Review by dws90

Reviewed: 01/02/07

Proof that difficulty is not essential for entertainment

Prey places you in the boots of Tommy, a Cherokee Indian unhappy with his life on a reservation. The only reason Tommy hasn't left is, quite naturally, his girlfriend, Jen. He urges her to leave with him, and she refuses. Also quite naturally, they are then abducted by aliens. Tommy manages to break free, and you spend the rest of the game killing enemies to try to save her.

As far as the story goes, Prey does a fairly good job. The story isn't anything particularly original, but it's presented clearly through scripted conversations and (rather humorous) radio transmissions back from Earth as the people there try to work out what's going on.

The most noteworthy aspects of Prey are its major deviations from standard FPS gameplay. One of the more interesting innovations are its manipulation of gravity. Since you're spending your time on an alien spaceship, certain things aren't as they are on Earth, and gravity doesn't always come from the same direction. A large amount of time is spent on wall walking paths, which allow you to literally walk up the walls and across the ceilings of the ship. Another frequent sight are various gravity manipulators, which alter the gravity of the current room to their direction when shot. Of course, enemies can use these as well, so having to shoot upside-down aliens isn't an uncommon thing.

Probably the most original aspect of Prey is its death system. Simply put, you can't die. After you pass a certain point early in the game, every time your health reaches zero you get transported to a spirit realm, in which you have a few seconds to shoot as many evil spirits as you can to regain your health and spirit energy. No matter how many you shoot, you quickly get plopped right back where you were before you died. The only time to save system is of any use is when you're done playing and want to turn the console off. The death system takes away the stress that normally accompanies a first person shooter, but also makes the game really easy. If you don't like easy games, you likely won't like Prey.

As a Cherokee Indian, you can separate your mind from your body. This process allows you to become a ghost that can pass through certain walks, flip switches, and scout out the bad guys. When you're a ghost, you're invisible to your enemies until you attack them. Since your ghost form doesn't have the weapons your human form does, you get a special tool: the spirit bow. Attacking and being attacked in your spirit form drains your spirit energy, which is replenished by picking up orbs dropped by dead enemies. The ghost form is used frequently to solve puzzles, either by bypassing locked doors or to flip a switch far from where your body needs to be.

In addition to its novelty items, Prey delivers the conventional FPS elements you would expect. There are seven different guns, each with their own unique uses - they range from an assault rifle with a sniper scope to a gun that can "leech" different types of ammo from panels on the wall. Since the game takes place almost entirely on the alien ship, all of the weapons, save one (a wrench) are alien in nature and are quite fun to use. The levels are somewhat repetitive, since they all take place in the same environment, but the game has enough puzzles scattered about to keep things interesting. All but a few of the puzzles are simple, so they don't break up the pace long enough to annoy you, which is definitely a blessing.

Visually, Prey is good, but not outstanding. The environment looks very alien, but isn't particularly inventive - the bad guys and their ship look like every other biological weapon-wielding invader you see in games and the movies. The same visuals are reused again and again, so the game definitely feels a bit repetitive, at least visually.

Prey's audio components are excellent. The music, done by Jeremy Soule (who also provided music for Morrowind, Oblivion, KOTOR, and many other games), fits the game perfectly and is definitely enjoyable to listen to. The sound effects are also great, ranging from the alien slurps your gun makes to your footsteps as you walk down a hallway.

Prey is certainly worth a rental from everyone that has a passing interest in first person shooters. It's a fun, enjoyable game, and is definitely worth playing. If you can't replay a game at the same difficulty level you already played, then you should rent it, since its difficulty makes replayability a bit harder then usual, as you'll still be unable to truly die even on the harder setting. That said, the death system doesn't really detract from the game very much. If anything, it enhances it. You don't have to worry about saving constantly, or where the next medkit is, and instead you can simply focus on playing the game and enjoying yourself.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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