Rating: Rating Pending
Suitable ages: Teen
Studio: 2K Games, Venom Games, Human Head Studios
Platform: Xbox 360
Release date: July 10, 2006
Plot summary: Young Cherokee Tommy must learn to control his developing spiritual powers while saving himself, his girlfriend and the Earth from an invading alien fleet in this science-fiction, first-person shooter game.
Similar games: Halo 3, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Call of Duty 2, Doom 3, Quake 4
What is "Prey"?
Prey is a science-fiction shooter game developed by 2K Games, Venom Games and Human Head Studios for the Xbox 360. Running on the Doom 3 engine and featuring impressive 3D graphics, Prey takes players on a long, wild ride into space and beyond.
The game revolves around garage mechanic Tommy. A Cherokee, Tommy has just returned to his home on the reservation in Taliquaa, Oklahoma, from life in the army. All Tommy wants, though, is to get off the reservation and make a life for himself and his girlfriend, Jenny. Soon after returning, however, Tommy and everyone on his reservation are abducted by a strange alien mothership. Tommy, Jenny and the rest of his people fear they are doomed.
But before the aliens can put him and his friends to work as slave labor, Tommy finds himself developing mystical powers. These powers, he learns, are his birthright from his ancestors, and they're the only thing that can save him, his tribe and the entire planet from the aliens. Tommy must learn to use these spiritual powers and to speak to his spirit guide, a majestic hawk, in order to escape the alien's plot and keep humans from being turned into slaves.
As Tommy, you battle your way through a huge number of levels, both on Earth and beyond. The environments are incredibly interactive, allowing you to manipulate everything from toilets and soap dispensers to alien computers and weapons. The environment itself can even act as an enemy, with some alien walls and objects actually attacking Tommy. In addition to the many enemies you'll encounter, there are also a good number of puzzles to solve, many of which rely on Tommy's spiritual powers. In addition to the great single-player storyline, Prey includes a multiplayer deathmatch for up to eight players via Xbox Live.
Some video games are developed quickly and easily, hitting the market on or near the release date originally given to them. Not so with Prey. Originally announced in the mid '90s by 3D Realms, the game has undergone numerous changes and revisions, eventually ending up in the collective hands of Human Head Studios, 2K Games and Venom Games. Human Head Studios, the creators of the hit game Rune, handled the majority of the development under direction by 3D Realms.
Once in the hands of Human Head, the game underwent a number of changes, although 3D Realms did specify that the Native American mythology, aliens, space-bending portals, and the overall feel of the original storyline had to stay. The original hero, however, had to go. Talon Brave was a little too serious and stern, and Human Head Studios replaced him with Tommy, a more laid-back, down-to-earth hero.
In addition to the character and storyline tweaks, Human Head also brought in the Doom 3 engine, one of the most impressive first-person shooter engines ever. With a few modifications and upgrades, the two-year-old engine delivers incredibly impressive graphics, and the game's controls are solid thanks to a Halo-like control scheme. In addition to the Xbox 360 version, Prey is also being developed for the PC.
The story of Prey follows Tommy as he is abducted from his girlfriend's bar, ends up on an alien spaceship and then battles his way back to Earth while holding off an alien invasion. The storyline takes a number of different twists and turns, and before the end, players discover that not all the aliens are evil, not all the humans are good, and not everything is what it seems.
Of course, that's once Tommy gets around to accepting his role as hero. The official tagline of Prey is "Earth's savior doesn't want the job." Tommy is none too happy about being abducted or put in the position of stopping the aliens, and he lets everyone know it. However, Tommy doesn't whine through the entire game. Instead, he gets angry, and while he's not exactly happy about being thrown into the hero role, he does enjoy kicking some alien butt.
One of the most unique aspects of Prey is Tommy's spiritual powers. Weak at first, these abilities expand and grow as the game progresses, and eventually, Tommy ends up with some pretty incredible powers. He gains these powers by going into the spirit realm, an area that resembles his native Oklahoma. Here, Tommy meets his grandfather and learns more about his own powers and history. The first power he receives is spirit walking, the ability to project his spirit out of his body, which allows Tommy to move through walls and other objects. Spirit walking is also the only way Tommy can see wraiths, ghost-like aliens that can possess innocents.
Another fun ability is death walking. This ability shows up the first time you die. Instead of seeing "game over," when you die, you'll find Tommy in the otherworld surrounded by ghostly phantoms. Armed with a bow, Tommy must shoot as many of these phantoms as possible before he is pulled back to his body. The more phantoms you shoot, the more health Tommy will regain.
Besides Tommy, three other characters play a large part in the game: Tommy's grandfather, his girlfriend, Jenny, and his spirit guide, Talon. While his grandfather appears only to help him develop his spiritual powers, and Jenny is absent for a good part of the game (Tommy's main goal is to rescue her, after all), Talon the hawk appears during much of the game and helps Tommy battle the aliens.
Named for the game's original hero, Talon accompanies Tommy back from the spirit realm and becomes an invaluable asset. The hawk can attack and distract enemies, fly over huge gaps that Tommy can't cross, and even flip switches and activate controls. Many of the puzzles require you to make use of Talon's abilities.
The game includes a large amount of Cherokee mythology, all of which has been well-researched and compiled. The myths represented include actual Cherokee stories and symbols, and these myths and items are blended into the science-fiction-based storyline in such a way that the two very different concepts seem to fit perfectly together.
In the next section, we'll find out what the gameplay is like and what it takes to win.