Prey Final Impressions

We take one last look at the full build of this anticipated shooter in advance of its imminent July release.


Prey (2006)

After last week's Prey demo received such a positive response from the shooter community, we felt compelled to check out a more complete build of the game to see how the action will evolve over the course of Tommy's arduous journey through the alien mothership. By now, PC gamers have gotten to check out Prey's unique gameplay elements, such as portals and wall-walking--though Xbox 360 owners are, sadly, still waiting for the demo to show up on Live Marketplace (hear all those feet tapping impatiently, Microsoft?).

At any rate, we've plowed through a few more levels of this graphically impressive shooter to collect a new set of impressions, and we've got a new set of HD-quality gameplay movies to illustrate the experience. The developers at Human Head were kind enough to include all the game's weapons in the demo for multiplayer purposes--which you could also access in the single-player portion with the right command--and this may have left some of you wishing you had some new weapons to work with in the final game. We've at least gotten to play around with the leech gun, which can absorb different ammo types, including a previously unseen, extremely powerful lightning bolt-style shot that reminds us of the lightning gun from Unreal Tournament 2004. Not only does the discharge from this gun knock enemies back several feet, it leaves them burning on the ground for a few seconds when they die. Pretty satisfying, to say the least.

The enemies just keep getting bigger and meaner the further we go.
The enemies just keep getting bigger and meaner the further we go.

For those who remember the kidnapped bar at the end of the demo, the artists and level designers have populated the disparate areas of the enormous mothership with a lot of human cultural elements that have helped to remind us that this is a game about alien abduction, after all. At one point, you'll see a stolen jet liner attempting to fly out of the ship, and you'll encounter its smoldering wreckage on the ground sometime later. Another section of the ship has an entire school bus embedded in the wall (and you'll have to contend with the very angry spirits of some of its children, too). Those playable arcade machines from the bar in the demo have been scattered throughout the ship, too-- apparently, even the aliens need a little amusement from time to time.

The puzzle elements have been beefed up a bit as we've played through, too. We've encountered a number of passcode locks that required us to hunt down entry codes in various places (which we won't give away for those who are eagerly awaiting the game). The gravity switchers seen in the demo have also come into play in one fairly perplexing puzzle, in which we had to navigate a room cluttered with crisscrossing pipes by flipping it in all directions to reach the exit. Spirit-walking has also become more important, as we've had to use it to pass into areas we can't physically reach in order to move our body around by mechanical means. There haven't been any puzzles that were absolute head-scratchers, but we've certainly appreciated their addition to the core shooting.

You'll be reminded frequently during your alien travels that there's no place like home.
You'll be reminded frequently during your alien travels that there's no place like home.

Speaking of which, it could be our imagination, but we think that shooting may have been getting harder. As we've played, we seem to have felt the effects of Prey's adaptive difficulty system, which tracks your performance based on a number of variables and tweaks the strength and behaviors of your enemies in order to better thwart your progress. Maybe we're just running up against harder enemies (we are), but the ones we've already seen are doing a good job of holding us back, too. We've even seen some presumably scripted behaviors in play; for instance, we've had a couple of grunts deactivate a wall-walk track while we were on it, making us fall back to the floor and causing a fair amount of disorientation in the process.

We're only about halfway through the single-player campaign in Prey, but we've appreciated the good variety of combat and puzzle scenarios we've encountered so far. Will the game keep its momentum through its conclusion? You'll have to wait for our review in a couple of weeks to find out.

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