Our friends from PC Zone take an exhaustive look at Human Head's incredible news FPS which appeared in January, issue 165.
Hang on, rewind. Did you just say that was called a 'sphinctdoor'? "Yes, that's right." So called because it's a door with an uncanny similarity to a puckered-up sphincter? Because it looks like an arse? "Exactly." Really? "Yup." Really, really?
Creating a game that features doors that look like bums has clearly long since lost its novelty value on Timothy Gerritsen, the human head of Human Head Studios, but he at least seems aware that it'll be something for the grandkids to be proud of. He even manages to keep a relatively straight face as he takes Prey's hero Tommy past a series of gashes in an alien wall that look suspiciously like lady-bits. A straight face that refuses to crack even when a malformed creature flops onto the floor out of one of them, gets shot about a bit and then attempts to fold back its previous home's meaty curtains with an avowed intent of nestling inside its moist innards to regenerate. Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls (of ages of 18 and over)! Welcome to the wacky world of Prey!
As you're no doubt fully aware, Prey is the reincarnated bedfellow of one Duke Nukem over at the formidable (if perpetually tardy) towers of 3D Realms. Once canned, now revived in vamped-up Doom-3-Engine-ovision, it's yet another FPS treatment of an extremely familiar question. The question in hand being: 'What exactly happens if a Native American mechanic is beamed aboard the mothership of an alien invasion with a bird of prey (who's actually a ghost), while supernatural ancestral powers are kicking off inside him at the behest of the spirit of his grandfather?' The answer? Easily the most intriguing and original single-player experience of the year. And the first game to have arseholes as corridor furniture.
Here comes the science part: Prey takes place within a Dyson Sphere. Which is a mass of collated material that hangs around a moving star due to gravity, physics, science and complicated things. For purposes of non-massiveness, Human Head has made its sphere as big as a substantial asteroid, which in Borg fashion drifts through space as an amalgam of technology and living biological matter (hence the fannies), with mischief and bloody sustenance on its mind.
"The Sphere goes from planet to planet, sucking people up and turning them either into food, workers or experiments that attempt to create a better breed of worker," explains Gerritsen, about ten minutes postsphinct-door hilarity. "You meet survivors from these different worlds as well as creatures who've become parasites - some things will attack anything, some things will come to you for aid, some things are just automatons working in the Sphere, while other creatures are actively working for the sphere."
So essentially, the Sphere is presented as a dynamic ecosystem, with its own foodchains, parasites, workers and hunters - yet also with a sentient voice (a Shodan-style female cut-glass Brit accent) who reacts to you as you progress through the game and go from one of many, many stranded
abductees all the way through to a fullyfledged, fully-armed nuisance.
Turn a corner and you may come across Fodder, small turtle-like creatures who creep out of the walls and maintain the endless bio-corridors of the Sphere, following interesting AI routines that might lead them to do things like scrap over a human limb that's been left littering a corridor. Alternatively, you might come across Hunters (essentially the antibodies of the system), blasting away above their heads at one of the jellyfish-like creatures who float around the sphere - gnawing at it with their acidic gastric juices. It's a lot like being inside the giant world-eating Unicron (as voiced by Orson Welles, fact-fans) in The Transformers: The Movie. The Human Head mission is to make you believe that you're one insignificant soul lost in a mammoth organism - although of course, you won't be entirely alone.