Published by 2K Games
Developed by Human Head Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Prey, an introduction.
The original Xbox was a console that seemed to have a wide variety of FPS games that pretty much all felt better on the system than they did on the PlayStation 2 or GameCube. The Xbox 360 hasn't even been with us a year yet and already there are quite a few FPS games on the system, with the promise of plenty more to arrive before 2006 comes to a close. Prey is the latest FPS to arrive and as you might expect, attempts to bring some new ideas to this most populated of genres.
What's the game about?
In Prey you'll play as Tommy, a Cherokee who has had enough of life on the reservation. Tommy wants to get out in the world and leave his Cherokee heritage behind him. The only problem is his girlfriend, Jen, is proud of her Cherokee heritage and doesn't want to leave the reservation, or Tommy, for that matter. It' s a dilemma to be sure but that little problem is rendered insignificant as Tommy, Jen and his grandfather Enisi are about to be taken prisoner as a part of an alien invasion of the Earth. As well as attempting to help Tommy to save the Earth, you can also jump onto Xbox Live (or System Link) for the Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch multiplayer modes for up to eight players.
What's good about the game?
Prey is, with a couple of exceptions, a pretty standard FPS and it's an enjoyable one at that. Perhaps the main differences with Prey are the Spirit Walk and Death Walk abilities that Tommy acquires as you play through the game. As the game manual puts it, 'there's a spiritual world that overlaps the physical world' and Tommy is able to take advantage of this. The Spirit Walk is the ability Tommy will gain that allows him to separate his spirit from his body and this is a skill that's required to progress past certain points in the game. Certain areas (beyond force fields and such like) can only be reached whilst in Spirit Walk mode. Certain panels and objects can only be seen is Spirit Walk mode and it also has the advantage of allowing you to stealthily move past your enemies (who usually don't attack you unless you attack them whilst using the Spirit Walk). Of course when using Spirit Walk Tommy can't use his usual array of weapons but to compensate for this he has a Spirit Bow (a very effective weapon) which uses spirit energy as ammunition. When the spirit energy runs out the Spirit Bow disappears.
The ability to Spirit Walk also means you're not to going to see a game over screen should you die. When you die after acquiring the Spirit Walk ability, you'll enter the Death Walk. In Death Walk mode Tommy is armed with his bow and essentially has to shoot the Death Wraiths to steal the energy that they contain. The Death Walk is time limited though and Tommy only has until his descending body reaches the ground in the Death World to refill his life meter (filled by killing the Death Wraiths filled with the red energy) and spirit gauge (filled by killing the Death Wraiths filled with the blue energy). On completing the Death Walk you'll recommence from the point where Tommy bit the dust.
As we said a moment ago, Prey is mostly a standard FPS. There are some walkways that enable you to walk on the ceiling or on the walls and there are also certain switches you can hit that rotate the rooms. You'll need to do this to progress at certain points but whilst this isn't particularly innovative, it's still fairly enjoyable stuff. The game has a decent amount of weapons such as the Leech Gun and Hunter Rifle and enemies such as Fodders, Hounds, Hunters, and Mutilated Humans. Throughout the game you'll come across a number of portals that take you to different areas. It's great that you can see and fire into these areas without entering the portals but aside from that they are merely doorways. It's worth mentioning that no apparent loading times occur when you move through the portals, which is impressive from a technological standpoint.
What's not so good about the game?
If there's one problem that Prey has it's that it's far too linear and the game has that 'on rails' experience. Essentially it's impossible to deviate from the fixed track that takes you from the beginning to the end of the game and this essentially means that replay value is limited unless you want to go back and do it all again on a different difficulty level. The AI isn't really that challenging on Normal or Cherokee difficulty level, although there are some interesting boss fights. A rather more meaty difficulty level can be unlocked once the game has been completed but with the limited replay value it's questionable if you'd want to go through it again. The multiplayer modes are simply OK. They're pretty standard stuff but whilst Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are always popular modes, it's a shame there aren't more modes or at least something original to hold your attention.
How does it look?
Prey uses the Doom 3 engine and it's fair to say it looks pretty good. That said I for one do not think the Doom 3 engine looks or runs as well as it should on the Xbox 360 and graphically the game isn't as impressive as some of the other FPS titles I've played on the console such as Perfect Dark Zero. The fleshy organic and shiny metallic (almost Borg Cube like) mix that you have seen before in other Doom 3 engine based games is on show here. Performance wise the game is OK but the frame rate is liable to dip but on the whole the frame is good enough, however, given the power of the hardware it's running on it's a shame it doesn't run at a constant 60 fps. Maybe it's something to do with the Xbox 360 having an ATi GPU as the Doom 3 engine strongly favours an Nvidia GPU? Whatever the reason it seems we're unlikely to have a Doom 3 engine based FPS that runs at 60 fps on the Xbox 360 but at least the game performs a lot better than Quake 4 does.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
The FPS genre has never been known for being very deaf gamer friendly. In fact out of the half-dozen FPS games we've played on the Xbox 360 most have been problematic in one way or another. Thankfully Prey is one of the better FPS games in this respect. The game is subtitled, although they are disabled by default. With the subtitles enabled you'll be able to enjoy all of the important dialogue within the game, such as the cutscenes etc. The subtitles are shown in white text and the name of the character who is talking is placed in front of the text meaning you'll always know who is saying what. The game doesn't have any captions but this doesn't appear to cause any real problems although it's possible you'll be unaware of certain enemies that can be heard before they are seen (particularly given the dark nature of the game's appearance) and of the noises that sound to signify that doors are locked.
All things considered Prey is a solid and fairly enjoyable FPS. The Spirit and Death Walk features certainly add a twist to the game play but on the whole it's not a FPS that differs wildly from the many you've probably played before. The enemy AI could have been more challenging at times and the game would have had greater replay value had it not been so linear. It would have also been more desirable if there had been more multiplayer options. In essence then Prey probably isn't going to be regarded as one of the finest Xbox 360 FPS titles but it's certainly enjoyable and it's a game that FPS fans will appreciate in this particularly quiet period of the year for games.
Overall Game Rating: 7.7/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
(Click the letter or here for details)
Prey has some interesting elements and on the whole it's a solid FPS. It may be too linear for some though and there's not much here that hasn't been seen many times before.