Preyby Stephen Cameron
July 2, 2006
The Prey demo kicks off in the men's room of a bar located on an Indian reservation. You're placed in the shoes of Tommy, a Native American that desperately wants to leave the boring life at the reservation. His girlfriend, Jen, tends bar at the establishment and appears to be the only thing keeping him around.
Though Tommy is bored with his surroundings, from a game perspective this environment is anything but dull. You’ll find yourself wandering around this wonderfully detailed bar flushing toilets, playing with the soap dispensers, changing the music on the Jukebox (with titles from Heart, Judas Priest, Ted Nugent, etc…), changing the channel on the television, and playing the 4 arcade games in the bar. This highly interactive environment was not only fun, but it did an effective job at drawing you into Tommy’s world. It also made me question why Tommy would ever want to leave. He's got a TV, jukebox, free alcohol, and 4 arcade games... sounds like heaven to me.
Unfortunately, we soon find out that not everything is all fun and games - a pair of drunken rednecks are sitting at the bar making cracks at Tommy's girlfriend. While listening to these drunken losers make comments, you discover Tommy is a handyman and he left his big old wrench on the bar. It’s not hard to tell what it coming up at that point... the wrench is obviously going to be meeting the head of a couple bar patrons in the not too distant future. Sure enough, trouble boils over and you end up knocking them silly.
This is the point where the game takes a very odd turn. The next thing you know aliens are invading the planet. Tommy, Jen, and your grandfather are sucked up into an alien environment that looks like a cross between the locations from Doom 3 and Quake 4. The captured humans are strapped to a conveyer belt that we later find out is speeding them away to an untimely (and gruesome) death. Fortunately Tommy manages to get free before getting diced into pieces and decides to fight back in an attempt to save his grandfather and girlfriend.
The setting within the alien world is grizzly and initially pretty interesting. The developers add a few nifty tricks, such as messing with the gravity so the character will suddenly be walking on the ceiling or walls and adding in worm holes to travel to another area. However, after a bit in this location (it is a long demo) the metal corridors become awfully repetitive, and it brought back memories of playing Doom 3, where everything looked the same.
There is a small sampling of weapons to be found in the demo. Besides the wrench you also get to try out two alien guns. One is essentially an assault rifle with a scope, and the other is a multi function gun that shoots plasma type bullets and can freeze the enemy with a blast of cold air. Tommy also develops some "spiritual" powers that enable him to have an out of body experience. Switching to Tommy's spirit will allow you get through barriers that Tommy can't pass through.
You won’t be replaying sections of the game because you never really die. When Tommy’s health runs out he enters another world where he ends up playing target practice with spirits - which are essentially floating health packets. The more you hit, the more your health rises. When you’re finished it plops you right back where you left off. While some may complain this takes some challenge out of it, I liked not having to replay through portions of the game and thought it worked well.
Judging from the demo, Prey looks like a very solid FPS with excellent visuals, solid controls, a good story, likeable characters, and some unique weaponry. I only hope as the game progresses we see more environments like the bar setting, and less like the repetitive alien world. As it stands it is a fantastic demo and shows a lot of promise for the full version.