Prey Preview - The Next Level

Game Profile

System:
PC
Release date:
July 2006
Publisher:
2K Games
Developer:
Human Head Studios
Players:
1 - 8
Genre:
First-Person Shooter
ESRB:
RP

Prey

Hands-on with one of the most promising FPS in years.

Preview by Travis Fahs (Email)
May 22nd 2006
 

The Basics: Prey tells the story of a disenfranchised Native American named Tommy who, finds himself and his girlfriend Jenny abducted by alien invaders. Not just any invaders, these guys are a Borg-like entity that conquers worlds, mutilates them with cybernetic prosthetics and enslaves them. They travel the universe in an artificial, biological world built around an artificial sun. Tommy's story unfolds Half-Life-style, completely in first person, as he fights his way through the slimy, living corridors of the alien vessel. The story might seem like an amalgam of every cliché in the book, but the gameplay seems poised to turn the genre on its ear.

Poor Prey has the seemingly impossible task of living up to 11 years of hype and turmoil surrounding its development. The scary thing is, it just might live up to it. You wouldn't think a game conceived so long ago would still have anything fresh to contribute, but let there be no mistake; Prey is the freshest FPS to come along in a very long time. Allowing players to walk up walls and on ceilings, shift gravity, project their spirit from their body, and travel through overlapping "folded space" via portal, it's a dizzying ride unlike anything the genre has seen. Long relegated to the classic 3D Realms "When It's Done," release, Prey is finally gearing up for release, with a demo slated for a month from now, and stores taking preorders for a July release.

What we think: Prey certainly has more great ideas going for it than anything else in the genre right now. The level design from what I've seen is likewise fantastic, and the only thing left to see is how all the pieces come together. I was hoping to get my hands on a single player demo at E3, but unfortunately there was none to be found. Instead there were multiplayer demos at four different booths showcasing Prey's deathmatching mode to whet our appetites.

For a game using technology that is now a couple years old, Prey is looking mighty sharp, easily up to snuff with anything else coming out this year. The Doom 3 tech has clearly been beefed up a bit with some subtle enhancements to the lighting, as well as more detailed environments and denizens. The PC version was looking crisper and smoother than its 360 counterpart, but all told, the console port is holding up remarkably well, and certainly much better than that of the last game to use the Doom 3 engine, Quake IV

While the meaty single-player experience is still my main interest, I was really impressed to see how well the classic 8-player (yes, Prey only supports up to 8) deathmatch mode took advantage of Prey's unique gameplay. Running up walls and through portals was a little disorienting at first, but it makes learning the lay of the land that much more interesting. Controls were definitely speedy and responsive, old-school Unreal Tournament-style. Spirit Walking (the ability to leave one's body to fight as a ghostly archer) seemed to be the most seldom used ability in play, but it's likely because player's simply hadn't gotten a feel for where the safest spots to stash their body were, nor had they found the best places to snipe just yet.

Level design was conservative, never trying to go too over-the-top with its exploitation of Prey's hooks, especially in any one given level. It seemed they wanted the multiplayer to feel familiar and comfortable to players, and it's for this reason that I think many of those not already familiar with the game overlooked it for the likes of Crysis (with its lovely single player demo) or Quake Wars (with its impressive team-based multiplayer). Still, the moment of truth will come soon when its demo is released next month, and when the game is released in early July. Based on what I've seen, heard, and played so far, Prey has all the potential in the world, and my expectations are sky-high.


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