Prey: Review

While I thoroughly enjoyed playing the single player campaign through the first time, I haven’t given it a second thought since.

The Good: Amazing visuals and excellent sound – both music and effects. Hilarious commentary from the main character as you play. Runs flawlessly on the Xbox 360. Really cool use of gravity altering walkways and switches. Portals! Super easy Achievements.

The Bad: Very easy and straight forward. Only traditional Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch for multiplayer offering and they play horribly. Not much in the way of reasons to play the game again once you’ve beat it.

Prey

Let me start by admitting that leading up to the release of Prey, I couldn’t have cared less about this game. Actually, I feel the same way now having beat it. But while I was playing through the campaign, I loved it! That doesn’t make sense, does it? Let me explain…

Prey is an old school FPS that is this weird mix of super futuristic, alien fighting that’s familiar to those types of games. But adds in a spiritual aspect while you play as a Cherokee Indian named Tommy. Tommy hates being a Cherokee and wants nothing more than to get off the reservation. His wise old Grandfather ends up dying (relax, it happens in the first 5 minutes) and Tommy finds himself on his own. All of the sudden he’s pulled to “The Land of the Ancients” where he’s confronted by his Grandfather’s spirit and his spirit guide – Talon, a hawk he used to have as a pet when he was young. Weird, I know. To make things even more bizarre, Talon accompanies you through the majority of the game. He helps distract the baddies so you can get a clear shot or guides the way if you’re not sure where to go or what to do. But to take “weird” up yet another notch – when you die, you’re taken to the realm when you play as your spirit while your body is suspended in light. You have to use your bow to shoot down the evil spirits which give you health and replenish your spirit abilities. And finally, at any given moment, you can leave your body and enter “spirit walk”. This comes in handy when you enter a room that is guarded by laser sensors or force fields. You can simply walk through them and disable them – there’s usually a switch within a few feet. All of this together just seemed like such an odd combination. But surprisingly, it works well and makes for a very unique experience.

Prey looks outstanding! Considering it’s built on the Doom 3 engine, which is now over 2 years old and running on a console – it is quite the visual feast. Characters and enemies look pretty awesome, but the environments are just… wow! As you would expect from a game based on the Doom 3 engine, you’ll find yourself in many poorly lit, metal hallways with nasty, wet, organic “things” pulsating and making squishy sounds. But none the less, everything looks awesome and surprisingly not identical to Doom 3 or Quake 4. Normally, gorgeous visuals come at a high price which usually takes its toll on the game’s overall performance. But the Xbox 360 doesn’t flinch and runs Prey beautifully. I recall only seeing 2 or 3 slowdowns, none of which lasted longer than a few seconds.

One of my favourite composers, Jeremy Soule scored Prey’s soundtrack. So you’re in for a treat in that department. You’ve heard his work before is you’ve played The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Morrowind, Guild Wars or the KOTOR series, to name a few. I’ve actually been listening to the soundtrack for many weeks as it was released online some time ago. Anyway, aside from the beautiful orchestral score that sets the mood, that’s lots more to admire in the sound effects and voice overs. To sum it up – everything but the weapons sounds good. Actually, correction – Every weapon with the exception of lightning Leech gun sounds totally weak. You find yourself with a ridiculous arsenal of massive alien weapons, I expect them to sound huge. But unfortunately, they don’t. During the entire campaign, the character you play (Tommy) makes subtle observations and sideways comments that will make you laugh out loud almost every time. That and the random “Fuck!” when someone catches you off guard. My daughter was sitting on the couch watching me play when Tommy yelled out “Let’s see how you fuckers like it!” Me after quickly pausing the game: “Oh, uh, yeah… this isn’t really a kids game sweety.” That Tommy has himself one dirty mouth! He drops the f-bomb left-right and centre. But believe it or not, I didn’t find it to be overkill in the least. I laughed (or at least chuckled) every time! One of my favourite moments, that I actually happened to catch while capturing the video footage happened while walking down a super dark hallway. I flicked on my lighter (in place of a flashlight – and yes, you can have your lighter on and hold a gun at the same time!) and Tommy mutters “Man, it’s so dark in here. I’m doomed.” Doomed! Hehe, get it?

Gameplay wise, Prey is everything you would expect from this type of shooter. See my Quake 4 review for a list of common traits. However, they have stepped it up a notch, or at least half a notch. The AI seemed a little better. They would often hide behind things or run around corners once you start shooting at them. Which is better than just standing there taking it or continuing to charge at you.

I’m proud to say I’ve had my portal cherry popped, and it was great! Although, not as cool as what Valve has in store for us. Prey uses portals as gateways to different rooms, or some times simply the opposite end of the room you’re in. They occasionally spawn without warning and out pops some baddies. There were definitely some cool moments when jumping through a portal and landing on the wall and having the view rotate around as you fall to your feet. The first few times, I almost tossed my cookies. Actually, Tommy does at one point. But you get used to it.

Adding to the cool factor are gravity altering switches that you can shoot to change the orientation of the room. And lit-up walkways that give you the ability to walk on walls and completely upside-down. Makes for some interesting firefights when you’re standing on the roof shooting down at dudes, or vice-versa. There’s examples of all of this in my gameplay video – so be sure to check it out!

The multiplayer component is extremely weak. There’s good old Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch and both are a waste of time. It’s fast and frantic, run-and-gun action that simply doesn’t stand up to today’s standards. It’s boring, old and felt quite broken. Players seemed to float or skip across the screen making them a little hard to hit. Needless to say, I could only force myself to endure a few matches before shutting it off.

Since the multiplayer is so terrible, I expected the Achievements to be fairly difficult or at least require you to play the campaign through a couple times. Not really the case, though. I racked up 665 points simply by beating it on normal difficulty. You only get an extra 65 if you beat it on Cherokee (hard), which is hardly worth the time you’ll spend playing the entire campaign again. I might rent it again a few months from now if there’s a dry spell, but I wouldn’t consider buying it.

All in all, the single player campaign was a lot of fun. It was cool playing around with the gravity altering switches and walking on the walls and ceilings via those crazy walkways. The portals were also pretty neat, especially when exiting one that is on a wall or ceiling – you end up falling to your feet while the view rotates to the new up-right position.

Rating: 3/5

Prey

12 Responses to “Prey: Review”

  1. Eh, I played through the demo that was on XBL Marketplace and I wasn't impressed that much with it. It was different, sure, but I didn't like how linear it was. Maybe that goes away at some point during the full version?

    Anyway, one of the coolest things I saw (that you didn't mention, anyway) was the way you could interact with the jukebox and arcade machines in the bar at the very beginning. It was kinda cool to play some of the games for about a minute, and the songs in the jukebox were actually pretty good! It reminded me a lot of Super Turbo Turkey Puncher from Doom 3.

  2. Great Review Matt.. Yeah the portal stuff did rock! I think it was a mistake to not have consequences for screwing up though. Instead of dying, you are transported to the spirit world where you have to shoot some red and blue spirit-birds thingies, after which you are returned right back to where you should have died. Personally I think this took some of the scare factor out of the game.

    Tommys comments were are a crack up! Very Duke Nukem 3D.

  3. You know what else I noticed? There isn't a particular satisfaction of hitting someone in multiplayer. Those "living guns" just leave me wanting more. The whole game was just one big gimmick for me.

  4. @Trent: I never made it through the full demo, actually. But I really enjoyed the full experience. Not sure what the difference was – as the demo is merely the first 3 or 4 "levels" of the game.

    Funny you mentioned the games and jukebox. I found those really gimmicky, that's why I didn't mention them.

    @Luke: Ah, definitely very Duke Nukem 3D! I totally didn't make that connection. It's been sooo long…

    @Kathan: Yeah it's true. I think it was too fast and once you kill some or get killed, there's like a split second turn-around until respawn.

  5. Well, I rented it…a bit short I thought. Also seemed repetitive at times, like I was killing the same group of aliens I just got done with. Though everal times in the game I felt I was almost done and ready for the big boss, and then surprise another level of the same aliens. Also, what was up with having to kill Tommy's girl? Isn't that who he was fighting for? Kinda lame I thought.

  6. This is a great first person shooter. It stick to the basics so as I big FPS fan i really enjoyed it.

    great review as well matt.

  7. Nice review Matt. Being .25 Native American, I was pretty interested in this title, and now I think I will rent it and try it out.

    Oh and he, what are you using to capture your gameplay videos?

  8. @ReTodd: Dude, I absolutely loved that part and the scenes to follow. Tommy becomes so full of rage, it was just awesome! Oh, and easy on the spoilers, yo! Give people warning if you're gonna give away plot spoilers like that.

    @Chris: Thank you sir. I didn't know you had a 360. Toss me a friend request (PlainBlack) so I can shoot you in the face… errr, I mean, play some games. 😛

    Hope you enjoy Prey. I've been thinking about renting it again. Was pretty fun, indeed.