YouTuber GmanLives just did a retrospective on the original Prey from 2006, which instantly made me want to revisit that. Developed by Human Head Studios, Prey should be the picture next to “underrated” in the dictionary; I’m amazed this game still doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It’s one of the most unsettling representations of a cruel, callous mass alien abduction I’ve ever seen; men, women and children alike being teleported into space and butchered like livestock by an extraterrestrial force so bizarre and unfamiliar that it really twists your spine. Very little is implied; you see a lot of this ugliness plain as day and it’s still starkly horrific.
The kicker is that your protagonist, Domasi “Tommy” Tawodi, his girlfriend, and his grandfather are Cherokee who get airlifted off their reservation just the same as everyone else. You don’t see nearly enough Native American characters in gaming outside of historical contexts and all things considered I think Prey did a pretty respectful job of it. Tommy has to grapple with his atrophied spirituality while he’s struggling against an unfathomably huge alien threat, and it makes him a much richer, more relatable hero. Oh, and Human Head figured out portals over a year before Valve did, and in my opinion they were more creative and dynamic in how they used them. It’s what I was hoping Valve would do with Half-Life 3 when that was still a viable promise; free the portal mechanic from its very proscribed, controlled puzzle formula in GLaDOS’s test chambers, and integrate it into dynamic combat. Valve apparently never figured out how to do that, so it’s frankly astonishing to see it working in Prey, in 2006.
It absolutely kills me that Bethesda bought up the IP and abruptly canned the extremely promising Prey 2 that Human Head was deep into developing. That game looked so damn good and expanded the universe and Tommy’s story in such clever ways, that I still refuse to purchase or play Bethesda and Arkane’s 2017 Prey reboot out of pure, poisonous spite. I’m sure Arcane did a fine job with Prey 2017—nearly all of my friends say so—but it’s a completely new IP as far as I’m concerned; it has nothing to do with the original game, it’s diverse protagonists, or its highly innovative story. So yeah, if you haven’t played Prey 2006, track it down, and you can join the rest of us embittered fans.