Itís been a little while since a first person shooter has scared the crap out of me. The last time a game did that, it was named F.E.A.R. and it had a specter of a little girl doing a lot of the scaring. Now we have Prey, the long awaited and (in a way) long-in-development shooter that not only scared the crap out of me but also has little girls that act as specters (although not in the same way as F.E.A.R did) . . .but that would give too much away right off the bat.
Letís begin this review by examining what Prey isnít. In terms of basic gameplay, thereís very little here that hasnít been done before. You move from point A to point B and shoot everything that stands in your way. You have a variety of weapons to use, most of which have some kind of alternative fire. However, itís Preyís unique elements that developers Human Head Studios and publisher 3D Realms have emphasized. Indeed, it could be said that Preyís attempts at different gameplay aspects overwhelm what might considered to be its standard fare.
The storyline isnít much of a reward for anyone interested in a deep plot but itís serviceable. As I mentioned in my preview of the recent Prey demo, you play a Cherokee Native American named Tommy who is disillusioned and wants nothing to do with his people or culture. The game begins in a run-down bar as his grandfather nags him about fulfilling his destiny and his girlfriend Jen telling him she canít leave with him because her home is on the Oklahoma reservation. Then from pretty much out of nowhere a massive alien ship shows up and hovers over the bar. It proceeds to fire an energy beam to teleport the bar and its patrons, including your character, up to the ship. You are pinned in some kind of conveyance inside the bio-organic ship but for some reason some mysterious figure manages to get you free. At first, all your character cares about is saving his girl but as the game progresses the hero learns that much more is at stake than just rescuing Jen. Eventually he finds out that not only is there more to the aliens than meats the eye (with one of them being that their ďshipĒ is a lot bigger than your first impression), there is more to himself than he ever realized.
Originally conceived by 3D Realms in the mid-1990ís, the demos for Prey at two E3ís showcased the gameís warping of time and space through the portal tech of the impressive (at the time) Prey engine. However, 3D Realms abandoned its own Prey project in the late 1990ís. but just a few years later, it hooked up with Madison, Wis. Human Head Studios (Rune, Dead Manís Hand) to complete the game. Thankfully, they have not forgotten that it was the portal effects that made the original Prey so memorable in those E3 demos. The game uses these portals constantly to warp you to different locations instantly, sometimes through simple boxes and other times through energy gates that seemingly pop up out of nowhere. There are a lot of gravity distortions inside the ship as well. You might find yourself walking on walls or a ceiling or firing on a device that causes the room to flip over. This has the effect of keeping the player on his or her toes constantly in the game. Will a portal pop up above you with aliens attacking? Will you have to make the room rotate 90 or 180 degrees to get to where you are going? It can definitely make you dizzy so watch yourself if you are prone to motion sickness. The portals and gravity switching combined can also create some puzzles that you need to solve.