Prey 360, PC
When a game has been in development for a certain amount of time expectations for it become inversely relative to its development time. Take Duke Nukem Forever for instance, it’s been in development so long people are just expecting the worse now, and up until a short while ago the same was true for 3D Realms’ other long awaited project, Prey. With eleven years development time under its belt worries were aplenty, would the game concept stand the test of time, would the many changes of game engine affect the games execution, would it be just another First Person Shooter? But now it’s time to put those worries aside, the game is finally here, but will the exceptionally long wait be justified?
Playing the first level, things don’t seem to be anything special, but once you get through all the dialogue and win your bar fight things take a turn for the better. But as things are looking up for the player things couldn’t be more different for our hero Tommy, his girlfriend Jen and his grandfather as an alien ship swoops in and abducts all three of them. The story isn’t just science fiction though, it has plenty of elements of the supernatural too that mesh surprisingly well with the sci-fi side of it, I won’t spoil the story for everyone, as it’s a good one, but Tommy faces tragedy, disbelief and enlightenment in his roller coaster battle against the alien menace before a resolution to the story. But even when you think everything is over a doorway is left open for a sequel, which looks like it’s on the cards.
It’s not just the storyline that throws some unexpected twists and turns at you either, there’s a few new twists added to what would otherwise be a pretty standard first person shooter. The first one you’ll come across are the portals which take you instantly from one point to another, these aren’t just transportation devices, but more like doorways where you can see what’s through the other side and shoot at it before you jump through. After that you’ll experience the first of the game’s gravity defying features, walkways that you stick to, allowing you to walk up walls and on the ceiling, it can be a bit disconcerting at first, but in no time you’ll be sniping the bad guys from the walls and ceiling as second nature. Next thing you’ll discover is Spirit Walking, which is very handy indeed. This gives you the ability to leave your body and scout ahead and even pass through obstacles that your physical form can’t like force fields. There’s more to the Spirit Walking than just invisible reconnaissance though, for starters you’ll be armed with a bow and arrow to kill with and you can de-activate obstacles to your physical body, there’s even walkways that are only visible and usable to your spirit form. You also get another chance every time you die as instead of being game over you just go to the spirit world where you get the chance to recover health before the game throws you back in to the action. But it’s not all good news though, your spirit body isn’t subject to the same rules as your physical body so you can’t open doors or use the anti-grav walkways, another downside is your physical body is much more susceptible to damage while you’re spirit walking so you have to be careful where you leave your body before you take your spirit for a walk. The final gameplay innovation you’ll come across is another bit of gravity manipulation, you’ll find these trios of blue lights dotted around from time to time which, when you shoot them, will change the direction of the gravity in that area making that surface down. It can be quite disturbing when the bad guys flip gravity on you, but it works both ways, leaving bad guys momentarily disorientated when they fall off the ceilings. All of these new features are not just for combat situations though, with many, and sometimes all, being needed to solve the game’s puzzles.
Apart from all the extra touches though the game is a pretty standard first person shooter, you get pretty much the usual weapons for the genre, albeit organic rather than mechanical, enemy AI isn’t the best either, it all makes for quite an easy game to complete, especially with the infinite respawns your spiritual powers gives you. The game’s ‘Cherokee’ difficulty doesn’t really make things any harder either, being the only difference between it and normal difficulty is the lack of health pick ups. However, despite not being too taxing the single player game is a lot of fun, exceptionally well turned out fun too. This has to be the best use of the Doom 3 engine seen on a console to date, easily surpassing Quake 4 in terms of visuals, plus it doesn’t suffer the frame rate problems Quake 4 had either. It’s not as dark either, being well lit for the most part, but when it does get dark Tommy will make a sarcastic comment about Doom 3. Presentation throughout follows the same level of excellence, with well laid out menus, excellent sound effects and music and some great voice acting.
Despite the single player games flaws you still get a good eight to ten hours of fun gameplay out of it, but the games multiplayer mode is where you’ll probably end up spending most of your time with Prey. You get Xbox Live play and system link modes, but no split screen, that’s probably a good thing though, a game this graphics intensive would undoubtedly suffer seriously in split screen mode. Game types in multiplayer are limited to death match and team death match unfortunately and there are only eight maps so the multiplayer does feel a little restricted. But, even though the maps are limited in number they are all well designed and all the features of the single player game are incorporated in to the multiplayer maps. This makes for some confusing, but fun, multiplayer matches, nothing funnier than running across the ceiling and spotting your opponents completely oblivious to you down on the floor then taking them out before they know what hit them.
Overall, what we have is a pretty standard first person shooter that is elevated from the norm with excellent and original game mechanics. The single player is a little on the short and easy side, but it’s fun from start to finish and has a great story with some truly cinematic moments. The riotous multiplayer mode is a lot of fun which adds greatly to the game’s lifespan and hopefully will be added to with more maps and game types at a later date. If you’re a fan of first person shooters you have to give this a try at least, either download the demo from the marketplace to give yourself a taster or rent the game, you’ll end up wanting to buy the game and you won’t be making a mistake if you do.
Standard FPS that is elevated from the norm with excellent and original game mechanics.