Reader Warning: This look at the Prey Demo has content and visual representations of the game that may not be appropriate for all readers. The game carries a Mature ESRB rating for Blood/Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity and Strong Language. The article may reflect this, so please read with discretion.
There is a lot of history behind this game. It was first announced in 1995… even before Duke Nukem Forever-n-ever. Since that time though, the game has gone through countless changes, but the original ideas are intact. This, is a good thing.
You are Tommy, a native American with a screw-everything attitude. You don’t respect your heritage at all, and don’t mind letting it show. After a quick bar fight at the beginning of the game, you are captured by aliens. So, as is expected, it’s your job to take them out. Does this sound familiar? Sure it does, but Prey attempts to keep things interesting.
Because the lead characters are native American, its reflected strongly in the storyline. Because Tommy doesn’t respect his Cherokee heritage, at all, he ends up being forced to believe in it as the gameplay progresses. Cherokees follow certain strong beliefs that can help protect and guide you. It’s a different concept, but it plays well throughout the demo, and hopefully the full game, quite well.
Prey is built on a heavily modified version of the Doom III engine, and it shows. When a game runs on a specific engine, it’s not usually hard to pick it out. The graphical eye candy and special techniques are scattered all through Prey. I was never a fan of Quake IV or Doom III, so I was skeptical about playing a game based on their engine. Shortly after beginning the demo though, that skepticism faded away quickly.
At the beginning of the demo, you are having a confrontation with yourself in front of a mirror. Though Tommy doesn’t seem to care, you can easily see that he is full of emotion. He loves his girlfriend Jen more than words can express, but he can’t bring himself to tell her. Shortly after this, you have a discussion with your grandfather, Enisi. He urges you to believe in your native American ways, and to believe in yourself. Though, on the other side of the coin, your personal goal is to move as far away from the Cherokee settlement as you possibly can. The only thing stopping you is Jen.
The bar you find yourself in is quite run down, and the graphics are superb because they portray this perfectly. There are a few slot and poker machines to one side, which you can actually play. In addition, there is music playing overhead, which adds a unique sense of realism to the game. If you like or dislike Heart or Judas Priest, you can go over to the music maker and turn the volume up or down. A nice touch.
Within minutes, you wind up inside an alien base. This is where the Doom III similarities begin. The game is rather dark, and the scummy surfaces are reminiscent of D3. This is helped by the ‘shiny’ textures, especially on metals. The atmosphere is incredible though, and sets itself far apart from any other game on the market. You can easily see this by any of these screenshots. Some of the scenes are so believable, you swear you can actually smell the muck.
One of the developers goals was evidently to instill fear, pain and emotion into the player. Unless you are a sick and deranged individual, you will most definitely feel emotion at some point. During the demo, you find yourself near a massive decapitator. Actually, it’s hard to call it as such, because it does more than that. People are transported throughout this building in carriers, such as the ones in the Citadel in Half-Life 2. Once the person is in place, this machine first throws gas at them, impales them numerous times, and finishes everything off by smashing them into a bloody pulp. Gross? Hell yes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, shortly after the fact, you see the exact same thing happen to your grandfather. The dev’s have done a superb job of making the player feel a sense of urgency and fear.
You can download the movie listed above if you wish to see the process of the machine killing someone. If you don’t find this gruesome, then all I have to say is.. wow. Notice during the video, that the wrench is blood spattered, but as it progresses, it cleans itself off. It’s too bad that the blood didn’t stick around longer, or even throughout the game. It would have felt more realistic.
The weapons found in the game are unlike anything we’ve seen before. While they function very similarly to weapons in other FPS games, they look completely different and alien-esque. You quickly find yourself a rifle, which you can see in the pictures below. Though it looks like it could do massive damage, it’s really just a simple rifle. It duals as a sniper rifle, which seems to do even more damage to the enemy. Later in the demo you will come across a Leech gun. With this, you can find various energies throughout the levels that you can suck up into the gun. One energy for example, is colder than liquid nitrogen, and you can completely freeze monsters with it.
Prey introduces portals into the mix, which allow you to get from one area to the next.. quickly. Portals can either be surrounded by a beam of light, or simply lay inside a box. The portals that have a beam are often left behind by monsters that originally came through them. When you walk into a portal, you are instantly in the new area. There is no hint of load time, whatsoever. One thing that makes this technique interesting, is that you can see through the portals before you go through them. It helps you decide whether you want to go through it or not, at that point in time. Most portals will not allow you back in, so you have to make sure it’s where you want to be.
Wall walks are another unique feature that replaces ladders that we see in other FPS games. They can go straight up a wall, and even along the ceiling. If a wall walk is activated, you will not fall off of it unless you jump. Being on one doesn’t free you from a monsters grasp though… they even portal in on them, to block your way. While upside down, you will be often fighting enemies on the ground, which can give a real sense of confusion. It’s almost like playing Descent, except you are on foot. Spirit walking is one of the most unique features though, and it’s imperative to use it throughout gameplay. You can step out of your body at any time, if you need to get to certain area that your normal body cannot, such as through a force field.
Overall, the demo took around an hour to beat, and it was well spent. I was craving more… I cannot wait to see the full game. The experience seemed so different than what I was expecting. What people did not like about Doom III or Quake IV seems to be nonexistent in Prey. The game adds so many unique elements, it’s hard to see it getting boring before the end. The gameplay is not all about killing, it’s about thinking and strategizing. From the impressions I have gained from this demo, Prey has serious potential to become one of the best games of the year.
The game will be released on July 10th, and you can expect our full review around the same time. If you are a FPS fan and want a fresh experience in the genre, you’d be smart to pay attention to this one.
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