For years there have been people saying that aliens have been present in our lifetime... Townsfolk often report strange lights in the sky, and odd objects floating around in the dark of night. It’s strange in itself that most of these claims happen to come from Hicksville, Texas, or at least the southern parts of the USA. But that is neither here nor there. In Prey, neo-native American Tommy experiences firsthand the wrath of some lean, not-so-green, alien meanies as a mass abduction occurs in his hometown.
The presentation and execution of Prey is that of a movie, with Tommy starting off at a local bar mouthing off at his poor grandpappy and enticing his girlfriend barmaid to leave the reservation and move with him to pastures new. You see, Tommy doesn’t particularly like his Indian heritage that much. He believes it is all a bunch of superstition, and would rather spend life exploring the world. His girlfriend Jen reacts in the defensive, wishing to stay at the reservation. SPOnG’s male bachelors usually obtain the same result from the ladies, particularly after six or seven pints when the voice begins to slur and we begin lurching.
The game makes an attempt to connect you with the three main characters – Tommy and his rejection of his tribal past (which all gets a bit borderline “Once Were Warriors”, noted SPOnG's film buffs), Jen and the love interest the two share, and ol’ gramps who keeps pressing the old ways onto Tommy. You very quickly and very sharply get thrown into a situation where all three lives are in danger, and it becomes a race against time to save them all. The game does well to involve you in almost everything, from the sense of urgency that Tommy feels, to his repulsion when he first investigates the alien ship he is carried in.
And cringe you certainly might do. Using an enhanced Doom 3 engine for that extra Mr. Sheen spit and polish, Prey certainly looks the business. Perhaps a bit too ‘wet’ and ‘shiny’ for our liking, but hey, when you’re on a living alien ship who’s to say quite how saturated it’s supposed to look? The sound is also suitably atmospheric, quiet for those tense moments, combated with piercing effects the very next second as something crashes down right next to you without your prior notice. The overall feel and design of the game is one that provides a truly cinematic, involving and warping game.
We mean 'warping' in more than one way as well. The major features that set this game apart from the typical ‘scare-horror-shoot’ First Person Shooter are its mind-bending puzzles. While they won’t exactly tax you, they are certainly inspired, with ‘Wallpaths’ allowing Tommy to walk up the walls and on the ceiling. Certain rooms need to be cleared by using more than travelling across the floor, and shooting at aliens below you – I mean, above you – I mean, wait... definitely below you – while standing on the ceiling is pretty cool in itself. There are also panels on all surfaces that allow you to change the position of gravity – one minute you could be standing on the walls, the next on the ceiling, another on the floor towards the exit. It’s about as close to playing a game in a barrel as you can get short of actually doing it.