Xbox 360

Review by Matt Paprocki

2K Games


Graphics: 9

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8


The opening 10 or so minutes of Prey are some of the best gaming moments you'll ever have. The way the developers immerse the gamer in the gameplay world in flawless, allowing them to play with arcade games, the jukebox, change TV channels, flush toilets, use hand dryers, and beat drunken bar patrons senseless with a wrench. It's an uncanny build up to the inevitable alien invasion and makes the upcoming events creepier than they would have been had the immersion not been set so high.

prey1360.jpg (234057 bytes)From there, Prey takes players on a unique first-person alien blast-a-thon. It's immediately apparent that Prey is actually Doom 3/Quake 4. It's shooter mechanics are eerily close, so much that the game absolutely requires and extra level of detail or gameplay mechanic to survive. It delivers completely.

There are two different concepts at work here. One is the alien ship itself, which is not only alive, but able to switch gravity. Never mind the wildly original puzzles wrapped around this concept; they take second place to the way it toys with the player's gunfights. This is the only time you'll be playing a first-person shooter and watch an enemy "fall" up when slaughtered. The violence here is unrelenting, creating a true "no one is safe" scenario early on as some kids are unlikely victims to the alien plot.

Completely disorienting at times, these gravity tricks comfortably find their way into every level of the game without feeling forced. When stuck inside of a room, it's time to start looking for a gravity switch. The numerous uses of this mechanism add to the outer space environment as the alien plot begins to unravel, culminating about six hours in during the final boss struggle.

This also leads to some fantastic level design, both in single player and online multi-player. Sadly, the unbearable and unstoppable lag present in a match with anymore than five (with a max of eight) people is cause enough to skip both deathmatch and team deathmatch modes. They're completely unplayable due to the lag, which warps characters randomly around the screen, stutters uncontrollably, and otherwise wreaks mayhem on a standard set of multi-player.

The second addition to single player is death, or lack thereof. Throwing out everything we know about video games, it is impossible for the lead character to die. Instead, he's briefly sent back to a spirit real where health is restored until he's dropped right back into the fray. The obvious issue is that the game loses all of its difficulty. In the end though, it gains superb flow and story pacing.

prey2360.jpg (164071 bytes)Death's other role is to take Tommy's spirit and separate it from his body. This allows players to not only shoot some strong arrows as the ghost, but also pass through otherwise impassible challenges. Again, like the gravity, the wild puzzles crafted from this concept are superb, though there are a few moments where it feels overused.

For 10 years of development time, it's hard to say Prey was worth it. At its core, there's nothing particularly different about its shooting aside from some interesting weapons (and no reloading required). The multi-player problems don't help either. Still, the single player's story, with a wicked plot twist near the end, is a worthwhile experience on its own. Its new ideas are welcome to the stagnant genre, and that's what makes Prey a stand out success.


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Last updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2006 12:59 PM