Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn, Posted on 2006-07-19


Developer: Human Head Studios Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: July 11, 2006 Also On: PC & Xbox 360

Every year there are dozens of first-person shooters that do absolutely nothing for the genre as a whole. There are so few games that bring new flavors to the table that when one comes along, it's something to stop and gawk at. 2K Games' Prey is one of those games. It is a great game, loaded with more unique features than any other FPS I can recollect. It isn't without its flaws, but I can say that the good times outnumbered the bad in this sci-fi adventure.

The story here is that Tommy, a Cherokee mechanic, is tired of his reservation life. He wants to take his girlfriend Jen and get away from it all, against his wise old grandfather's wishes. One night, strange lights appear in the sky and–you guessed it–aliens strike, abducting the Cherokee trio and sending them off to the "Sphere," an alien mothership floating outside of Earth's atmosphere. From here, it's up to Tommy to find a way out and save not only his people, but the human race from being harvested as alien food.

While the story isn't all that interesting, and it's definitely not anything new, I thought that the characters were worth remembering. Tommy is very bitter about his heritage and really wants to abandon it. The game opens with him having a fit about himself in a bathroom mirror. His girlfriend Jen, the few times you see her, isn't the typical damsel-in-distress and her "save me!" whines are few and far between. And it's hard not to like Enisei, Tommy's old grandpa, who just wants Tommy to embrace and accept his ancestry.

The unique features I mentioned earlier are all gameplay-related. Prey might be short (I clocked in at about 8 hours), but each of the 22 levels are loaded with gravity-changing, portal-traveling, out-of-body experiences that, as the back of Prey's box puts, "Mess with your mind." You'll find and use switches that make entire rooms flip on their side or turn upside-down. You'll walk along walls and across ceilings with special "Wall Walk" panels. You'll open and use portals that take you to places throughout the Sphere–and the fun part is, you never know where they'll take you. You'll even take advantage of Tommy's Cherokee spirit powers to walk through force fields and across chasms that would have otherwise put you at a dead end.

Those features are all exploration-based, but the shooting found in Prey is pretty nice as well. Each of the game's seven guns are unique and feature a secondary fire function, making for fourteen or more ways to blast alien scum. You quickly find an automatic rifle with a sniper secondary function, and later a shotgun that also shoots the spider-like grenades that you can throw. My personal favorite weapon is the "leech gun" that uses energy sucked from nodes located throughout the Sphere–the four different types of energy all have their own special function; for instance, the red energy fires like a machine gun and the electric energy shoots like a high-powered shotgun. The aliens you'll be killing aren't the smartest, but there are several different enemies that offer quite a challenge. There are the typical soldier meat bags, spider-like beasts that fire off rockets, flying mechanical drones, huge centurions, and more.

Visually, Prey stands out among other Xbox 360 games for its fusion of biologically- and mechanically-themed environments. It's safe to say that some areas of this game look, well, gross. The atmosphere Prey puts you in is futuristic but grimy, slick but also slimy. Each area is loaded to the brim with an impressive amount of detail. The character and enemy models aren't the best around, and the special effects are a little lacking, but the animation is very fluid and the frame rate rarely drops.

The same can be said about the music and sound effects. 2K Games licensed a few songs from Judas Priest, Heart, Clutch, MXPX, and more–and even though you only hear these songs at two points throughout the storyline, it's a nice, detailed touch. The sound effects make certain enemies stand out–for instance, you'll know when you're about to walk into a pack of grunts.

Prey isn't perfect. There are a few flaws that one must recognize before playing Prey. First of all, the gravity-changing elements will induce motion sickness for a lot of gamers, so gamers that have had that nauseating experience will probably want to steer clear of this game entirely. Second, the short length of the game makes the $60 price tag look even more painful, and the Xbox Live gameplay consists of basic deathmatch. Third, if you have a pulse, you can beat Prey, thanks to the "death walk" spirit feature. Instead of dying in Prey, you're warped to a spirit world where you shoot ghosts that replenish your health and spirit meters. Not only does this make the game extremely easy, but it takes away from any feeling of accomplishment that you'd normally feel from clearing corridors of alien lifeforms.

Despite these flaws, Prey is a great game. If you can tolerate the gravity elements of the game, and you typically enjoy sci-fi shooters, Prey is the next game you should check out. It's fun, it's enjoyable, and it's got more to offer than most other first-person shooters.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 8
Written by Cliff Review Guide

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn