Chris Sell
26 Jul, 2006

Prey Review

360 Review | Can the latest 360 shooter overcome the mid-year drought?
Prey is a game that has long been in development. Early builds, much different to the game we have today in fact, were around way back in 1998, and over the years the core of the game has changed a lot. One look at Prey nowadays, and you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for Doom 3 or Quake 4. Using ID’s engine, the portal-filled, gravity disorientating world of Prey is finally a reality. Neither Doom 3 or Quake 4 impressed PALGN a great deal, so can Prey buck the trend?

Prey’s story is arguably one of the strongest features of the game. The plot primarily centres around main character Tommy, a Native American mechanic that despises his Cherokee heritage and yearns to leave it all behind and move away with his girlfriend, Jen. He's a reluctant hero, but as you soon discover, more than willing to fight to defend those he loves. The game itself is presented in real-time, meaning there’s no lengthy cutscenes to sit through, with everything done in-game (ala Half Life) and viewed through the eyes of Tommy from start to finish. It means you're never taken out of the character, with the game doing a great job of reminding you that you're playing as Tommy and not The kind of faceless marine other FPS titles have you controlling. For example, you’ll frequently hear Tommy react to the surrounding environment with almost Duke Nukem-style soundbytes, while the game actually starts with you looking into a bathroom mirror, and thus seeing Tommy’s reflection. It's a simple but clever touch.

The toilet is just through there, Mr. Alien.

The toilet is just through there, Mr. Alien.
The game chucks you in at the deep end from almost the start, equipping you with the first of Prey’[i]s impressive weaponry selection: the Sniper Rifle. Like all the guns in the game, the Sniper Rifle has two functions. Its normal fire shoots in machine gun-like bursts, but holding the L trigger activates the scope, transforming it into a fully-fledged Sniper Rifle. Other weapons are equally as useful, including the [i]Unreal Tournament-inspired Flak Cannon/Machine Gun and Bio Rifle, along with a Rocket Launcher with built-in shield. Probably your most valuable weapon is the Leech Gun. This allows you to draw different types of energy from surrounding pods, completely changing the ammo. A red charge, for example, produces a high firing rate Plasma Gun, but a white charge offers a high powered Lightning Blast. In terms of numbers, the actual selection of weapons isn’t exactly vast, and in most games where weapons get progressively powerful this could hurt the game, but the fact that they all remain useful throughout the game means you’ve always got a good selection of options at your disposal.

And a good selection of weapons is exactly what's needed when facing some of Prey’s gruesome foes, especially given that some are immune/weaker to certain ones. For example, there’s one enemy that carries the Rocket Launcher which has a protective shield as its secondary function. This shield protects from all explosive ammo like grenades and rockets, but plasma based weapons will tear right through it. The Bio Rifle used on one of the flying based enemies has equally devastating effects. Now is as good a time as any to praise the smooth control Prey possesses. For what's primarily a PC game, it’s nice to find that it’s never anything less than comfortable on a joypad. Aiming is smooth, the triggers typically fire your main and alternate ammo, and the shoulder buttons allow you to cycle quickly through your weaponry.

Everything so far sounds pretty much like your typical FPS, but Prey does actually introduce a few new ideas into the genre. The biggest selling point of the game has to be its use of portals. These are exactly what they sound like; doorways to other rooms/areas that transport you instantly. While not used to quite the extent they maybe could have been, far too often they merely serve to take you to a new environment, but do provide some interesting level design that often makes you think in order to progress.

Gravity plays a big part throughout Prey, too. Not only does being able to walk up walls and along ceilings add a new twist to general combat, but it also provides the base for some clever puzzles. By shooting specific gravity pads, you can turn a room completely upside down, allowing you to walk under obstacles that were previously too high to climb over for example. Combine this with the Spirit Walk, an ability that allows you to leave your body and walk through certain walls/hazards in a ghost-like state, and you often come across some genuinely original and clever puzzles. It’s just a shame they're not a bit more adventurous, as more often than not progression is little more than finding a switch and when you can’t find that switch it’s usually only a matter of using the Spirit Walk or shooting a gravity pad and you’ll quickly find your way. For every clever puzzle like the ‘cube’ section late in the game, there’s about five locked doors hidden behind a window that you simply need to Spirit Walk though to activate. While it’s initially a clever device to disguise simple switch-finding, it soon wears thin.

Hmm, looks like my old Geography teacher.

Hmm, looks like my old Geography teacher.
The use of vehicles help break things up a bit and, unlike in say Perfect Dark Zero or Quake 4, they don’t actually feel disjointed from the game. Controlled using both sticks to move and aim, these flying vehicles pop up throughout your journey. No vehicle would be complete without some weapons, so as well as a mounted cannon you also have a tractor beam that comes in handy for certain sections where debris just happens to be blocking the path ahead. Defending yourself is of high importance as your ship cannot take a lot of punishment, and you’ll soon die if you’re not quick on the trigger finger.

Not that dying in Prey is much of an issue as, well, you can't die. Instead, when you die the game takes you to a spirit world where you need to kill some spirits with your bow to recharge your life. Once you do that, the game places you right where you left off. Add in the fact that the game is only around eight hours long, and there’s not much in the way of challenge here. In fact, not only is it rather short, but it’s also technically impossible not to finish, due to the fact you cannot die. The likes of Halo and Call of Duty in recent years are ideal examples of how to perfectly place checkpoints throughout levels, and while it’s nice to see something new being tried, it'd be a lie to say it was a success.

The same could be said for the multiplayer too. While it plays like something reminiscent of Unreal Tournament, with portal chaos and gravity fun thrown in, it has some major flaws that spoil things completely. Its biggest problem is the netcode, which is quite frankly abysmal and nowhere near smooth enough for a game of this type. Every other FPS on the 360, barring the equally laggy Far Cry, can handle at least eight players with ease. Here, things can get messy with anything more than four. To top it off, there's only six maps and a paltry two modes (Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch), resulting in a package that’s a waste of time.

The gravity rails are the source of much enjoyment.

The gravity rails are the source of much enjoyment.
Visually the game is rather impressive in places; far more so than other games using the same engine, like Doom 3 and Quake 4. The bulk of the game takes place on an alien ship known as ‘The Sphere’, an appealing mix of organic, fleshy walls and mechanical, futuristic corridors which provide a backdrop far more interesting than in either of the aforementioned games, especially due to the vast size of the thing. For the most part however, the enemies are a little on the forgettable side. Some of the bigger foes are quite impressive, but more variety and a few more enemies on a larger scale would have been nice to break things up between the usual blend of foot soldiers and genetically modified beasts.

On the plus side, the frame rate is suitably smooth, and each of the weapons are wonderfully imaginative and creatively animated, complete with all kinds of bright lights and flashy effects when used. Prey will also give your sound system a good workout, with some superbly atmospheric sound effects and ambient sounds, while the soundtrack, provided by Jeremy Soule (who worked on the aurally unforgettable Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion), contains a handful of memorable themes. The voice-acting isn’t half bad either, certainly high up the scale compared to other FPSs.

In summary, Prey is certainly one of the better single player games so far on the Xbox 360. It controls well, features an enjoyable selection of weaponry and has some wonderfully unique level design that the likes of Doom 3 could only dream about. The plot, which we've intentionally avoided going into so as not to spoil it, is much more interesting than your average FPS too. Its relatively short length, lack of challenge and uninspiring multiplayer mean that it doesn’t quite fall under the ‘must own’ category, but if you’re looking for something to entertain you during this quiet time of the year, Prey is well worth a look.
The Score
Those looking for a multiplayer game should look elsewhere, but as far as solo play is concerned Prey is well worth your time. It’s just a shame it’s a little on the short and simplistic side - otherwise, we could have had a classic on our hands.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 years ago
Well that review was SPOT ON!! I've personally played through the whole game on the 360 and I agree with everything in the review.

Multiplayer SUX (they atleast should've had some sort of capture the flag mode, and yea it's slow as hell).

The fact that you can't die SUX (they should've had checkpoints as mentioned in the review).

The fact that it's so short SUX (this actually could've been prevented somewhat if they had the checkpoint system instead of the one where you never die, cuz the game is quite hard and that would've given it a bit more longevity)!!

The rest is great (awesome imo)! Definately something to pickup if you've got nothing else to play or have got a little money to spare.

I actually got it for $79 and thought that was worth it. I would've paid full price (cuz i'm hungus) but I doubt if it's worth anything more than about 80 bucks because of the amount of time you'll spend with it. Definately one of the better looking games i've played recently and probably the best i've seen on the 360, so if you're a graphics whore then you owe it to yourself!
7 years ago
the multiplayer aspect is mostly irrelevant to me, i usually stick to deathmatches in FPS games, and so far i'm loving the whole 3D floor thing, it's definately dis-orientating for the first several plays.

i haven't played it a huge amount, i only got it last night, but it's definately piqued my interest, something a FPS game hasn't really done with any longevity since FEAR (at least it seems like this long ago).

i'm actually really looking forwards to getting into it more.
7 years ago
I've got a prey comp this w/e so I should really learn the levels in the multiplayer portion.
7 years ago
I think the dying thing was a great idea, espically on a console without quicksave. You still didn't WANT to die, but if you did it was never frustrating. Great idea IMO and well implemented.

Overall is still one of the most fresh games I've played this year, with great atmosphere and new ideas. I certainly would of given it a 8.5/10 despite the shortish length. I personally think it's not that short, considering you have the lure of achievements on the 360 to go back and play it on hard.

But the multi is a bit crap actually. Can't defend that. But I will play it to get those achievements!
7 years ago
Prey and My Wiener have alot in common.

They're both very short but packed full of action icon_lol.gif
7 years ago
~DESTROY~ wrote
Prey and My Wiener have alot in common.

They're both very short but packed full of action icon_lol.gif
AHHAHA ! icon_lol.gif

The more I play the multiplayer, the more fun I have.
7 years ago
7 years ago
That's being a bit modest, Destroy.

Gotta say I was really looking forward to Prey after the demo, but couldn't get it due to lack of funds.

Not so worried anymore.
7 years ago
The fact that the game only lasts 6-8 hours isn't a bad thing at all as far as I'm concerned. There have been way too many games over the years that I have never finished, simply because I grew bored with the game long before reaching the conclusion. 6-8 hours sounds just fine to me, and I'll still remember how the story started as I reach the end.

Uncle Ian
7 years ago
I finished this game a while ago now, it was the best 1st person shooter i have played for a while.

great graphics and new innovations, spirit walking and gravity control are great additions to this title.

The length of the game didnt bother me, that fact that there is no multiplayer without online does!! i hope this isnt a trend with the 360 or next gen titles!!

i am sick an tired of having to hook up to the net to play death match what happened to good old split screen action????

lets hope gears of war and fear have a split screen option for us classic gamers!
7 years ago
Great reveiw. Hit all the key points.

I really didn't like the death system. They could have made it better by having the bow minigame in when you die but you go back to the last checkpoint. Then it may have made for more of a challenege. Other then that I didn't have any problems with it.
7 years ago
^ Yea completely agree. There was absolutely NO challenge! What's the point of even dodging bullets and when you come back to life whatever damage you did to an enemy still stands so....you could technically just stand in one spot and press the fire button. There's no challenge in this....just frustration when dying cuz you know you have to do that spirit bow part again just for the sake of it. Atleast with a checkpoint system there would be some sense of accomplishment.

I actually made the game harder for myself by not using the spirit mode mode than twice. If I died a 3rd time....then it was game over.....and obviously as you all know you have to start from the begining of the stage when you die. This however did not include exploration and leaps of faith....which I tried on a number of occassions because I could thanks to the forgiving spirit bow sequence. It's actually a really useful feature for trial-and-error games or when you want to do a bit of exploration....but it sucked for Prey.

I never want to see another game with this sort of stupid method of coming back to life! It made combat pointless!
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