Prey's back story is nearly as interesting as the game's main narrative. Development on Prey actually began at 3D Realms in the mid-'90s and the game's portal technology would be showcased in demos built on Prey's original engine before the project was put on indefinite hold. Years later 3D Realms would hire developer Human Head Studios to finish the project, only using the Doom 3 engine instead. While the game's story is essentially about a hero saving Earth from an alien invasion, the focus on Native American mythology introduces some unusual play mechanics.
"Spirit walking" and "death walking" are what sets Prey apart from other first-person shooters. Spirit walking allows protagonist Tommy to release his spirit from his body and access areas otherwise unreachable since his spirit can pass through force fields and has the ability to activate switches. Tommy also carries a bow in spirit form that makes it easy to eliminate enemies before he even enters a room.
Death walking lets players return from the afterlife. The drawback? You never feel the tension associated with dying, which minimizes the challenge. Game progress can also be saved at any time, making an easy game even easier. Only one difficulty level is available at the game's start, as enemies supposedly adapt to the player's skill, but it's hard to say if they really do or not. Enemies usually stay out in the open, rarely seeking out cover that isn't already in front of them.
Other notable features include "wall walking" and portal technology. Wall walking takes place in specific locations, turning players sideways and upside down while they defend themselves against attacking aliens. Portal technology is an impressive looking effect that lets you see into a portal before entering so you can watch enemies move on the other side. Unfortunately, Prey suffers from a few key design issues that take away from some of its distinctive features.
While the levels look great, there is a noticeable lack of wide-open areas and exploration -- you basically move through a series of corridors and rooms. If you can't open a door, then you probably have to activate a wall-walking strip or enter a portal. Battles are slightly disappointing since they involve few onscreen enemies, often no more than two or three at any given moment. On the positive side, the game runs smoothly and most of the weapons are entertaining to play with.
Prey's quick pacing and unique gameplay elements -- despite being overused at times -- elevate it from an average shooter, yet the game falls short of "greatness." It needs more level variety, additional non-player characters, and a longer experience. Even if you take your time, stopping to listen to the amusing radio show being broadcast through the aliens' communications equipment, Prey still takes about eight hours to finish. Just make sure you wait past the credits to witness the complete ending...
Graphics: Excellent use of the Doom 3 engine. Most everything looks sharp and the game runs well.
Sound: The voice acting is quite good. Tommy's comments are entertaining throughout. Prey actually features some licensed songs, including "Barracuda" and "Cat Scratch Fever", but they are only heard at two locations in the game.
Enjoyment: A solid first-person shooter that introduces some unique gameplay elements to the genre.
Replay Value: Defeating the game on normal difficulty will unlock a more challenging setting called "Cherokee." There is also a multiplayer element, consisting of eight-player deathmatch and team deathmatch.
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