”Prey”: Worth the long wait?
(2K Games, Mature, Xbox 360)
The plot: Tommy’s a restless grease monkey who wants to escape his Cherokee reservation with his girlfriend Jenny. His brooding is interrupted when our planet is visited by a massive UFO. As Tommy, you must battle these aliens and thwart their plans to turn the abducted humans — including Jenny — into mindless soldiers of an Earth-invading army.
Prey injects strong new concepts into the first-person-shooter genre, creating clever gameplay out of First Nations spiritual folklore. In addition to receiving aid from his spirit guide (a hawk named Talon), Tommy can also utilize his Spirit Walk, in which his out-of-body soul can wield an ectoplasmic bow and arrows to deadly effect. (The game also scores points for having Native American actors voice the principal parts. And X-Files fans will be glad to see radio talk show host/UFO-ologist Art Bell giving a running commentary on the aliens’ sudden appearance.) The game’s graphics will sizzle your retinas, and appropriately moody level design underscores the its sci-fi creepiness.
When it’s not busy blowing your mind, Prey will turn your stomach. Getting through many of the alien ship’s rooms will require you to walk on walls and ceilings — and doing so is a vertiginous and head-spinning experience that takes some time to master. And then there’s the sentient, biomechanical spaceship, with passageways modeled on bodily orifices that can spawn new enemies. And the gooey, vaguely organic weapons.
But there are less-nauseating splendors too — like the cool portal technology that lets players bend the rules of space and time, or the addictive multiplayer modes, where up to eight opponents can walk on walls and curved surfaces, sending each other falling to their deaths with the flick of a gravity-reversal switch. With an on-again, off-again development process that spanned more than 10 years, Prey had become something of a gaming urban legend. Finally, the game is legend no more — and we’re glad to report that it delivers plenty of otherworldly bang for your earthly buck. B+