Cherokee Indian takes on Alien Hordes
Oroginally posted at MentalGamers – www.mentalgamers.com/game_reviews.php?r=25
Another game that has been a long time in the making, Prey is here at last, and it was definitely worth the wait…
In Prey you take the roll of “Tommy” – a Cherokee Indian who has turned his back on his heritage. While trying to convince his girlfriend Jen to leave the reservation with him the world is plunged into chaos as aliens begin beaming people aboard a colossal spaceship, including Tommy, Jen, and Tommy’s grandfather Enisi. As you are being transported inside the ship a mysterious character helps you out of your restraints and so begins the game proper. Obviously this is a “save the world” game then, but it doesn’t start out that way… After seeing your grandfather die a pretty gruesome death, your only goal is getting your girl back, and this is actually the focus for the larger part of the game.
Based on a modified Doom3 engine, Prey looks stunning as you might expect. In the first level which sets the scene, just about everything is interactive – you can flush toilets, switch lights on and off, a tune on the jukebox or even play video-poker. Sadly this doesn’t continue to such a great extent when onboard the alien ship, but then they probably don’t have toilets and stuff anyway right? You will still find random fruit machines popping up here and there on your travels though, and there are plenty of buttons to be pushed along the way. Once you are in the alien ship the corridors and pipes look convincingly organic and with a decent system you can’t fail to be impressed by the graphics.
Prey has some pretty cool new features, the big one being “spirit walking”. Having turned his back on the whole Cherokee thing, Tommy is pretty surprised when his grandfather makes a return to bring him to a spirit-world to teach him about his heritage. Part of this heritage is the ability to leave your body and “spirit walk” and this comes in pretty handy. Not only can you walk through forcefields to switch them off from the other side, but you can deactivate lasers that sweep around the place before you trigger them with your clumsy body. You are also provided with a spirit-bow and spirit-arrows that you can use as long as you keep your spirit energy topped up. This means you have two energy meters to worry about, but every alien you kill will release spirit energy you can collect so it?s not really a problem. Just remember your body is vulnerable while you wander off in spirit form.
Connected to this spirit walking is your trusty spirit guide, Talon, Tommy’s pet hawk from many years ago. As the name implies, Talon is there to guide you and will often show you the way or perch on an object you need to interact with. You will also find white glowing markings at certain points that indicate there is something you can do in spirit walking mode. Talon is also pretty good at distracting aliens, flying off and harassing them while you take pot shots at them.
If at any point you find you run out of health, its spirit world to the rescue again – you will find yourself in spirit mode looking at your body being sucked into a vortex while red and blue dragons circle. You can shoot these dragons using your bow, with red ones giving you health and blue ones giving you spirit energy, until your body reaches the vortex, at which point you will be sucked in too and returned to the real world with whatever energy you collected.
Overall the spirit element adds a whole dimension to the way the game plays, you can scout ahead in parts, make things easier for yourself by deactivating security, and in a lot of cases you will need to spirit walk to progress. The only downside is that it is perhaps overused – there just isn’t enough variety in the puzzles as most of them are simply “walk through the forcefield and deactivate it”. Given a few more interesting things to do, it would be so much better.
I’ve just noticed how much I’ve written about new features, but there’s more! I haven’t even mentioned the portals and the gravity…
Portals are the main way the aliens get around, and you’ll notice a lot of portals opening around you and disgorging aliens that are there to stop you going any further. A lot of these close up again but some stay open allowing you to go through. Sometimes you will need to go through to progress, other times there will just be a room with some ammo. The best bit is you can lob grenades or snipe through them before you go in, but watch out as you step through as you might not be stepping out onto the floor – you may find yourself flipping over and landing on what you thought was the ceiling. A memorable portal experience is looking at a glass sphere with a rock inside it, and then pressing a button to that opens a portal and finding yourself standing on the rock while an alien looks at you inside the sphere you were just looking at. Confused?
The last new feature I’ll talk about is the messed up gravity… Throughout the game you will find “walkways” lit up in blue that allow you to walk wherever they lead, whether that means you are walking up walls or on the ceiling. It can be pretty confusing for a while but its great fun until you forget where you are and jump, only to find you’ve disengaged yourself from the walkway and are now falling into a chasm. At certain points you will also find blue glowing pads on walls, floors and ceilings. When you shoot these pads the gravity is “transferred” to whatever surface that pad was on and you will find yourself walking on what used to be a wall etc. Again pretty confusing but great fun.
As far as sound goes, 5.1 is the way to go. If you are in a conversation you will hear more clearly if you face the person talking to you, and I won’t go into detail but the nursery music and kids? screams really sent a chill down my spine and left me feeling pretty uneasy. There’s also a nice touch in that at certain points you will find consoles that are tuned in to the Art Bell radio call-in show, where he invites callers to phone in with their experiences of the alien invasion. While by no means compulsory, if you stop to listen there’s actually some pretty funny stuff.
Moving swiftly on – the weapons are based on your bog standard FPS weapons: Assault rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher, chain gun etc, but they look nothing like what you might expect. The assault rifle has a little “eye” on it that snakes up to your eye to enable sniper mode, the shotgun actually fires poison gas canisters, and grenades are replaced by little spider-like creatures that you can pick up, snap off a leg to prime, and throw for a nice explosion. There’s also a “leech” gun that can leech from sources around the level – each pod can contain one of four types of energy each with a different effect, though all deadly.
I think I’ve probably said enough now. Prey looks stunning, sounds stunning, and basically IS stunning. My only complaint is that it was just a bit too easy, and the higher difficulty setting is locked until you complete the game on default difficulty. There was also, as I mentioned, a lack of variety in the puzzles. While I’ve not played multiplayer, you can bet it will be interesting with the gravity walkways and whatnot. Overall, Prey is a great addition to any collection.