, very easy.  You never really have to worry about losing all of your health because you know that you'll just come back refilled and ready to avenge your death.  Even with the bosses you don't have to worry about dying, regardless of what happened you will still come back and they will still have all of the damage you inflicted prior to your death.  You will never see a game over screen, you just simply have to suffer through the monotonous spirit mini-game and you're back where you were.  This means that you will never have to replay a part of the game because you died and don't worry about being stealthy, there are no consequences for just running and gunning your way to victory.

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