posted 7/25/2006 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: PC

Prey does feature some limited vehicular action as well.  During certain parts of the game you will gain access to a flying exosuit which you can use to get around certain levels.  The flying levels do break up the game a bit and do add a few new design twists.  They are fairly well done and not overly long. 

Combat is is one area where the game does experience a bit of a let down.  I’m not sure if it’s a limitation of the Doom 3 engine but the combat is a little on the generic side.  There’s a lot of dodging and weaving but the combat isn’t exactly breaking any new ground. Maybe that’s just me being spoiled by F.E.A.R. but the combat wasn’t something that I’d write home about.  It’s not that the combat is bad but I felt like I’ve done some of it before.

With the critique of the combat system aside the game does feature something cool when you fail at the combat portion of the game.  Rather than stopping the game and forcing you to reload from a previous start you go into the death walk mode.  In this you are taken to a remote area where you have to shoot wraiths that are circling you.  There are two colored wraiths, red representing health and blue representing spirit energy.  By shooting a wraith Tommy reclaims a bit of that attribute so that when he comes back to life he has more than a spare bit of health.  While this seems a bit cheesy and repetitive it really helps move the pace of the game along as you never have to stop and reload a save game when you die.  Sure you may die a lot in the game but you are never really pulled out of the game. 

The problem is that while this speeds you through the game there isn’t a lot of game to get through. I managed to get through the game in a little over seven hours.  This wouldn’t be bad if it wasn’t for the recent released of Half Life 2: Episode 1 and Sin Episodes: Emergence which provided about five to six hours of game play for $20.  At around $50 for the regular edition and $60 for the collector’s edition you do have to wonder about paying that much more money for only seven to ten hours of game play.  Is it a fair comparison?

With that out of the way the game does look gorgeous.  Based on the Doom 3 engine the folks at Human Head really seemed to squeeze a lot of new things out of the engine.  From some large scale open areas to small bio-organic corridors there is a good mix of environments in the game.  Enemies are fairly unique although some follow the alien-human hybrid model that has been used before. 

The sounds are fairly solid and most of the weapons and enemies sound like what you would expect.  The only real problem I had with the sound is that Spirit mode has its own soundtrack which gets overlaid on top of what ever else you are doing.  This means that on occasion it will occasionally drown out the excellent musical score.  There are also portions of the game where you are required to “Spirit Walk” a lot and since the music loops you will start to get a bit annoyed by it after a while.

Controls are what you would expect out a FPS with the Human Head using the standard WASD setup. My only gripe with the controls is that the default setup has the use key sharing the same setup as the fire button which can lead to some nasty accidents if you are trying to open a door and slide out of the use zone before hitting the button. 

I did spend a little bit of time with the game’s multiplayer modes which are composed of both standard and team deathmatch.  The levels do take advantage of some of Prey’s unique game play features but unless you are really into fast run and gun multiplayer it’s nothing to write home about.  It’s something that will probably be a lot of fun at a LAN party but as a die hard Battlefield 2 fan it’s not something that I would want to spend a lot of time on.  That said, this type of gameplay does appeal to some people and if you fit in that demographic you are in for a bit of a treat.

While on the short side Prey is a good start to a new FPS franchise.  The game does show off a lot of new innovations and you can tell that a lot of thought went into the design and execution of the game.  While I’m not a big fan of the type of multiplayer action found in the game those looking for fast and furious deathmatch style games may also want to look into this as the level design of the game adds a host of new challenges for the genre.  Hopefully the folks at 3D Realms and Human Head make enough for a second game in this series that makes Tommy a little more likable and is a little longer, and that it doesn’t take quite as long to create.

A solid FPS with some innovative level design and new technology that helps evolve the genre a bit. While the game features some new innovation that we’ll be seeing in upcoming games you do have to wonder about the value the game brings as the single player side of the game is a bit on the short side and the multiplayer is a bit on the generic side.

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