Prey Review for PC

On: PCXbox 360

The FPS that was due for release in the late 90s makes a comback on the Doom 3 engine.

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7Out of 10
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Portals and other unique ideas make for a fun game
Portals and other unique ideas make for a fun game

Portals and other unique ideas make for a fun game

We're well into the Summer Blockbuster movie season, and Prey seemingly wants in on the action. Much like the mixed opinions on the majority of summer blockbusters, there'll be people who claim Prey is the greatest game ever to grace a video game system, and there'll be others that can't actually see past the fact that it's not what the other people are saying it is. The truth (in my opinion) is that Prey is a game high on fun, packed with action, but not without a number of infuriating problems.

As far as opening sequences go, Prey pretty much nails it. If you haven't already played the demo and don't know what happens, I won't spoil it, but the gist is that Tommy (a Cherokee man), his girlfriend Jen, and his grandfather, are taken to an alien colony. In typical sci-fi story fashion, these aliens harvest humans for food, so when grandfather bites the dust (not as big a spoiler as you might think) and you're separated from Jen, you're in somewhat of hurry to rescue her before the inevitable pulverising.

What plays out would be a pretty simple 'good guy versus aliens' FPS, but things are shaken up by the 'clever' use of gravity, portals, and the ability to 'Spirit Walk'. For some reason that's completely unknown, these aliens live in a place where gravity can be manipulated at will. Walkways that let you scale walls, and gravity switches that simply change the direction of gravity's pull are featured throughout the adventure. It's certainly a neat gimmick, and throws up some insane level designs and a few tricky puzzles, but it doesn't make for the gaming nirvana that we'd been led to believe.

The problem, and one that can be passed over if you're simply out to have a blast, is that none of it makes sense. As the hero in this quest to save your girlfriend and planet earth, you need to believe that this place could really function like it does, and for the most part you really can't. Rooms that feature numerous gravity switches, walkways that seem to have no real purpose, and puzzles that seem forced rather than simply being part of the environment, don't make for a believable game world. Is it fun? Yes. Does it feel forced for the sake of being something original? Completely.

'Much has been made of the 'Portal' technology seen in Prey, and to be fair it's pretty damn cool - at least for the first few hours.'

Much has been made of the 'Portal' technology seen in Prey, and to be fair it's pretty damn cool - at least for the first few hours. They're basically one-sided doors suspended in air that take you to another part of the level. This is actually much cooler than it sounds, as you can peer into these portals, seeing the area you'll be teleported to, and even see enemies launch an attack through the portal door. As neat as these are, I never got the sense that they'd been used to their full extent. You get a few "Ooooh, clever," moments, but for the most part they're used to ship in another wave of enemies, or as a device for a puzzle.

From an early stage in the game Tommy is given the ability to Spirit Walk. You can take control of his spirit (while his body hangs motionless in the air) and in this alternate world you can see and use things that aren't in the mortal world. Armed with a bow and arrow, you also have the potential to cause a lot of damage, but you'll need to return to Tommy's body in order to make your way through the majority of the levels. Nearly every puzzle in the game uses the spirit walking ability, and by the end it's all a bit predictable: Spirit walk through a force field, deactivate force field, re-enter body and move onto the next area. There are a few clever puzzles here and there, but at times you'll wonder why it's necessary to continually repeat the same set of actions.

Entering the spirit world gives you new abilities

Entering the spirit world gives you new abilities

While the pros and cons of the portals, changing gravity and spirit walking can be argued, the weapon selection is top drawer and nicely varied. The current trend to limit weapons you can carry is gladly nowhere to be seen, so after a while you'll be carrying a sack load of guns, all deserving their place in your arsenal. Each weapon also includes a secondary mode, with everything from a grenade launcher for your machine gun-like weapon, to a recharge tool for the rather excellent Leech gun, capable of using numerous energy types as ammo. At times you will be faced with so many enemies that your more powerful weapons run dry, so you'll be forced to fall back on your standard Hunter Rifle. Thankfully this never runs out of ammo and can double as a very handy sniper rifle. At various points you'll hop into a small spaceship, equipped with a tractor beam and a gun. Because you can move around in all directions within the 3D space the controls become awkward at times, but on the whole the vehicle sections break up the gameplay quite nicely and the powerful weapon lets you dispose of enemies without much trouble.

Being swamped by enemies isn't a prevalent problem, but as the action heats up towards the tail end of the game, it does occasionally verge on overkill. Thankfully you can't actually die, not in the traditional 'game over' sense anyway. When you 'die' Tommy is taken to the Death World. Here you'll be in spirit form and must take down as many wraiths as possible, replenishing your health and spirit gauges as much as possible before being returned to the real world. This could very easily be seen as a cop-out by Human Head, implemented in order to side-step choke points within the game, but it works. Rather than tearing your hair out over a seemingly impassable section, you know that you'll get another shot at it straight away. It does make the game pretty simple, but at least gives everyone a chance to make it through to the end. It's worth noting that the Xbox 360 version doesn't feature the same quick save option that the PC game does, but you can still exit to a menu to save your progress, and the game auto saves at the start of each new level.

How quickly you reach the end is another bone of contention. Modern games aren't very long. I think that by now we're beyond the point where ten hours is considered short, as it really is the norm for action oriented titles, but Prey can be completed in a few hours less than that. Mileage will vary depending on how quickly you crack the puzzles (on occasion merely finding the exit is a challenge in itself), but the end is in sight pretty early on, and most people will get there in little more than seven hours. It doesn't feel rushed, but even so, with a next-gen price tag forced upon Xbox 360 players, it'll be a disappointment for many people. What's more, the harder difficulty setting isn't available on your first run through, which could have made the experience last a few hours more.

The Doom 3 Engine isn't exactly new technology (Doom 3 ran on the Xbox), and there is more than a slight resemblance in Prey's appearance to that of Doom 3 and Quake 4, but the game is still very good looking. The environments and enemy models look great, the lighting works well without ever being overly dark, and the portals look superb. What isn't so great is how well the game runs on the Xbox 360. PC owners can achieve good performance on a moderately powered system, but 360 owners will have to suffer a somewhat sluggish frame rate. It's nowhere near as horrific as that seen in the port of Quake 4, but it's far from silky smooth. Texture detail also takes a hit in the Xbox 360 game, with the high-end PC version looking noticeably sharper if compared side by side. It's a great looking game no matter how you play it, but it's a shame Xbox 360 owners didn't get a slightly more polished product.

Enemies look great and put up a decent fight

Enemies look great and put up a decent fight

One area that really doesn't disappoint is the audio. The soundtrack is the star of the show, with some brilliant tunes and a collection of great licensed tracks that crop up from time to time, although perhaps not often enough. Weapon effects are solid, and while the aliens don't really say much, they sound great and never irritate due to overuse of certain sayings. Tommy can often be heard shouting amusing swear-filled sentences as things happen in the game, and the voice acting across the board has been handled well. At various points you'll hear radio broadcasts picked up by the alien equipment, often featuring amusing stories on what's happening on earth involving the alien invasion. It's all integrated seamlessly and really ads to the atmosphere and sense that the human race is being monitored.

After the disappointing end of the game is reached (do any games end well these days?) there is more to do. Full online Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch play is included, and it has a rather unique Prey twist. Game modes are pretty standard, but it's the way the maps are designed that makes online Prey a completely different experience to what you'll be accustomed to. Walls can be walked on, players are running around all over the place, above, below and beside you, and it's utter chaos. Spirit walking is also available, but your spirit gauge will gradually run out over time, meaning you'll have limited time to make a kill.

It might be a little too insane for players that prefer traditional Quake and Unreal Tournament gameplay, but it's great to play something that's not a carbon copy of every other online game on the market. Sadly, at least for the time being, Xbox 360 owners aren't going to have the same amount of fun as PC players. Both versions are limited to eight players, but there are some serious lag issues with the Xbox 360 game. Problems depend on connection quality, but finding a smooth game was far from easy. These online issues, slightly inferior visuals, and a higher price tag make the PC game the one to go for if you've got the choice, unless of course you're addicted to achievement points on the Xbox 360 or your PC is showing its age.

If you pick up Prey, even as a rental, you'll have a good time. The unique gravity and portal mechanics bolted onto the fairly traditional FPS gameplay make for a fun ride, and something that you can blast through over a weekend. Whether or not it's good value for money is debateable, but the online component has the potential to become very popular. A sequel is definitely coming (it even says so in the game), and the foundation has been set for a strong series, but as a true contender to the FPS crown Prey falls a fair way short.

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Daniel's Avatar
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I have just bought this game in Australia for $20 AUD and it looks great so far. Ive looked at the visual walkthrough and it looks and seems like it will be cool. Ill report back I guess so far its graphics are great.
Posted 04:13 on 11 August 2008
Gigi's Avatar
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10 years took the developers to make this game?Other games(great ones) are made in 4-5 years.I've finished the game in 7 hours and would have wnted to play more.
Posted 09:29 on 07 March 2007
thunderkiss2k1's Avatar

thunderkiss2k1@ mike_mgoblue

The reviewer needs to have his eyes checked. The framerate is not sluggish and , for my part, the graphics are beautiful.
Posted 05:40 on 07 October 2006
xboxer's Avatar
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xboxer@ mike_mgoblue

The graphics are spot on! But as far as the gameplay itself, well for a nex-gen game to look like this! But then to play like something a PS2 game, and NO thats NOT a compliment!
I believe the game was in production for 10 years, it seems to me that they forgot to put the game in!
Posted 18:27 on 07 August 2006
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Shawn@ mike_mgoblue

I will be the first to say that enough fresh air is blown into this game to put a big smile on my face and I'm sure many others... And as far as the company goes, It's playing in a world where it makes it big by the biggest of boys or gets shot down from every angle by everyone with ridicule..I ask,Is there really a perfect game? I mean it's about originality , timing for the game itself,(Halo comes to mind..) and learning from the ones that have layed the artwork out on the pallet for everyone to learn from..I believe that this company did a heck of a job with an aging engine that really had even the people that didn't like doom 3 liking this game..I have always kind of thought of ID Software as the company that makes the engine and then a game, (or basically a demo of it ) for really the selling of the engine itself.. It's a business for them and the time and money spent is to make money..I remember the unreal engine use to be a dead cool one million just to use there technology.. And that was way back when..I feel this company DID raise the bar with this title.. And yes,the edge that they used is with gravity itself..Sort of like the way Half life 2 did the gravity gun..It's the edge that is needed to make it stick it's head up and above the crowd..I look at this game and see pure art.. I went to work the next day and told someone about it, and remember saying.. " I'd hate to know that I had to make a game like this, all the work and time and creativity that is involved for the characters and the maps..It's like looking at a maticulous peice of artwork at a museum and thinking how almost driving you crazy it would be to work for so long at high perfection ..But again, that's what makes it a masterpeice.." And I am a very artistic person by nature.. The little kids attacking you is a great and eery feeling..It just feels wrong somehow, but in a cool sort of way..Seeing the school bus or the airplane put a big, " Oh my god.."look on my face Mouth dropped during this time. I'm pretty sure. : 0)... To me a little of Turok is felt, which is a plus I think from way back when...It gives it a sort of unusual flare and style...Multiplayer is great..Again using it's gravity to stand above the "Carbon copy" as was stated in this review.. Alot of originality and talent and heart put into the making of this game.. And the doom engine can almost go unnoticeable with all the features in this title..And the best part is, It runs wonderfully on even a 6800 gt with everything on high.. I experienced this game on my panasonic projector set at 11 feet by about 6 feet at 1280X1024.. And can't describe the conversation peice this game was for people that took a second and sat around to watch during game play..It was quite the experience to say the least..
Posted 08:35 on 16 July 2006
mike_mgoblue's Avatar


If Prey would have had a Frame Rate of 60 Frames Per Second, like the PC version, then I would have rated this a 10 out of 10. Instead I rate it an 8 out of 10, because 30 Frames Per Second is not where we should be in the Next Generation of videogames...and when a game runs at 30 Frames Per Second, it always needs to keep Full Screen Anti Aliasing turned on; that is what made Perfect Dark Zero look a little bad with jagged line in some spots. I hope that games like Gears of War and Halo 3 have Frame Rates of 60 Frames Per Second with Full Screen Anti Aliasing without any sort of V-Sync page tearing graphic problems. I want all of the new games coming out for the Xbox 360 to have the same sort of high-quality 60 Frame Per Second performance as Call of Duty 2!!! If those games can achieve that performance, then they will experience high sales volume, just like Call of Duty 2!!! If 60 Frames Per Second cannot be maintained at all times, then it is time for polygons to be removed from the frame so that jagged lines, pop-up problems, or v-sync problems do not occur!!!

Bottom line: Just think 60 Frames Per Second for the sequal!!! And I will be there. I highly recommend Prey, is a great game!!! I just wish it would have run at the silky smooth frame rate that Call of Duty 2 did.
Posted 07:55 on 16 July 2006

Game Stats

System Requirements
Out of 10
  • Good fun
  • Impressive visuals
  • Repetitive puzzles
  • It doesn't last long
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 14/07/2006
Platforms: PC , Xbox 360
Developer: Human Head Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Genre: First Person Shooter
No. Players: 1 + Online
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 1,808 17
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