Tommy is a down-on-his-luck garage mechanic, stuck in the middle on who-knows-where on some forgotten reservation, where Native Americans are tucked away out of sight, out of mind. And then the unthinkable happens! Earth becomes prey to the galaxy's largest predator, a space bound Texas-sized alien that's looking to satiate its hunger with the organic goodness that most populates Earth: Us. And the first course is a certain forgotten reservation. A Spiritual Awakening Tommy and his girlfriend have become prey, his grandfather killed, and hundreds of his tribal nation have been abducted through space-warping portals. Freeing himself, all Tommy cares about is saving Jenny. But the spirit of his grandfather beckons him to embrace his heritage, accept the ancient teachings, and prepare to battle the menace that threatens to destroy all the planet's life. It's a choice between love and responsibility.

Post feature Report RSS Prey - Pre(y)view

Prey, once thought to be lost in the endless chasm of vapourware alongside Duke Nukem Forever, is finally but a few weeks away from release. We take a run through the recently released demo to gain an idea of whether or not its truly been worth the wait.

Posted by on

[page=Introduction]
User Posted Image
Prey, once thought to be lost in the endless chasm of vaporware alongside Duke Nukem Forever, is finally but a few weeks away from release. We take a run through the recently released demo to gain an idea of whether or not it has truly been worth the wait.

Well....that's disorienting.
Well....that's disorienting.


I remember the very first glimpse I ever got of Prey. It was in a 1996 edition of the UK PC Gamer, during a review of the greatly anticipated Duke Nukem 3D. While it may have only been two very low-res screenshots accompanied by a small overview from 3D Realms big boy George Broussard, it was enough to spark my interest. What followed can only be described as ten years of confusion, turmoil and utter desperation as one of the most innovative looking games was consistently battered with delays, engine switches and numerous technical issues.

Eventually, many believed Prey to be lost completely.

At least, until 2005's E3, when it was revealed that Human Head Studios had been handed the project, as well as a license to the Doom 3 engine to build it on. A flurry of game play features, screenshots and in game videos followed, and the game quickly made it back onto every action fan's most wanted list.

Now with only a few weeks until release, Human Head has released a playable demo of the game, allowing everyone to experience it first hand. Does the Doom 3 engine still hold its own? Is there anything truly unique about Prey to make it stand out in a vastly overcrowded FPS market? Well..

I'll be honest. While the FPS has to be one of my favorite gaming genres, its target audience generally seems to hold a level of intelligence comparable to that of an Amoeba. Some of us have an unexplainable desire for something called 'innovative, non-bland game play'. In a genre where the key game play mechanics have always been 'look at something and shoot it', am I the only one struck by the irony of such a desire?

Fact - when it comes down to it, ALL FPS games are repetitive and bland, with ultimately 'minor' adjustments and variations on tried and tested mechanics.

I get stomach aches like that. Rolaids and 7-Up help.
I get stomach aches like that. Rolaids and 7-Up help.


What does make FPS games special then? For me it is the combination of the following three things (in regards to single player games):

  • Simple but solid game play that is adaptable to different situations
  • A well managed narrative (there is a big difference between a good story, and the good telling of a story)
  • Consistent and relevant use of design

If you wish for proof, look no further than Half-Life 2. In terms of game play, when you're not just shooting things, you're throwing them around. This is an extremely simple premise, adapted to a wealth of situations with the utmost care and fine tweaking to ensure it remains engaging from start to finish. The story is nothing special, but the way it is paced and exposed creates an incredibly immersive experience. Finally, the locations are not vivid in comparison to other games, but they are detailed, consistent and impeccably well designed.

So what's this got to do with Prey?

[page=Game play]

And no one on karaoke?
And no one on karaoke?


In Prey, you take the role of a Native American named Tommy, who refuses to accept the beliefs of his people, discarding them as blind superstition. It seems his only goal is to leave the reservation he calls home with his less-than-enthusiastic girlfriend, Jen, whom we become quickly acquainted with in the opening section of the demo. Tommy's Grandfather also plays a minor role in the demo's opening. Despite a confrontation with a couple of drunks, the opening level is pretty nice, until Aliens sink from the sky, tearing the place to pieces and abducting everything and everyone within it. From this point on, Tommy faces a constant struggle to fight the aliens aboard this spaceship / planet / multigravitational homeworld, free Jen, and save the world.

Don't you just hate it when that happens?

The actual game play takes some of the tried and tested FPS conventions and quite literally turns them upside down. For example, there are the walkways that lead from the ground, up walls and across ceilings, allowing you to traverse the level along each dimension. These can also be turned off at will on occasion, giving me a strange sense of satisfaction while an enemy was standing upside down above me. While these walk ways are very linear in structure, there are also sections of the demo where gravity is very much a character-specific commodity. You might be standing on what seems to be the floor, while enemies shoot from above and around you. Sometimes gravity can even be alternated completely by shooting certain panels on the environment, flipping the universe onto a different axis.

It's not uncommon to see yourself retreating into a distant portal as you enter one.
It's not uncommon to see yourself retreating into a distant portal as you enter one.


Then there are the portals, which tear into the universe and allow transitions (for both you and enemies) from one place to another with seamless ease. These elements are not used every once in a while, they are the fundamental principles in the game. And while they do add some pretty bizarre twists to the game play, the general way in which they have been designed never results in them being a frustrating burden on the player's progress. The other major enhancement to the game play is Spirit Walking and the Afterlife. Tommy's spirit can leave his body entirely, allowing him to reach places his mortal confines would normally prohibit, and activate switches that would otherwise be unreachable. It also allows you to sneak up on and attack unknowing enemies, but be careful not to leave your body too long, as when you're in spirit mode your physical body is without defense. In the event that you die, you must fight dark spirits to win your soul back, and continue with the game from where you left off, much to the surprise of your enemies.

While I was impressed with how well the different techniques have been implemented into the game (and I have no doubt that this is but the tip of the ice berg), I would've liked to have seen more examples of puzzle elements. There are sections where you'll be using your noggin to work out how flipping the gravity will aid your progress, but nothing of particularly great depth. While I realize this is only a demo and games that have been built for the Doom 3 engine have in no way shape or form been loved for their puzzle qualities, I was hoping for maybe just a little insight into some of the game's more unique problem solving sections, such as the giant cube presented in some of the preview videos.

JoeX111 Says:
"While the story, characters, and environment make for awesome presentation, Prey doesn't truly take off until all of the new game play elements start to stack up alongside each other to work in conjunction. At one point in the demo, you are forced to navigate some gravity paths that are incomplete. In order to get from one side to the next, you must enter your spirit form (which promptly falls off the path) and use it to manipulate the direction of the paths, building a bridge across that your body can use. It is these kind of moments that make the game feel very natural and less gimmicky, creating some wicked environmental puzzles and hopefully putting to rest some people's fears about whether the game will flow or not."

One sick-ass space ship...
One sick-ass space ship...


The game is built on Doom technology, which doesn't take a mastermind to work out, as it bares more than a passing resemblance to Doom 3 and Quake 4. No one with at least 20% of their eye sight intact can deny that there is a signiture Doom feel to everything, the art and design of Prey can easily stand up in its own right. The game takes place in a living planet \ space ship, which is comprised of both organic and mechanical elements. These two styles actually blend together very well. Walls may suddenly burst open as clouds of blood and vomit spew fourth from mouth-like orificies, tentacles will attack you left, right, and center and steel corridors gradually merge into slimy, goo-swelling walls of flesh. The plastic sheen from past Doom 3 engine games is still an issue, which some may complain about, but I can't help but like. The ship is excessive, but you cannot deny the fact that the whole thing looks disgusting as a result.

While the bulk of the demo takes place onboard the alien space....thing, it is refreshing to see the Doom 3 engine used for something completely different as well. During one section of the game, you find yourself standing on a mountain side (think something similar to the "Truth and Reconciliation" level from Halo, but set in daylight). This is a pretty brave step, as many people might consider a huge stylistic change like this to be disjointed and not of the same quality. I was actually surprised by how well they pulled it off. Quake 4's outdoor levels never impressed me, as even the smaller sections seemed to stutter greatly and weren't of the same quality as the indoor areas, but Prey managed to pull this off with ease. Admittedly, this was a very brief and small section of the game, and seems to be an accurate reflection of the final product. I certainly hope not, because this was a great leap to make in an otherwise die-hard science fiction setting, but perhaps the key to implementing such an asset is careful use.

Only time will tell.

[page=Design and Graphics]

I'm going to love tearing the legs off of this guy...
I'm going to love tearing the legs off of this guy...


The actual weapon concepts are interesting and work well with the rest of the environment, but are rather disappointing. With the exception of your wrench, all of the weapons and organic and fit with the environment, such as bugs you can pick up, tear the legs off of, and use as a hard grenade. This could have been used to great effect, but it is really just your standard, generic FPS weaponry in gooey alien clothing. It would've been nice to see the same level of imagination that was applied to the levels used on the guns as well. One neat trick is the leech gun, which sucks power from different environmental areas to be used as ammunition. What is then fired from the gun depends entirely on what the last ammunition source was, so what was once a flame thrower can quickly evolve to freeze your enemies. However, this is more of an exception than a common principle, that will hopefully be mixed up a bit in the full game.

Your enemies are also on the generic side, as far as aliens go. Most are humanoid but made to look gross, though they fit in extremely well with the style of the game, moreso than the weapons do. Later enemies also seem to integrate well with the design ethics of Prey better than those in the demo. The A.I., however, doesn't seem much to be anything to write home about. Enemies run, shoot, press buttons, and use cover, which is more than can be said for Doom 3. It doesn't really push the bar for what we as players can expect, especially after F.E.A.R., but it remains to be seen whether this is a real issue or not.

Will he fall up, down, or sideways? Depends where you are standing, I guess.
Will he fall up, down, or sideways? Depends where you are standing, I guess.


There's also very little that can be said for the game's musical score. There's nothing wrong with it per-say, but it doesn't hit with the same sort of memorable impact as the scores of games like Halo or Oblivion. But again, this is only the demo, and for a soundtrack to really become memorable you need time. Doom 3 used sound incredibly well to add an atmospheric backdrop to the game, which created this sense of claustrophobia and dread that never really seemed to go away. Prey achieves this too, blending the mechanical and organic sounds together in a similar way to its visual aspects that further enhances this alien world.

One thing that I'm pretty sure will make or break the game in many peoples estimation is the use of narration from protagonist Tommy. Those who played Duke Nukem 3D, Blood or Shadow Warrior will no doubt feel a huge bite of nostalgia as he reels off numerous one liners throughout the game. This is a pretty big risk for Human Head Studios to take, because whereas I find this feature a nice addition that adds a deeper sense of character to Tommy, there are many who will just find it annoying. At the very least it would be nice if this feature was optional, as I can imagine it being the definitive asset that decides whether or not someone buys the game for many.

methulah Says:
"I feel that Prey shows an evolution of the first person shooter genre. Back in the day, games had little character at all. Characters didn't really talk much, and pretty much every mainstream game company was afraid to use the word "fuck". When it became cool to have their characters uttering profanities, games like F.E.A.R. and GTA: San Andreas came along, and suddenly every second word had four letters and hardcore games became as hardcore as hardcore movies.

Prey doesn't go into this excess. The protagonist gets into the expletives, but it doesn't feel out of place like it does in some other recent games. The bloom lighting is the same. When games started to crop up with bloom lighting, it really pissed me off, because when I looked at any light source, my screen would fill with blinding shiny light, simulating the glare I had forked out good cash for an LCD to get rid of. In this sense, Prey really brings hope for video games using the technology and mentality of the new millenium maturely and in moderation."


Spirit walk leaves you vulnerable, but man is it cool.
Spirit walk leaves you vulnerable, but man is it cool.


Then there is the multiplayer, or "multipreyer," as it has been dubbed. The very same mechanics (wall walking, spirit walking, etc.) available in the single player campaign are available here, which makes for some very interesting death matches on either of the two maps that come with the demo. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to experience this as much as it seems to suffer from lag far more than the likes of Half-Life 2 or UT2K4. This might be a personal problem, but others seem to be suffering similar issues.

Overall, Prey looks to do the impossible: bringing back a once-dead title almost eight years after its original conception. The target audience for first person shooters are very keen on specific tastes, which can be both a blessing and a curse when the style and theme of a game is as specific as Prey's looms into view. How well people will react to it remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the game seems to be shaping up well, and if Human Head's claim that this build only scratches the surface of the final is true, I think there is a lot to be excited about in the future.

JoeX111 Says:
"With most game demos, you can see the ending coming a mile away. Something dramatic happens, you nearly die, or a big enemy steps out, leaving you with a shattering cliffhanger that would lead you right out to buy the game if you weren't so used to these things happening. But with Prey, it is different. There are several occasions when something huge happens, something so shattering that you are sure it is going to cut off, and it just keeps going! Only once you've gotten comfortable, forgetting for a short time that this is just a demo and not the full game, does the developers pull the carpet out from under you without warning, leaving you desperate for the final product.

And then there is the multiplayer to consider.

If nothing else, the demo for Prey is the best piece of game marketing I've had the joy of experiencing in years."

Comments
Karuto
Karuto

I agree. The demo was amazing in that it was so long for something in such small a size (namely, under 500mb). If more developers did it the way the Prey team did, you'd see a lot more anticipation for a lot more games. It was pretty well crafted, and here's to hoping that it will help the end product when it comes out soon.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Koroshiya_Ichi Author
Koroshiya_Ichi

i'd like to see that too, but the thing is a 'longer' demo is more likely to show cracks than a 'short' demo. It's good for us, but I can't imagine many developers being fond of it. I personally feel that the Prey and original Half Life demo's are two of the best, both solid and give accurate representations of the full games (well, we'll have to see about that with Prey i suppose ;) )

Reply Good karma+2 votes
ImTheDarkcyde
ImTheDarkcyde

although the action was ok, i think it's just an overal very gimmiky game. it introduces the little wall paths, and then uses them about 12 times in 30 seconds. it introduces anus doors, and then you gotta go through a whole shitload of them. and then it gives a bunch of portals, which end up being EVERYWHERE.

the story sounds teh suk so far too. 'OMG ALIENS TOOK'D US. I LOVE JEM. THE BORG QUEEN IS TALKING TO ME'
two possible endings for this -
1) aliens just wanna rape earth for resources
2) aliens want to do experiments or something

either way, story is shaping up to suck

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Koroshiya_Ichi Author
Koroshiya_Ichi

ladies and gentlemen, for proof and reason of the issues I raised during the 6th and 7th paragraphs of this preview regarding formulaic FPS's and the general action game community, please read the above post by 'ImTheDarkcyde' :p

Reply Good karma+2 votes
migb
migb

Koroshiya_Ichi was prepared...

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
JoeX111
JoeX111

How is it gimmicky that they use the gravity paths a lot? That's how you incorporate it into the game play, you use it and get people used to it.

And since when does "gimmick" mean something negative? I'll take innovative twists tightly incorporated into the core game play over the same redundant Halo 12 **** any day.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
a_llama
a_llama

Erm, well people normally complain about games introducing ideas and barely using them, so I guess you can't please everyone.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Bluehawk
Bluehawk

I saw adds for this game on the CD of Rise of the Triad.

I'm suprised this little piece of vapourware actually materialized.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
methy
methy

I really enjoyed the Prey demo, it seemed to work really well. It was polished (I could only find a couple of techical errors), and it played well. Sure, the story may be forumulaic, and sure, we haven't seen much depth of character, but the story delves into spirituality, and the game looks to be a kick-arse shooter too.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
a_llama
a_llama

Well you see to me that sounds fairly awesome...

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Koroshiya_Ichi Author
Koroshiya_Ichi

hahaha! you're not alone ;) but then i guess we must be of a lower lifeform *sigh*

Reply Good karma+2 votes
Handshakes
Handshakes

im with darkcyde on this one, although the anusdoors are a site to behold. Really though, the demo is just one gimick after another while the core gameplay at the center of it all is the same crap we've all seen a million times before. You used to shoot rockets at the floor near people's feet. Now in the year 2006 you shoot rockets at people's feet... ON THE CEILING!

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Handshakes
Handshakes

Tis true. You are.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Handshakes
Handshakes

well the way I see it, if your gonna go the no innovation and a couple over used gimicks route of game developement, you might as well make the gimicks super neat-o.

The first Soldier of Fortune did it right by taking the core concept of every FPS - killing people- and making it as fun and memorable as it possibly could be by allowing the player to dismember and destroy an enemy in as many different ways as their sadistic little minds could fathom. Now Prey has some gravity defying trickery and some portal wackiness, but what does that really add? Being able to dismember enemies almost became as much of an FPS industry standard as gibbing, but I just don't see Prey's wacky portal shannigans being picked up by many other future developers. I guess that's just the point. Prey seems to be a solid FPS for sure, but a merely solid FPS just doesn't cut the mustard these days (as demonstrated by Quake 4).

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
HaRRiKiRi
HaRRiKiRi

Lots of cool stuff is not used in next games. Example, GEO MOD. It was the sweetest thing after ragdoll. Ragdoll is put everywhere, destructible environment is put nowhere. My tech things I whould want to see in EVERY GAME is:
1)Ragdoll
2)Bump mapping
3)Real phisics
4)Geo mod
5)Gibbing (ex. shoot enemy's hand off)
And if fits then portals, wacy gravity stuff (like prey wall walking). And they fit in Prey. And story is very cool in Prey. Some aspects of it is not so original. Like aliens taken me, and whana **** earth. But story is like 8 years old, and then it was original. :D Very original thing is the native american thing. I never seen a game in whitch you would be an idian. So story is good, even when it is not orginal.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
leilei
leilei

how do you judge a game as a whole comparing it to another full game with a demo

The demo's levels are meant to introduce the elements of prey, not to give its main primary challenges with it

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Koroshiya_Ichi Author
Koroshiya_Ichi

Geo mod was horrible. Sure the concept was seriously nice, but it was so poorly implemented and thanks to the lack of true physics in the time it was created more often than not it looked horrible. Im sure if something was created today using current technology with a similar principle as geomod it could surely be awesome, but it'd need to be created, fine tuned and implemented in a far more superior fashion than it was in red faction to be any good.

Reply Good karma+2 votes
usernamee
usernamee

this game screams mediocre

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Arxae
Arxae

the geomod was realy good in red faction, but wasent put to good use in the game
i have red faction 2 on PS2, geomod is used there, but the same as RF1, not used verry wel

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Crispy
Crispy

This review made me think of Ikaruga. Not for everyone and 'gimmicky' as hell, but definitely enjoyable.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Cluey
Cluey

I loved the demo. I spent about an hour messing around in the bar and rocking out to Judas Priest :P It had alot of that 3D Realms charm as well. Their stories dont need to be deep or original, its the spectacle. The bit where the ship rips off the roof of the bar and "Dont Fear The Reaper" starts playing, I was feeling warm inside. Though alot of the stuff in the game is pretty gross. The "processors" for one, and those wall mouth things. I enjoyed it alot.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Koroshiya_Ichi Author
Koroshiya_Ichi

As with all games thus far on the Doom 3 engine, I can see Prey splitting people right down the middle as to whether they love or hate it

Reply Good karma+2 votes
leilei
leilei

and i see methulah has completely ignored the existence of kingpin, duke3d, etc

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
D@rson07
D@rson07

I think the game is good, I played the demo a few days ago, shout out to the dev for there hard work,

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
UniversalTarget
UniversalTarget

The detrimental mentions about the storyline in other posts are true. yes, they're just here for resources. The big ship has the utterly creative name of 'The Sphere.' Didn't see that one comin, did we?

The grav paths ARE gimmicky. The enemies will shun the power on them from time to time, but this happens (at most) three times total. The most difficult puzzle involving gravity paths is the one in the demo where you need to use your spirit and hop through a forcefield. The use of portal tech as far as enemies are concerned amounts to the old doom days of guys appearing behind you, with few interesting uses. There was one area with a hall of mirrors effect, but 80% of the time it's simply used for guys hopping in front of you on a closed grav path, making it impossible for them to strafe and easy for you to mow them down.

If you've played the demo, you've played the entirety of the game. All that happens is a lather/rinse/repeat routine with maybe 4 simple boss fights along the way.
However, as far as mods go, this technology is A VERY GOOD THING. The sooner modders get to work, the better. Then maybe I can justify wasting all that cash on this game I beat in 6 hours. :x

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
cstephens17
cstephens17

I'm sorry but did anyone else think that the story line for the game sucked?? I beat it in like 2 days! You should never be able to beat a game in 2 days!! I played 4 hours those each of those days! Maybe 5 the second day. But still it should never be that easy!

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
DIGI_Byte
DIGI_Byte

the whole indian gone wild and stuff was a very stupid idea they could of sone that better.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Post a comment
Sign in or join with:

Only registered members can share their thoughts. So come on! Join the community today (totally free - or sign in with your social account on the right) and join in the conversation.

Follow Report Profile
Icon
Prey
Platforms
Windows
Developer
Human Head Studios
Publisher
2K Games
Engine
id Tech 4
Contact
Send Message
Homepage
Prey.com
Release date
Game watch
Follow
Feature
Browse
Features
Report
Report
Share
Related Games
Prey
Prey First Person Shooter
Related Engines
id Tech 4
id Tech 4 Commercial
Related Groups
2K Games
2K Games Developer & Publisher
Human Head Studios
Human Head Studios Developer