places you in the shoes of Tommy, a Native American with a deep connection to the spiritual world who along with his girlfriend Jen, is abducted by aliens. What follows is a bizarre journey through a labyrinth of gravity-flipping alien architecture rife with portals, tapping into a spirit form that shoots phantasmal arrows and can access areas that Tommy's physical form is prohibited from reaching.
Released in2006, I was fully expecting this game to look and feel very outdated, and for the most part I was correct. On the positive side, the level designers and environment artists created some unique looking pieces and had some interesting animations particularly toward the later stages of the game. But I can't help but feel like the days of abstract alien environments are behind us, and it is easier to immerse oneself in a world that is more familiar.
Unfortunately, that (intentionally) alien feeling when traversing the environments often led to me scratching my head when confronted with one of the many puzzle elements that felt wholly unintuitive, or at best slightly misleading in the manner in which to execute the solution. Fortunately, living in the information age allows one to quickly call up a walkthrough video on YouTube in order to progress. Such moments are often followed by the phrase "I never would have seen that" or "I tried that!"
I do applaud the creativity behind the multiple uses of portals and altering the direction of gravity. It allows the level designers to reuse and revisit areas with different results and create a unique perspective. One can only imagine some of the challenges that arose while trying to visualize the 3D space from multiple viewpoints.
Weapon design in Prey is among some of the best that I have seen. The creepy organic ambient animations breathe a great deal of life into objects typically seen only as a tool in most games of the first-person-shooter genre. My personal favourite has to be their equivalent of the grenade, in which the player character pulls legs off a critter in order to agitate into an explosive state. Brilliant!
One of the stranger design choices in Prey revolves around its death mechanic. Unlike most FPS games, when the player dies, he is not sent back to a checkpoint or forced to reload a saved game. Instead, he passes into a spirit realm where phantoms representing spiritual and physical energies circle about, waiting to be pierced by the player's arrow so that they can bestow their energy back into Tommy when he respawns moments later. This allows the player to put emphasis on returning with higher health or spirit (used to power the spirit bow while in spirit form), but also serves little more than as an annoyance that occurs if the player character dies - not too unlike the oft-maligned Valkyrie sequence in Silicon Knights' https://www.trueachievements.com/Too-Human-xbox-360.htm
. Unfortunately, this also becomes somewhat of an exploit as enemy characters (including bosses) retain their current wounded health levels when the player character returns, so nothing is sacrificed apart from about 15 seconds of time whenever the player character is killed.
Overall I'm sure I would have enjoyed the game far more if I had played it closer to the time of its release. It's a pretty solid single-player campaign, with 22 chapters that span somewhere around 15 hours of play time. Completing the game on the Normal skill level unlocks a harder "Cherokee" difficulty that must also be completed in order to unlock the full complement of single-player Achievements. The downside is that the chapter-by-chapter Achievements that helped pull the player through the lengthy grind of a campaign will have already been unlocked by this point, with only a single reward to earn upon your second full playthrough.
The multiplayer component is pretty straightforward. Between deathmatch and team deathmatch, you'll still be challenged to find anybody playing online these days. Achievement hunters can power through all seventeen multiplayer goals in under three hours with a dedicated group of three or four boosters and a simple gameplan. Most of the deathmatch Achievements are earned through amassing a particular number of kills with each weapon type, and respawns are fast enough that a steady food chain can be set up to knock off kills quickly and efficiently.
I guess that's one of the benefits of playing games years after they are released. You don't get blinded by fancy visuals and new revelations in technology and can see clear through to the gameplay underneath the surface. If you like what you see even after the visuals are outdated, you've got yourself a solid title. If not, you're left peeking behind the green curtain to see that the Wizard isn't as spectacular as he was made out to be.