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Prey Review 277

Posted by Zonk
from the little-game-of-aliens-and-indians dept.
Built with the Doom 3 engine and touting numerous innovations on the First Person Shooter genre, Prey is a study in contradictions. While it delivers on many interesting twists and environmental elements, the low difficulty and hackneyed character design drains some of the novelty from the experience. Despite frustratingly similar corridors and brain-dead enemies, the quality of the innovation somehow combines with the touchstones of retro-gaming to create that ephemeral quality: fun. Much better than Doom 3, and with the new-car smell that Quake 4 was lacking, Prey is a fully functional refit of the corridor-shooter genre. Read on for my impressions of Human Head's latest.
  • Title: Prey
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Developer: Human Head Studios
  • System: PC (360)
A reader of 2003's Masters of Doom would already know that id software was based, briefly, out of Madison, Wisconsin. The inclement weather sent Carmack and co. packing for balmier climes, but there are still fingerprints on the city from that brief period. Raven Software is probably the best-known developer in town, with hits like Jedi Knight II to their name. Human Head is a smaller developer, but no less talented. They are a combination table-top gaming and computer gaming studio, and their completion of Prey some nine years after it was first shown to the gaming press is nothing short of extraordinary. While staying true to the thin gameplay elements shown those many years ago, Prey carries an obvious vision from its new handlers.

Prey promises a lot in the way of unique experiences and subtle tweaks on classic genre tropes. It's a shooter where you kill aliens - but instead of a tough-as-nails marine you're a young ex-army guy from a Native American reservation. Snatched from a bar with your grandfather and girlfriend, you don't care about saving the world; you just want to free her and go home. You haven't undergone genetic engineering or cybernetic enhancement to gain your special powers: you tap into the spiritual reservoir your grandfather reveals to you. 'Portal' technology moves you seamlessly from place to place, and the laws of gravity are subject to negotiation.

Instead of the protagonist's racial background being a footnote, or something you only find in the manual, Human Head brings a version of Native American spirituality to the fore by tying it directly into gameplay elements. Tough-guy Tommy doesn't believe in 'that crap' when the game starts, but soon enough he's leaving his body to walk about as a being of pure spirit (which comes in mighty handy around auto-turrets). This 'out of body' experience means that, for all intents and purposes, Tommy can't die. When you do deplete your health bar, instead of reloading the game you're taken to a grim-looking plateau and given the chance to fight for your life. Your spirit-bow is quite adept at taking out the bad spirits surrounding the place, and every one you destroy returns a little health or spirit energy. After a set time span, you're sucked back down and out into the living world to face your foes again. It was great not having to worry about saving and reloading, but after the third or fourth time the simple shoot-the-spirits game got a little old. It would have been great if the spirit world had become a tougher place further into the game. And while the occasional chat with your dead grandfather was enjoyable from a plot perspective, the lack of gameyness to your trips into ancient New Mexico disappointed. The designers took us on an in-game spiritual journey, but there was very little to actually 'do' as that journey progressed.

While there are spirits in the game, most of the shiny comes from alien technology. Portals are a great tweak to time and space, and already look like they're going to be a permanent fixture in FPS gaming. Opponents and some simple switches can throw open oval passageways to 'someplace else'. Not just a loading gimmick or gag, the portals physically link areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Early in the game they do a bit of showing off by walking you past a glass box with a small rock in it. You're left wondering what exactly it is, as it has no obvious purpose. Just a few moments later, though, you're stepping through a portal onto a rocky spheroid inside a glassy enclosure. It's a cheap trick, but effective at getting across the technology's potential. The gravity flipping trick is a more straightforward puzzle element, requiring you to alternate the orientation of 'down' in order to gain access to various surfaces in a room. In most cases it's fairly simple to see what's going on, but there are several great Escher-esque moments that require you to exercise your three dimensional thinking skills. The 'undying protagonist', gravity-flipping, and already adopted-portals are all great gimmicks, and I find myself actually hoping that I'll be seeing copycat game mechanics in future FPS titles.

Unfortunately, the overall vision of the game falls somewhat short of the greatness it was striving for. The techno-organic (read: drawn on a trapper-keeper) motif that your surroundings and enemies display begins to look exactly like every other game made with the Doom 3 engine after you've killed your tenth identical bad guy. So far, every game we've seen made with this technology have been visually arresting, but more or less artistically bankrupt. Prey, at least, takes the gooey look to its fullest; many of your weapons are actually alive, and some were formerly pieces of enemies. As you're walking along, your weapon might hiss at you menacingly. This little touch is so clever and appreciated that it makes the boring sameness of the enemies and corridors that much more drab.

Even more frustrating is the ease with which most veteran FPS players will complete this title on 'Regular' mode. There's a solid fifteen hours or so of gameplay here, but for the first half of the game you're probably going to find yourself trying to remember what the spirit world looks like. The second half is more challenging, but only at a level the first half should have ramped up to. That said, I would far and away rather games be too easy than too hard; it's a lot of fun to finish a game and I think a lot of modern titles don't keep that in mind when gauging difficulty. The challenge level felt as though they were purposefully teaching you as you went; the integration of new elements into your knowledge of the game world was accomplished at a brisk but digestible pace. Just the same, once the game really got rocking I found myself hoping for more intelligent baddies to fight; not every bad guy can be from F.E.A.R., I guess.

Visually, Prey acquits itself well against its contemporaries. The Doom 3 engine is still a solid platform to wrap a game around, and the dark-n-moody atmosphere it fosters was fairly appropriate considering the setting. The 'generic alien squishiness' did get old after a while, though. Even more annoyingly, the alien designs felt uninspired on first brush and just kept hanging around throughout the game. There just aren't that many types of baddies to face in this title. While I'm not looking for a menagerie to start hunting me down, I would have liked a little more variety; the ground-level grunt was particularly boring. The spiritual children, at least, were interesting from a background standpoint. Encountered in a few choice areas, their creepy appearance and haunting laughter was one of the few genuine chill-inducing elements of the game. Aurally, there wasn't much beyond those laughing children to look forward to. Forgettable music and fairly standard moans and groans from your enemies dog your steps through the game. Weapons sounds were serviceable; while not anything amazing, they did lend a passable feeling of weight and power to your arsenal. My favorite audio element was actually the occasionally overheard snippets of radio broadcasts from Earth. Quiet moments could be spent preparing for your next run by listening to (real-life radio host) Art Bell receive calls from bewildered humans experiencing the alien invasion on the ground. The only real humour in the game, the vignettes were well written and produced, and well worth the time it took to listen.

Prey, with its retro-inspired corridor shooting and tired alien antagonists, could have fallen victim to retread gameplay and genre boredom. Instead, Human Head has managed to lift the simple shooter out of mundanity by give us some new things to see and do while we're mowing down generic baddies. A serviceable plot and a spiritual twist, on top of new-tech portals and gravity flipping, is just enough to make everything old seem somehow a little bit new. The 'classic' shooter is something I'm starting to get tired of, but with Prey at least one more title has made aiming and shooting fun enough to recommend. If you're a fan of the FPS genre, especially the early work of id software, you're going to have fun with the new toys given to us by Human Head Studios.
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Prey Review

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  • by neonprimetime (528653) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:28PM (#15771719) Homepage
    I personally prefer humorous violence. For example : WORMS!!!
  • by gasmonso (929871) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:29PM (#15771735) Homepage

    What ever happened to Co-op mode? That available back in the days of Quake and DN3 and was hugely popular. It was fun battling the computer with a buddy. Then for some reason it just vanished from most titles. I say bring back co-op mode and breathe a little life back in this tired genre.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
    • Serious Sam 2 had COOP. But it wasn't as fun as the COOP for Serious Sam 1 (first and second encounter).
    • by Retron (577778) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:40PM (#15771811)
      What ever happened to Co-op mode?
      Scripting killed it. Back in the day when the most dynamic thing happening was a door opening somewhere or a block falling down to reveal a passage, having multiple players crawling around blasting things was easy enough to support.

      That said, even in the Doom days there were plenty of levels that would break if one player did something when the others were in the wrong area, such as sealing off the starting area so that when you died you faced a brick wall rather than empty corridors.

      As things became ever more complicated it seemed to become harder and harder for the developers to ensure that there were no catch-22 type setups and after Hexen II and (IIRC) Quake II it pretty much seemed to vanish from games, Serious Sam excepted.

      • Man, it seems like there should be a fairly easy fix for that. Every time you respawn, you respawn next to your team-mate (pretty standard) and the game should have a mechanic where you can press a key and warp to the position of your team-mate at any time. It seems like this would be decently easy to introduce -- especially in a sci-fi universe -- without losing much credibility.
      • by patmfitz (517089) on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:25PM (#15772146) Homepage
        Scripting killed it.
        Halo has a great co-op mode. When you get to a "scripted" point it just warps the other player up to you. Also, if one player dies he will respawn only if the second player is not in combat. This leads to a certain amount of cheese, because in a rough part of the game you can send one player out to thin out the enemy ranks, keeping the second player in a safe spot. Then when the first player dies, he respawns back by the second player. Lather, rinse, repeat until you make it through. For casual gamers this is a great feature!
        • Then when the first player dies, he respawns back by the second player. Lather, rinse, repeat until you make it through. For casual gamers this is a great feature!

          A "great feature" like that would only be appreciated by idiotic players not casual players.

          I don't know what kind of player you are, but suggesting that -any- sort of player would consider a game that encourages them to perform tedious borderline exploit tactics to beat the game a "great feature" isn't thinking straight.

          A "great feature" for casu
        • I haven't tried Halo's co-op because split-screen FPS gaming sucks balls. They should have included LAN co-op on the XBox version, that would have made it worthwhile to play through.
    • Well, not entirely gone... Half-Life 2:Episode I offers a sort of Co-op. Even if the co-operator is a computer, its an good attempt at a life life computer.

      I wouldn't mind seeing more of both human and computer co-op fps. One guy taking on the evil hordes isn't very convincing, but a second player/computer can help sell it.
    • While co-op mode in corridor shooters is indeed dead as 8-track tape, the co-op multiplayer is now getting some kind of return to fashion in family oriented games. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and "Narnia" are good examples of games with EXCELLENT co-op multiplayer (it's developed to a level in which single player can be annoying in some levels - you can just see that they were designed with two or more human players in mind).

      I feel you pain because I was always a co-op multiplayer fan. We just
    • Perfect Dark Zero offers an excellent online coop mode. It's probably the most innovative part of the game, but didn't get a lot of fanfare.

      In a lot of ways it's much better than the flawed single-player mode.
    • Wow, you mean you coudl actually cooperate with your friends without temptation to blow them away? I couldn't do it. Maybe I just didn't llike them as much as I thought I did. ;-)

      -matthew
    • What ever happened to Co-op mode? That available back in the days of Quake and DN3 and was hugely popular.

      I call BS. If you stopped looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses you'd recall practically nobody played co-op on the PC save maybe once out of curiosity. That's the reason it was dropped. No point spending the time to implement the feature if it's only used by a minute percentage of gamers -- that time was better spent on optimising performance or adding an extra level or something the vast ma
  • Timetable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IflyRC (956454) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:37PM (#15771794)
    From the summary: They are a combination table-top gaming and computer gaming studio, and their completion of Prey some nine years after it was first shown to the gaming press is nothing short of extraordinary.

    SWG was developed in that time frame...granted, it sucked - but still, it was a persistent, complex MMORPG. It takes 9 years to develop a first person shooter? Really??
    • No. The original Prey title shares very little with the one that got released. The major thing it shared was the portal technology which in the Quake 1 timeframe was really impressive.

      The original game was supposed to put you in levels that contained just a couple of very intelligent and difficult AI characters. You were their prey if I recall correctly.
    • Re:Timetable (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:07PM (#15772020) Homepage Journal
      It takes 9 years to develop a first person shooter? Really??

      No, not really. Prey was (wisely) shelved after the developers couldn't work the kinks out of the Portal Engine. The concept was revived years later, but running on a commecial engine (Doom 3) rather than on the original Portal Engine. What's amazing is that:

      1. The game came out at all. (This just doesn't happen in this genre; DNF not withstanding.)

      2. They managed to maintain a lot of the portal effects without using a Portal Engine.
      • Re:Timetable (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ant P. (974313)
        They do use a portal engine. Pretty much everything since Quake 1 uses portal rendering, even some Doom sourceports have it now. This is just the first time drawing it "wrong" has been made part of the gameplay.
        • Re:Timetable (Score:4, Informative)

          by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday July 24, 2006 @09:11PM (#15773385) Homepage Journal
          They do use a portal engine. Pretty much everything since Quake 1 uses portal rendering, even some Doom sourceports have it now.

          Portal effects and Portal Engine are not the same concept. Portal Effects are merely the ability to render through a warp in space. (e.g. Create a jumpgate that shows through to the other side.) A Portal Engine, on the other hand, is built with Portal Space (4 walls and two ceilings, even if there's no physical object at that location) at its core. Portal Engines allow for things like modifiable/destructable terrain and zero-cost for invisible polygons.

          Everything from Quake to Doom 3, however, is still based on the concept of pre-generating level information inside a BSP tree. If you try to modify or destroy the terrain in real-time, you run the risk of rendering objects incorrectly. Worst case, you could slow the engine to a crawl.

          There's a good article on building a Portal Engine here [flipcode.com]. I think you'll find that it's stupidly easy to grasp once you understand the basics, but very difficult to build a complex engine on top of.
      • I think the Serious engine 1.0 (that ran the first Serious Sam game) was probably capable of the portal effects they needed, or very close to it. Some of the Serious engine demo components involved very very similar portals and gravity-bending effects. And that came out in, what, 2001?

        I think 3DRealms just finally decided to stop slacking and get some real work done for once.
  • by N8F8 (4562)
    Prey is so bad it's good?
  • by Cornflake917 (515940) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:38PM (#15771797) Homepage
    Do you have spiritual powers that allow you to see in the dark. Or do we have to download a duct-tape mod?
  • by ShadowsHawk (916454) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:38PM (#15771800)
    I loved the "It's so dark, I feel like I'm doomed." :)
  • by Enselic (933809) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:39PM (#15771804) Homepage

    Much better than Doom 3, [...]

    Off course. Carmacks' strength lies in designing game engines and renderers, not games. Most of ID's profits are made up of licencing engine technology to companies that know how to make games rather than the engines.

    • Uhm, that's pretty much all Carmack does. He hands over a new or revamped engine to the team and they do the rest, from design to implementation. I'm sure he has plenty of input into the process, but if you'll check .plan archives, interviews and the like you'll see that he's well into researching and implementing new engines and techniques before whatever id's current game is complete, or he's off in the desert trying to launch someone into space.
    • I've been saying it for years: id is not a video game company, it's a video game engine company. That's what they really produce and make money from. The actual games they produce are usually not very good as games, but they're excellent tech demos for really good engines.
  • Lack fo variation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <<elmuerte> <at> <drunksnipers.com>> on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:41PM (#15771823) Homepage
    Prey was fun to play. It would have been much much better if there was some variation. Those aliens visited various planets to harvest, but nothing of the alien planets were encountered in the games. It's was the same bio-tech space ship every level.
    Another things that was to bad was the lack of the indian trials, it was about to become interested to perform those trials. But it never happened.
  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:43PM (#15771831) Homepage Journal

    I kinda wish game reviewers would start including this information in the review. It sounds like a neat game, but I have one very simple requirement before I'll buy another PC game:

    It must run without the CD in the drive.

    I wish reviewers would include information on how the copy protection is on these games. If I had known that WarCraft III would find a way to kill my CD drivers, I'd never have bought it. (Seriously, I had to reinstall Windows to regain access to my CD drives.) I'm sick of putting up with video games that require the CD for no good reason, and am simply furious at the games that attempt to install driver-level code.

    Can Slashdot reviews please start containing information on how the game handles copy protection? I'm willing to put up with registration keys and online activation. I'm not willing to put up with having to have the CD in the drive just to run the game.

    Prey sounds like it's a game I might be interested in playing - assuming that the copy protection isn't too severe.

    • You know, I've noticed a simple work around for most games that require the CD be in the drive (Rise of Legends, C&C:Generals, others.) After the game is loaded to main menu, I eject the CD. Runs fine without the CD.
      • You know, I've noticed a simple work around for most games that require the CD be in the drive (Rise of Legends, C&C:Generals, others.) After the game is loaded to main menu, I eject the CD. Runs fine without the CD.

        That is not a work around since you still initially need the CD. Of course if you do a full install it won't need to access the CD except for the initial validation.
      • You know, I've noticed a simple work around for most games that require the CD be in the drive (Rise of Legends, C&C:Generals, others.) After the game is loaded to main menu, I eject the CD. Runs fine without the CD.

        That's not really an improvement. I still have to dig up the disc to start the game in the first place.
    • I just want to make sure Prey is NOT using StarForce. I absolutely refuse to buy or play any game that uses that malware. Can anyone confirm this? Thx.
    • SecuROM v7 (Score:3, Informative)

      by emarkp (67813)
      That's at least how it's reported.
    • Just get the latest NoCD or NoDVD hack from gamecopyworld.com

      It's what I have been doing since the first UT (well not from gamecopyworld back then) decided it didn't like my CD drive and I got no response from epic (I think).

    • You can take solace in the fact that 3DR will remove the CD protection [3drealms.com] in a future patch. No word when the plan on doing that though.

      or you could download Prey via Triton [playtriton.com], and have no need for a CD whatsoever

    • The Xbox 360 version requires the DVD in the drive to play. ;)
    • Am I the only one who still wonders why they do this crap? No copy protection(I don't count things like WoW which work by associating a key with an account and are on-line only) ever developed has ever stopped the game from being pirated, usually before official release. So why do they bother. The best form I ever saw was the old way of having symbols in the manual, less effective now that we have access to really nice scanners and printers, but at least as effective as securerom and whatnot, and I'm sure t
  • by spyrochaete (707033) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:44PM (#15771842) Homepage Journal
    The voice acting and characterization are really strong in this game, and these elements really help to bring credibility and immersiveness to the experience. In a genre of famously mute protagonists it's really nice to BE such an expressive guy for once.

    Play the demo and you'll see what I mean. You'll agree with me 110% when you hear him say "Nasty!" near the beginning!
  • too hard is bad? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crabpeople (720852)
    "That said, I would far and away rather games be too easy than too hard;"

    Um where I'm from, the harder a game is the *better* it is. I read that line and the one about 15 hours of gameplay and thought, wow.. this is why i dont play offline games. I was going to download this game even, on account of the trailers, but now im not so sure. What kind of game reviewer thinks that a game being easy is a positive point? Easy to understand, easy to get the hang of sure, but easy puzzles? easy fighting? sounds lame
    • by ShadowsHawk (916454) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:53PM (#15771911)
      The reason a game like this appeals to some people is that they don't have to sink 100+ hours into it. Not all of us have unlimited time to fine tune our 'skills'.
      • by gknoy (899301)
        Agreed. I'd mod you up, but I want to reply with an example.

        Halo for PC. I played it through on normal (or was it easy?) difficulty. Awesome game, excellent story. As I played, I got better, and decided to play it again on Legendary.

        Wow. Big difference; lots and LOTS of reloads. It became more a game of "survive this checkpoint and reload till you get the next". I eventually got to the point where it was TOO HARD. I could NOT beat the initial fight on the Truth and Reconciliation ship (after taking
        • Halo for PC.

          Halo for X-Box. Same result. I managed to work my way through on Legendary, but because of my stupid hard-headedness. The game wasn't fun, it was just hard. Though, after so many hours on it (often multiple hours to get to the next 5 minute checkpoint), I could run through the entire game on easy in about an hour. I tried legendary with two people on cooperative, but it's even harder. There are a couple scenes we never got past. It sucks when both players run out of ammo and the enemy s
        • Halo isn't the best example because the 'Legendary' AI in Halo is pretty obviously, for anyone thats played it who doesn't kneel at the altar of Halo, primarily a wallhacking, aimbotting, rate-of-fire increasing mod for the enemies. If you're out in the open for more than a few seconds, you're dead, because they just don't miss, and they lead perfectly.

          SOF2 did EXACTLY the same thing; it totally raped you with it's cheating AI, and yet everyone panned that game for being too hard. Halo does it, and it's the
    • You must have LOVED playing Battletoads.
    • by ChaosDiscord (4913) * on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:42PM (#15772248) Homepage Journal
      Um where I'm from, the harder a game is the *better* it is.

      I trust you're a big fan of NetHack, because by that standard it is possibly the perfect game. *

      Harder is not in and of itself better. As Zonk notes it's not that easy is better than hard, it's that too easy is better than too hard. "Too hard" means "I have no hope of finishing it," or maybe "I've got better things to do than replaying the same 5 minutes of game for the next month until I'm good enough to move on." That's not fun, it's just frustrating. At least with the too easy option I can see the story play out and look at the pretty graphics if I'm into it. Depending on the game, I may be able to add my own limitations that make the game harder ("No grabbing health packs," "Only use the pistol," "No building tanks.") If the game is too hard, I'm just done.

      Of course, ideally the game is Just Right, hard enough that I feel challenged, but easy enough that I beat it before I get pissed off and give up. Of course how difficut that is varies from person to person, making it a tough balancing act.

      (* NetHack is a brilliant game, but is because of the depth of gameplay, not because it's so brutal that it's self selected to a very small community.)

      • Indeed - there are always ways to make a "too easy game" fun! I played Quake 4 through, and thought "too easy, gameplay too simple". Played it again on the hardest difficulty, and the gameplay was far more interesting, as you had to use the environment and protect your teammates, but still sort of easy. So I played it again using only the peashooter - *that* was a *blast*.

        FarCry on the other hand I played on some high difficulty setting and it just sucked. Played it again recently on the default difficu
    • Consider QuakeII. Stupidly easy, yet really fun to play (especially in coop mode!). Run through the game in like an hour with your friends... lots of fun! (who cares for challenges?, it's entertainment!)
    • From where I'm fun, "hard" is realitive and not an indicator of quality play. For the legions who play The Sims, hard isn't even in the equation and yet a fun game. Reguardless, the key for games is to present a challenge a player can readily feel is difficult and yet conquerable. Game designers actually want players to feel good that they accomplished something, not punish by throwing them at a brick wall to slam against for hours on end. You can make a challenging and fun game that is 5-10 hours long.
  • My impressions (Score:5, Informative)

    by mobby_6kl (668092) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:54PM (#15771926)
    I played Prey on my PC (P4 2.6 @ 2.8, a gig of ram, and a 6600 @ GT speeds). Very smooth at max details and 4xAS in 1024x. From a technical POV, everything's fine, except for savegames. Thankfully they let you save any time you want, but the files take up quite a bit of space (about 300 megs from autosaves only) so enable the NTFS compression if you need/want. The other problem occurred when I ran out of space and it crashed while writing a quicksave. I wasn't able to load it, of course, but after deleting it even the previous saves refused to work for some reason. Maybe it is/will be fixed in the latest patch. Anyway, I'm not gonna write a whole review now, but just go over a few key points.

    Maybe calling it revolutionary is a little too much, so I won't, but the game featured a huge amount of refreshing ideas (portals, gravity tricks, immortality, and somewhat the weapons, and some minor stuff) but, as Zonk said, had its weaknesses in enemy variety and behavior. So, after finishing the game, I didn't immediately want to play again through the whole thing, but I did to take a few screenshots and found it hard to stop when I got to the place I wanted.

    BTW, did anyone notice the aliens changing the jukebox to JP when you return to the bar? Now a less rhetorical question: under what conditions does the Blue öyster Cult appear on the jukebox [imageshack.us]? I didn't think it was special when I took the screenshot, but it wasn't there the second time I tried.
    • I very much appreciated the BOC tune during the abduction (Xbox 360 Demo version here). Suggested to me that the devs were pretty cool folks who know that we appreciate a nice touch like that. It really added to the moment.
  • by WombatControl (74685) on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:11PM (#15772049)

    Prey is one of the better FPS games to come out recently. Unfortunately that's like saying someone is the best ukelele player in Fargo.

    We've seen just about every possible variation there is to the FPS theme, and the portal bit helps make Prey different, but what we don't really have is a game that really draws people in. The original Half Life did that. HL2 also did well in that regard. The problem is with the real lack of innovation in the genre - at the core the difference between Prey and every other alien shoot-em-up is a few tweaks in gameplay mechanics.

    The FPS genre is starting to get played out, and while Prey is a noble effort, it just isn't enough. The AI just isn't challenging enough, and the portals and other gameplay additions keep the game from being a failure, but they're not enough to make it memorable.

    I wish I had some magic solution for what would renovate the FPS genre, but I really don't. Better AI would certainly help, and more interesting art direction would also differentiate games from each other (why does every game that uses the Doom 3 engine look the same?). FPS titles seem to be losing their "spark" and maybe some creative title will create a new wave of innovation in the genre, and while Prey makes an admirable attempt to bring some new life into the genre, what makes it innovative tends to get overwhelmed by what makes it look and play like every other title in the genre.

    • I noticed that in the screen shots of Prey - "hey look Doom 3 corridors".

      Apart from Decent style play here and there, what I'm wanting is something akin to Return to Castle Wolfenstein which make the Quake III engine sing, and put in some nice mechanics. I was never into team-based shooters before RTCW, it's balance is really nice. Whenever the Doom3 engine RTCW varient comes out, I'll be drooling up a storm, but between member and weapon balance, there's plenty of spark left that hasn't been done yet.
    • The argument could be made that every book or movie that comes out is just a variation on a theme. Heck, they have names for these themes - action, mystery, thriller, horror, romance, pr0n....

      FPS was revolutionary when it first came out (Wolfenstein 3D, Ken's Labrynth, etc.), and it's definitely mature now. What it takes to make it engrossing is a strong sense of what's being aimed for. Half Life had a strong story (heck, you don't play for the first 2 or 3 levels, you just walk through the events), Serio
  • by MickDownUnder (627418) on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:12PM (#15772054)
    I was one of the first internet gamers, playing in the first Australian national competition contested by 12 teams, each game played 4-8 a side. I then went on to be a part of the first Australian quake team playing Japan.

    Since then I have found very little in online gaming that could possibly compare with that experience. Since then clone after clone of the original quake game with no innovations other than a little tweak of the graphics here and there has been released. Team fortress was probably the first and last (very obvious) true innovation for this genre. Every title that has been released since then has really only done one thing and that is splinter the online gaming community into smaller and smaller inconsequential parties, the differences between each party only being measured by the bank accounts of the distributors of these overly rehashed games.

    There has been far too much emphasis on single player gameplay, I find playing single player is a little like getting out the playboy magazines and locking yourself in your room in favour of meeting up with your girlfriend and then there's the same leap in excitement going from adhoc multiplayer games to organised team play (ie where each game you're representing a team with the same team mates).

    Whats more exciting throwing a football about in the park with a random selection of friends ? Or playing in a team in a large competion ? Anyone who has done both will tell you the thrill of playing with serious intent in an organised competition is far more exciting.

    Personally I really don't care about graphics or whether I'm a genetically modified army doink, or an indian. Once you're immersed in a real competition such subtlties are really of no consequence, it's a bit like the quality of the turf at a football field, it really doesn't impact on the intensity of the game play.

    What it comes down to is basically people in the industry know there's no need to really create anything new, they can just schlopp up the same old swill into the trough year after year and people will keep buying it. It's a cheap and easy buck and a shore fire way to make money, but it totally lacks vision.
    • Whats more exciting throwing a football about in the park with a random selection of friends ? Or playing in a team in a large competion ? Anyone who has done both will tell you the thrill of playing with serious intent in an organised competition is far more exciting.

      And which takes less of a time committment on my part? I LOVE single player because I can get in, out, and back to the demands of the rest of my life. Similarly, I'm not really interested in devoting weeks of time in getting REALLY REALLY
    • I find playing single player is a little like getting out the playboy magazines and locking yourself in your room in favour of meeting up with your girlfriend

      Yes, but I find multi-player games to be playing video games in favor of meeting up with your girlfriend.

      Single-player games are easier to fit into cracks in the schedule. They also fill a need for introversion. If I feel like playing multi-player, I go outside and play non-virtual. True, that may change as the body ages and becomes less able to get
    • Sure, being in an international competition is exciting but it really has nothing whatsoever to do with the game itself. It has to do with the high and the pressure of a competition of that nature. None of this has anything to do with the innovation level of FPSs. Halo is a huge innovative leap from quake. There's simply no conparison between the two. Halo is brilliant. I loved every minute of it whether I played single or multiplayer and I've played every FPS game worth mentioning since Wolfenstein.

      Y
  • I really liked the demo: It gave me a very good impression of the game (both single player, as multiplayer), and immedeately bought the game.

    The innovative gravity-shifting is great, and the other extra options make a great base for some fun mods/maps.
    Also funny to note is that the main weapon in Valve's Portal [xboxyde.com], has been recreated in Prey; Still a few bugs, but the basic idea (shooting an entrance-portal, then shooting the exit-portal) seems to be working.

    Also, last night I found out that Portal has be
  • I've been enjoying oblivion so much I hadn't noticed anything good was out. A friend had even mentioned it to me. Though, I thought he was joking. I went to the web site and dl'd the demo. Very nice graphics, mind blowing portal+gravity physics, easy to deal with weapons, and a good taste of the story pushed me out to get it. Oblivion can wait a week, and maybe a couple of LAN parties.
  • by kinglink (195330) on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:50PM (#15772295)
    http://www.3drealms.com/history2.html [3drealms.com]

    Yes, Prey was due out in 1998. This is 3d realms, and they finally released Prey, now imagine if Duke Nukem comes out this year. They'll have nothing to work on :(

    The funniest thing is that they tout portal technology. Portal is due out with Episode 2 of HL2, producing a more interesting a better version of dynamic portals made by the player.

    Feel free to laugh at meantions of DNF also on that history page.
  • by MagicM (85041)
    I just finished playing the demo, and I can honestly say that I feel ill. All the portals and gravity-craziness made me carsick.

    Awesome!
  • "I liked this game better when it was called Turok 2."
  • by Trogre (513942)
    Being based on the OpenGL Doom3 engine, has anyone tried the demo with Wine or Cedega?

    How does it run?

  • I Liked It (Score:3, Informative)

    by Silvrmane (773720) on Monday July 24, 2006 @07:56PM (#15773153) Homepage
    I disagree with some elements of the review - I thought the music was well composed, and suited the mood of the game perfectly. I found the character I was playing to be a likeable guy, with some funny comments to make as he makes his way around. Picking up the leech weapon early on in the game makes him comment, "This should rock some shit!"

    I found spirit mode to be a very interesting addition to the game play and strategy. Sometimes the gravity stuff seemed gratuitiously used - used for the sake of doing it - but in other places in the game it was downright brilliant, as were some of the portal based puzzles.

    Not one of the weapons is a "classic" FPS retread - no pistol, no shotgun, no chainsaw, no "nail gun". There's a rocket launcher of sorts, but interestingly it's only usable on a handful of enemies.

    I did find the game to be a tad on the brief side - it definitely left me wanting more. I replayed the game immediately in "Cherokee" mode. The primary difference between "Regular" mode and "Cherokee" mode is there are no health packs or health rechargers - anywhere. This difference forced me to play far more aggressively.

    Something else not mentioned in the review is that the game has a dynamic difficulty level - how well you play, and what weapons you favor has an effect on what enemies show up, how many show up, and what kind of ammo you are going to find in the ammo closets and lying around. If you think you are a tough guy, play like it, and the game will ramp up the difficulty for you. Something else that's off in the review is that the spirit world - where you fight for physical and spiritual strength when you die - does change in difficulty throughout the game, with more obstacles blocking your shots, and a tendency to not give you enough of the "kind" of spirits you need. The spirits will also attack you more frequently and rob you of strength.

    I never once got lost in the game - its very linear, which is odd given is decidedly non-linear architecture and level design. You will never have to guess where to go, or what to do. Some people might not like this, and enjoy a real brain buster. This game isn't for that. I solve quite enough puzzles at work thank you - I play games to have fun. This game is fun from start to finish, and I really recommend it to people who also look for fun from their games.

    [*spoiler warning*]


    Maybe I am a softy, but I really felt terrible having to kill off the one person I had been fighting to protect for the first half of the game. There was an emotional intensity both to the character's devotion, and his reaction to that event that made playing the second half of the game even more fun - I was on a trail of vengeance, leaving a wake of death behind me. Having the character yelling at the aliens as he slaughters them was a great addition. Kudos to the designers for making me give a crap about what was going on in the game.

    • ** spoiler alert **

      I sorta of like the fact you had to cap her out of her missery... but then they really wused out in the ending. It made no sense that your character was still alive ("It's not your time yet") even though he hurtled himself into the sun... and then the chick will just be hanging out in the spirit world waiting for you when you want to bang her. Yeah.....whatever.

If you hype something and it succeeds, you're a genius -- it wasn't a hype. If you hype it and it fails, then it was just a hype. -- Neil Bogart

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