So, I found out that Prey comes out tomorrow, which seemed odd to me because I reviewed it over ten years ago. That’s a major embargo blunder, so I was about to call Aspyr Media to apologize when I stopped to consider that the graphics in the TV commercial I’d just seen were quite a bit better than what I remembered. I’ve since learned tomorrow’s Prey release is a re-imagining (corporate speak for using a game’s identity and pretty much nothing else), and would’ve known that if I didn’t have my head buried in Mac and Nintendo games all the time.
Is this new version coming to Mac? Well, not yet. It was developed by Arkane Studios, a company that shares municipality with Aspyr, so I imagine they’ve at least talked about a port during the big Austin Local Game Developer Softball League tournament that should definitely exist if it doesn’t already.
But why wait? The original Prey is available on the Mac App Store for only $14.99, courtesy of the aforementioned five-time ALGDSL champions: Aspyr Media. If you’re not sure what the game is about, here’s my review from 2007. Bear in mind that it was originally published ten years ago, so apply the necessary filters with talk of graphics and performance. Other than a few typo fixes, the only change is that my original screen captures have been replaced with newer higher resolution images pulled from the Mac App Store.
Game Review – Prey
By Kirk Hiner
Originally published March 4, 2007, at Applelinks.com
The good news with Prey is that pretty much everything that’s wrong with it is wrong within the first five minutes. This is important to point out because there’s plenty wrong with those five minutes. Seriously, this is the some of the dumbest writing in video game history that doesn’t have the name “Phantasmagoria” attached to it.
How bad is it? Well, it starts with Tommy, the bitter Native American who has spurned his heritage and wants desperately to flee the Reservation. He won’t leave without Jen, though. Jen’s his girlfriend, and although she loves Tommy, she won’t leave because this is where her family is. Where her job is. Her job? She’s a barmaid in a dive on the Reservation where’s she hit on and threatened by racist regulars. Okay, Jen. I wouldn’t want to leave that either, not when you’ve got to live up to the cliche of the tender yet strong woman who places home and family above all else.
Then there’s Tommy’s grandfather, who dresses ceremonially in a basically empty bar in the middle of the night and speaks only in riddles and can apparently predict the future enough to know that Tommy will need him that night, but not enough to leave the bar before the aliens invade. Or maybe he only stuck around to play BOC’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” on the jukebox just as the aliens appeared because he thought it’d be a pretty good joke.
It was almost laughable, really—the writing, the acting, the beating of racists with a wrench—but when this game finally kicks into gear…whoa boy, what a ride!
Tommy, Jen and grandpa are sucked up into a giant space ship, for…I won’t give that away. You’ll figure it out as you play. In fact, you can figure it out right now if you bother to think about it for a few seconds. Suffice it to say it’s very violent up in the “Sphere.” Violent, but not too well manned.
When Tommy breaks free of his bonds (or is he released? Hmmmm?), there’s hardly anyone around to meet him other than a bunch of dudes in their underwear. From this game, I’ve learned that the majority of men in the southwestern United States sleep in their underwear, while women sleep fully clothed. Could it be that women just expect to get kidnapped by aliens in the middle of the night and want to be prepared? Regardless, guys, at least wear boxers for us, okay?
Tommy quickly finds a gun and sets about using it in an effort to free Jen from her captors. Grandpa, I should point out, dies early and violently before Tommy’s eyes, and actually, Tommy dies soon after that. It’s true. It’s unavoidable. Tommy dies, and that’s where things get interesting. Tommy’s grandpa is waiting for him in the spirt world, and tries to explain a few things to Tommy. Does he listen? No. He’s been captured by aliens. He watched his grandfather die, he fell to his own death, he went to a spirit world, he left his own body and saw it floating before him, he was visited by a pet hawk that died years before, and yet he still considers his grandfather a crazy old man. Tommy may be the most dense and least likable character in video game history that doesn’t have the name “Phantasmagoria” attached to it.
But, you’re stuck with him, so soldier on. You will be rewarded. The first reward is the ability to wall walk. Although it’s confined to specific walkways throughout the game, I’ll admit that it’s pretty cool to just run up walls and across the ceilings. Disorienting, too, which the developers used wisely. There’ll be times when you’re on the ceiling, fighting enemies below you. It’s even better when they’re up above, as they come crashing down after you kill them. Wall walking is the highlight of the multiplayer game, really, certainly bringing a much needed fresh perspective to it.
There are also areas in the game where, by shooting specific targets, you flip gravity so that you can run across what was the ceiling or the wall. Often, this is used as the only way to get from point A to point B, so when you seem hopelessly trapped, you need only look up to find your way out.
The second reward comes in the form of the spirit walk. With this, you can leave your body behind to walk through certain barriers or across walkways that aren’t seen and can’t be used by Tommy in his human form. Although mostly used for puzzles as you progress, the spirit walk can be used strategically, as well, as it allows you to sneak up on or past your enemies.
Your third reward, although it does have its downside, is the ability to live forever, basically. When you run out of health, you don’t die, you’re sent to the spirit world. There, you’re given brief amount of time to shoot arrows at these red and blue wraiths that go screaming by. Shoot a red one, and you get more health; shoot a blue one, and you replenish your spirit powers. Eventually, you’re sucked back into a vortex and returned to the world of the living, picking up where you left off.
This is both good and bad. It’s good in that it makes the game more fluid. There’s no need to stop and save frequently, and you don’t have to replay levels after you’ve died because you forgot to save. The game flows like no other first-person shooter, and that makes a world of difference when it comes to keeping you in the game. The drawback is that, as a result, the game goes by very quickly. I never realized how much of my time was spent restoring games and replaying levels until I didn’t have to do it.
Or, maybe it’s just that the game isn’t all that hard. For the most part, you’re attacked by only two or three enemies at a time. They’re rarely heavily armed, so a bit of patience and some good cover are all it takes to make your way through the game. There are a few intense boss battles, but there’s no reason to fear them. Just die, go to the spirit world for health, come back, repeat.
Another drawback is that the action does get monotonous after a while. All of the levels look basically the same, with the same style of enemies, and you’re herded through them with little room for exploration or alternative paths. Pretty much everyone/thing you’re going to fight is presented early, and you only get seven types of weapons to use against them. This is fine by me, though; I never understood the appeal of multiple weapons. As long as they do their job, I don’t care what they look like doing it.
Speaking of looks, though, Prey does look very good. The graphics take full advantage of the DOOM 3 engine, the difference here being that you can actually, you know, see things. And despite the fact that almost everything is animated (the walls, your weapons…here’s an alien race that studied up on organometallic chemistry), the game played extremely well on my 2GHz Intel iMac with a 256MB graphics card, even at the top end of the graphics settings. Only in the wide open areas with multiple opponents did I experience any slow-downs (which is, of course, the last place you want them to happen). There are, by the way, many such areas, and they’re pretty gorgeous to see. Some of them you even get to fly through. The aerial battles do break up the monotony of the land-based fights, but after a few of these, you’ll find yourself growing tired of them, too.
Luckily for Prey, it was released at a time when there’s not a lot of competition out there. The laughable story and acting, the linear level design, and the fact that I’ve now had to add the phrase “space vagina” to my vocabulary could’ve easily caused Prey to be overshadowed by some serious competition. As it stands, with no other FPS games to turn to, I was compelled to forgive Prey its shortcomings and just sit down and enjoy it. It may not be a hit with the Call of Duty crowd, but fans of Quake 4 and DOOM 3 will find plenty in here to enjoy.
Just make sure you’ve got some pants on while you’re playing. You never know when you’re about to be kidnapped by aliens…unless, of course, you’ve been warned by your grandpa. If that happens, I suggest you take him seriously.
So Here It Is:
I gave Prey a 4 out of 5 at Applelinks. We don’t rate games here at Public Access Gaming, but I would suggest it’s still about that, and definitely worth a look. The Mac App Store rating currently sits at 4½ stars with 79 ratings in, so trust them this time. Aspyr included Mac to PC play, iTunes support and something called “casino mode” with this release…you know, in case space vaginas weren’t already enough.
Genre: First-person shooter
Developer: Human Head Studios
Publisher: Aspyr Media
Minimum Requirements: OS X v10.6, 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or 2.8GHz AMD Athlon X2, 2 GB RAM, dedicated graphics card
Availability: Now on the Mac App Store