Tuesday, August 08, 2006


2K Games for Xbox 360 and PC
rated M for Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudi­ty, strong language), $59.99 (Xbox 360) and $49.99 (PC).

So what exactly was the reasoning behind making the protagonist of the new first-person shooter "Prey" a Cherokee?

Was it some sort of reverence for this particular American Indian tribe? Did the game’s developers have Cherokee blood in their veins? Or did they just like the idea because, you know, American Indians are cool and spiritual and ... stuff.

I ask because there’s nothing so far as I can see in the game that draws upon actual Cherokee culture or mythology. Perhaps it’s squirreled away in one of the later levels that I didn’t get to yet, but based upon what I’ve played so far, the main character could have been Hasidic for all the difference it makes.

"Prey," in case you’re not one to follow video game news, has been one of the more heavily anticipated titles this year. Originally announced way back in 1995, the game hit a number of development snags before finally being given the green light by 2K Games.

With such a long gestation, the amount of hype that has surrounded this game is probably not that surprising. However, we must remember the No. 1 rule of video games: don’t believe the hype.

That’s not to say that "Prey" is a bad game. Far from it. But there’s nothing particularly exceptional about it either. It’s merely an adequate FPS, with only a few cute tricks up its sleeve to grab your attention.

The story involves Tommy, a garage mechanic living on a reservation with a big chip on his shoulder. He and his girlfriend and grandfather, as well as many other nondescript folks, are abducted by malevolent aliens.

Forced to fight or be turned into alien lunch meat, Tommy wrests himself out of his prison, grabs some alien weaponry and starts winding his way through the ship, looking for his girlfriend. As plots go, this one is about as old as the Atari 2600.

Thankfully, Tommy has his spirit powers on hand to get himself out of tight jams. With the press of a button, Tommy can separate his soul from his body, giving him the ability to walk through force fields and other troublesome obstacles. Oddly enough, he’s still visible to the aliens in this state and can be hurt by their attacks.

There are two gimmicks in "Prey" that make the game playable. One, the use of walkways and "gravity switches." These devices let you traverse ceilings and walls in true topsy-turvy fashion. It’s a neat little feature that isn’t really used enough to suit me.

The other feature is the "portals" — holes or doors that instantly warp you to another part of the ship. In one of the more ingenious sequences, you enter a room with an odd, small rock on display, walk through a portal, and find yourself shrunken down on that very same rock.

Neither of these clever inclusions, however, do much to dissuade you from the feeling that you’ve played this sort of thing before. "Prey" cribs a good deal of it’s material from the "Doom" and "Half-Life" games. Especially the rather high level of gore that’s present here (reams of psychosexual papers could be written about the game’s doors and other orifices that spew all sorts of nasty things).

"Prey" isn’t a terribly challenging game as well. Each time you perish, for example, you enter a spirit realm, whereupon you can head right back to where you left off once you’ve shot one or two winged creatures. While I appreciate the attempt to make things easier for clumsy folks like myself, it does make the game feel like a bit too much of a breeze to get through.

So we’re left with a mildly entertaining FPS that will please fans of the genre but not necessarily enthrall them. And if you were hoping for more, well, you forgot all about video game rule No. 1.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


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