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Prey Review

publisher: 2K Games
developer: Human Head Studios
genre: Action

PIV 2000, 512MB RAM, 2.2GB HDD, 64MB video card
ESRB rating: M

release date: Jul 10, 06
» All About Prey on ActionTrip

I grew up on FPS games.

Mesmerized by the fast-paced, white knuckled action, I would feel my heart pound as I waded through the hordes of enemies, or fragged my friends endlessly, hearing their cries for despair as the kill counts rose higher and higher. I would leave these sessions breathless, the adrenaline flowing. Its been quite some time since an FPS game has had this effect on me, with FPS games becoming more fantastically advanced, with the emphasis moving to beautiful scenery OR top notch gameplay, but not both. But having played Human Head's new shooter, Prey, that feeling is back - even if for just a brief, fleeting moment in time.

2K Games and Human Head did the right thing a while ago by releasing a demo for Prey, which you can pick up right here. The demo let players experience the spectacular prologue and the first few levels of the game. Now that I've gone through the final build of Prey, it comes that time for ActionTrip to pass final judgment.

It's been a while since I played a game from Human Head. The most memorable game that the company has made in my mind was the bug-stricken yet immensely fun and atmospheric Viking action game, Rune. Prey maintains that same epic spirit - the idea of a lone hero overcoming great obstacles to save the love of his life. The game pits the mysticism of Native Americans against the soulless, steel world of alien invaders. Even though the basic plot outline is pretty hackneyed, I must commend Human Head for getting the most out of it in every respect. The bravery and the humanity of the main hero are tangible and the world in which he is thrown into is unforgiving and ruthless enough to be authentic (in a manner of speaking of course). The way that the events unfold and how they all come together is consistent with good story telling - heroic stories, the likes of which would be passed down generation by generation. All this made it fairly easy for me to immerse myself in the world of Prey; to accept my role and have fun with it. Good job, Human Head.

Thankfully, unlike Rune, Prey suffers from little to no bugs whatsoever. I had one crash to desktop during my time with the game, and I'm not sure that could be attributed to the game code at all. Performance-wise, the game runs beautifully on today's mid range computers. Outside of the one lone bug I uncovered, I found the AI worked very well and it did what it's supposed to (don't expect any advanced team tactics by the enemy though), the scripted sequences were completely unnoticeable (which is how they should be), the friendly NPCs acted great, and there was nothing really to break the immersion during play. From a technical standpoint, Human Head did a very fine job - Prey comes off looking as a polished and well rounded shooter.

The pacing of the gameplay was spot on for the most part. It correlates excellently with the narrative and there is little to no backtracking during the level romp. While Prey doesn't offer the sort of visual variety one would hope for (thematically, most of the environments look alike), this is far from saying that the game isn't beautiful - it is. While carrying the same theme of Doom-like textures on the locations and monsters (and we have the Doom III engine to blame for this), Prey goes far beyond its technological predecessor by introducing some truly vast and spectacular looking alien sceneries. Going back to the gameplay itself, Prey comes off looking so psychedelic that you have to admire the creativity of the level designers. If you've played the demo, you are already familiar with the wall walking and gravity experimentation, but the coolest puzzles in the game come in the later stages, near the end. Being trapped in a huge cube and having to figure out a way to get out of it was simply awesome. The ability of the developers to create a completely ALIEN environment in the true sense of the word is a testament to their skill and their capacity to innovate and entertain.

The same can be said about the weapon arsenal. Tommy will pick up alien weapons along the way - each of them has two modes of fire and will feel quite unique to a seasoned shooter fan. This also translates very well into the multiplayer game, which is another strong point of Prey - fast paced and just plain fun to play, it makes effective use of portals and other game features to make even the clich'd deathmatch mode fun.

In terms of length, Prey takes longer to finish than today's average shooter. I'd say about two days of moderately active playing. Even though it feels near the end like some of the levels were thrown in simply to prolong the single-player part, on the whole, there is nothing really you could take away from the quality of the design.

While not exactly as breathtaking as Half-Life 2, Prey can rightfully be called one of the best, if not *the* best FPS game of the year so far. Bottom line, if you are a FPS fan, you should go out and buy this one.


9.0   Excellent

Innovative shooter with spectacular gameplay, good story, voice overs, soundtrack, gorgeous graphics, multiplayer;

Some of the "Doomish" environments look too much like Doom III - game would've benefited from more variety in those regards, lack of proper outdoor settings.



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