Prey Overview

Prey is a game that uses the Id Tech 4 engine (which was used on other games like Doom 3, Quake 4, Brink, and Wolfenstein). You are in control of a young Cherokee man named Tommy. Tommy gets abducted by aliens and everything gets pretty crazy. The neat thing about this game that separates it from Doom and Quake is the use of portals.

Honestly PREY felt like a much longer game the first time I played through it. I notice now that the game itself isn’t actually all that long (it took me about 6 hours to beat on this playthrough). There are quite a lot of levels but the levels themselves are pretty short. Back when I first played it there wasn’t an easy way to track how long it took me to finish it so I didn’t really think about it. I’ve noticed similar things happening with Doom and Quake where they are a lot shorter than I remember them being. There are about 20 levels overall though (which was a lot for 2006 so it’s certainly not lacking in content.)

PREY comes across as sort of a strange lovechild between Quake 4, Doom 3, and Portal. It has borrows elements from each game but it has some elements that make it stand out when you compare it to the other ID Tech titles of its time. If you have played the other ID games of the time you will definitely notice a lot of similarities though, particularly with the games interface and the layout/design of the games overall graphics.

Playing PREY again but this time in widescreen makes a very big difference in how immersive the game is. I was actually surprised that such an old game supported widescreen resolutions properly as I remember widescreen LCD’s were just starting to come out around this time and I (and probably most others) played this on a standard 4:3 17-19” screen. When you play it on a bigger/wider screen the sense of displacement is a lot stronger…PREY is one of the few games that I really have to stop playing in intervals to avoid getting too disoriented. I usually ignore the disorientation warning on the back of game covers but this is one game that definitely deserves the warning.

Something that surprised me after having played more recent games was how few weapons there actually were in the game. I guess that’s just how the old ID formula worked around that time. I remember Quake 4 and Doom 3 had a pretty limited selection of guns too. But you don’t really need a vast amount of weapons (for this particularly) anyway. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Max Payne 3, Borderlands and Wolfenstein TNO with the abundance of weapons you can store on the character at any particular time. Ammo for the guns in PREY is pretty bountiful and some of the weaker guns always recharge a tiny portion of ammo which will allow you to defeat the next bunch of enemies and find some more ammo.

Another thing that came as a big surprise to me was the size of the save game files. They really are pretty big considering. There are lots of saves that happen whenever you reach a level checkpoint, but each of these check point saves are huge and take up more space than most other games take up for the entire save game (most save games are 5MB or under). Some of these checkpoints are 20-30MB apiece. It’s not really a lot of space now, but back it when it first came out 500MB was a lot of space to be dedicating to just a single game’s save file. It’s still a lot of space actually…most games today are just KB.

The main character in PREY is a pretty vocal guy. Tommy is quite the opposite of the random silent marines from Quake and Doom. There’s a fair share of swearing in this which is a big change from most FPS games which had mute protagonists. Although Tommy is a very loud character PREY itself doesn’t have a particularly deep story or terribly memorable characters. There is the supernatural realm which was a nice touch, but the story was pretty predictable overall and it was a very straightforward for the most part except for a couple sections which had really confusing directions because they barely gave you any.

As I mentioned above there is an alternate spiritual realm that plays a large part in the story. Tommy has connections to the spirits and supernatural abilities which allow him to navigate spiritual paths outside of his body. Using this spiritual mode Tommy can get to areas that would normally be pretty inaccessible. Amusingly while in ethereal form spiritual Tommy can still activate buttons that allow his solid body to progress further in the game. Equally amusing is that the ethereal/spiritual form can still take damage and will seemingly die if you jump off of a platform to a far distance downwards.

That being said you cannot really die in PREY which takes a lot of the challenge and suspect out of it honestly. That doesn’t mean that the game isn’t difficult or challenging (it can be at times), it just means that you don’t have any fear of permanent loss because you get dropped out of the spiritual realm more or less right back where you died (and the boss you were fighting will still be at the same amount of life they were when you died). Bioshock did something pretty similar to this with the Vita chambers (although the enemies did regenerate iirc) and the cell shaded Prince of Persia in 2009 also did this. A lot more games might do this now, but when this came out it was pretty rare for this kind of thing to happen.

There are two health meters. One for the normal Tommy and another health gauge meter which collected and stored spirit health that his ethereal form used. The spiritual form also drained the meter when arrows were fired (I guess the arrows are pure manna). When you died you were sent to a special realm where angry spirits surrounded you and there was a timer for you returning to your real body. While the timer counted down you were able to shoot blue and red spirits and if you hit one that would determine how much of each gauge would be refilled when you returned to the real world.

Tommy has a spiritual hawk that appears to guide him through the game. The hawk is connected to his spiritual awakening and will often rest near or on important objects or hover around places that you have to go next. It was a nice addition. It really helped make the game a lot less complicated by giving you hints as to where you had to go next or what button you had to activate to continue. Honestly the game isn’t really all that complicated to begin with and is usually straight forward but there can be some frustrating moments (especially when the portals are involved).

PREY attracted some controversy when it first released because they get rather suggestive with some of the alien orifices. As enemies are constantly popping out of them you probably won’t spend much time studying them, but unless you are a child it will probably be pretty obvious what they are hinting at.

This was one of the few games of the time to have spaceships that were controllable. Most of the other FPS games at the time just had fixed gun emplacements (often on moving trains/cars) but rarely did they give free floating player controlled vehicles. It’s really fun to use the small spaceships and you will probably get a slight nostalgic feeling if you have played Descent or any other old school flight sim.

The portals in PREY are what really set it apart from its other 2004-2005 FPS bretheren. It is one of the only games I’ve seen try to introduce portals and actually do a pretty good job of it. The game also introduced controllable gravity wells that would allow the player to completely reorient the room and the boxes and items would drift around with fun physics to match the way the room had been tilted. Sadly you cannot create portals at will like you can in Valve’s Portal, but the portals that are available work very well and you can have a lot of fun with them (even though they are stationary) if you get a bit creative. Guns shot into one end of the portal will come out on the other side and will hit anything that is standing in front of it on the other end. Sometimes the portals would only be accessible after flipping the room and the gravity many times, or sometimes the portals would be floating upside down on the roof and you would come out through the other portal still upside down in a different area of the level. While it was often pretty disorienting it was also very fun.

PREY is another one of the games that has unfortunately been removed from the steam store, but you can still buy it from other places (probably very cheaply too) and then redeem the key on steam. I got it used off of Ebay for under $5. It doesn’t get much support (nor online saving although many other 2k/ID games do) which is a bit odd but you shouldn’t have many problems as the game works excellently on both XP and Windows 7. It doesn’t have any higher requirements than Doom 3 or Quake 4 do, so you really shouldn’t have any problems playing it unless you are still running on a 6800 GTX or under.

It does have a multiplayer element but the servers have long since been shut down so I can’t really comment on that aspect of the game. I guess it would have been comparable to Quake Wars, Doom 3, or Quake 3 multiplayer.

PREY ends on a high note but even though it says PREY will return…well still waiting for a sequel over 10 years later. PREY 2 is kind of in development hell so it will probably still be quite a while until any kind of proper sequel arises and it will likely be very different from the base counterpart.

This game branched off from the standard/typical FPS formula and it tried to do a bunch of new things that I thought were pretty cool, but it seems it wasn’t all that well received and it tends to cater to more of a niche market. It is one of the few games I can think of that managed to mix FPS and portals well. If you love Doom and Quake but want a bit more sci fi element or you have a strong desire to flip around with portals and shoot things will standing on the roof upside down then definitely check this out.

 

 

 

 

 

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~ by kain243 on January 18, 2016.

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