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1 Reviews

Prey

11 years in the making 3D Realms and Human Head's extraordinary exraterrestrial shooter is finally here

As far as lead characters in shooters go, Tommy isn't a happy Cherokee. His grandfather's on his case, nagging him about his spiritual heritage, and coming out with some portentous gibberish about "needing help to survive the night." Tommy wants to leave the reservation casino where he works his dead-end mechanic's job, but he can't convince the girl he loves, Jen, to go with him. He's even got to the stage where he's talking to himself in the mirror, bless.

You've seen movies before - your spider sense for plotlines is tingling. We've got a moody lead character stricken with wanderlust and suffering from clinical cynicism. So you'll be utterly certain Tommy's going to be taught a few serious lessons about how valuable the comforts of home can be. You're probably also thinking that he'll be proved wrong in his belief that the spiritual side of the Cherokee Indians is a bunch of superstitious rubbish, too.

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Finally, you'll almost certainly be thinking that this will all happen either a) in a heart-warming comedy set in a pom-pom factory, or b) inside a mind-bending organic Dyson Sphere where gravity chuckles at words like 'down', portals hide in boxes and corrosive waste matter sprays into your face from every conceivable angle. Unfortunately for teenage girls but fortunately for the rest of us, it's the latter.

Over 11 years in the making, Prey's eventual release feels like the nervous hope and excited anticipation that you might experience at a safari park, when the man in the car in front gets out and punches a lion in the face. It's something you really want to see but things could go so wrong. Will the Doom 3 engine consign the game to a sensation of dark, corridor-ey sameness? Will the gravity and portal tricks amount to nothing more than gimmickry and smoke? Thankfully, the answer to both these questions is no.

But does it deliver that all-important sense of, "Ooh, hello!"? The shorter answer is yes. It's a tricky concept that could have blown up in Human Head's face, but they've managed to create a game that'll get different parts of your body twitching for several distinct reasons. But this heartfelt recommendation comes with a couple of regrettable qualifications that prevent it from reaching Classic status.

Prey grabs you by the mouse wrist, and is incredibly keen not to let go - from the moment your casino bar dissolves in a green fizz, and the radio interference subsides as Don't Fear The Reaper starts, chosen by an inhuman dime in the jukebox. From the moment you and your loved ones are sucked into space (so that's why they call it a Dyson Sphere... I'll get my coat), you're not left wanting for action or variety. Human Head have clearly sunk both balls into the honey pot of ideas.

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There are claustrophobic, pulsating tunnels of slime-shiny flesh, littered with sphincters that can burst with a sodden sputter through the floor tiles. There are open chambers where organs and stolen chunks of planet Earth overlap at unaccustomed angles. As you progress to the more civilised areas, the housekeeping's a little better and the flesh is contained in glass pipes filled with a heaving protein that glistens hypnotically with muscular sweat.

By now, you may have put down your Peperami - but we're not finished yet. There are also expansive mining areas with customary-in-these-situations views of a distant Earth. Oh, and then there's the mini-planetoids that you have to negotiate in shuttle and on foot, which have their own gravitational influence.

OUVREZ LA PORTAL
Gravity, of course, is one of Prey's big pulls. Wall Walking's just one way of defying the stuff. Wall switches can be used to change its direction, though sometimes it just changes because that's what gravity does here. But it's only there when you need it, and is not really employed as a tactical weapon outside of the multiplayer.

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