Tommy, I’ve a feeling we’re not on the Reservation anymore…

A new and innovative console FPS, Prey kicks off with surprisingly good voice acting, and surprisingly unimpressive graphics (at least for the 360). Unfortunately, despite the storyline very quickly taking you – that is, Tommy, a young Cherokee with dreams of getting away from the Reservation and out into the world – into outer space, the game itself never seems to quite get off the ground.

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It isn’t at all bad – just fairly blah.

And it’s far from a lost cause. The soundtrack, at least, is great: not only does Prey feature an outstanding original score, but there’s a bit of great classic rock when you first start off – I’m glad to know I’m not the only person in the world who loves Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’. I’ve already mentioned the good – great, actually, given that this is a videogame – voice acting; fortunately, the high quality here is sustained through the game (with the exception of the aliens, who, curiously enough, speak English). The sound effects, too, are above average, doing perhaps almost as much work bringing to life the half-metal, half-organic alien spacecraft as the graphics.

The interior of the ship, by the way, does look pretty cool most of the time. (Much better use is made of the graphics engine, I feel, after the five minutes on Earth.) It’s a bit like if the architecture of Doom 3 (the engine of which Prey uses) came alive, started sprouting tentacles, et cetera, and then decided to jazz itself up with more lighting – largely in the neon range. As I said: pretty cool. But on the other hand: nothing much we haven’t seen before.

The gameplay is a little more daring, and features spirit walking – after all, why put a Native American character in a game at all if you’re not going to hijack some mythology – as well as portals and changing gravity. The spirit walking is largely a puzzle-solving feature: you exit your physical body in order to walk through force-fields and flick crucial switches and so forth. The portals, once you figure out what they are, are fairly easy to handle too – and while they look cool, and are used for a few exciting little moments, they don’t add much to the game besides some geographical confusion. The changing gravity, however, does have an impact. And I’d like to say it makes for innovative and exciting, high-powered and adrenaline-pumping, action – but in fact it’s more like being on a bad rollercoaster: it’s frightening at first, and then you go straight to feeling sick without ever experiencing the “fun” you were promised.

The weapons, too, feel like they’re meant to be edgy and original. But really they’re, for the most part, just weird-looking and improbably alien versions of the same guns you’d be firing in any first-person shooter. In particular, the living creatures used for grenades/mines just seemed silly – and silly is fine in the right place, but Prey is a game that takes itself seriously.

It doesn’t take itself seriously for very long, though. The single-player is relatively easy to get through – not helped by the fact that death is merely a mini-game followed by resurrection, taking out the need to quick-save and then load when you get killed – and the (only) higher level of difficulty isn’t unlocked until you’ve already finished it at the normal setting: making it more or less obsolete, as Prey is unlikely to hold your attention for a second trip through single-player.

Multiplayer makes some interesting use of the portals and messed-up gravity. However, with only two modes (deathmatch and team deathmatch), and support for only eight players, and no split-screen option, multiplayer is hardly a reason to buy the game.

There were also a couple of other minor peeves worth mentioning. 1) Before being able to play Prey at all, we were required to connect to Xbox Live to download an update – keep this in mind if you’re unlucky enough not to have an internet connection. 2) Beware long loading times. (And I mean long!)

In the end, there’s just not much to get excited about here. The graphics aren’t amazing (maybe they would be with HD – but that’s an excuse that’s getting old really fast), the gameplay is often frustrating, sickening, or just dull, and the storyline – while not totally unoriginal – is nothing to write home about. The voice acting and soundtrack redeem Prey somewhat, but still fail to make it stand out from the pack. There are much better FPS titles out there – even on console.

"A bewildering rampage through an alien spacecraft."
- Prey
Follow Own it? Rating: R16   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 5 Min


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