Every surface bulges, pulsates, oozes and writhes, coils of giant alien intestine sliding over each other within glistening membranes and mucoid sacs. It's really quite revolting. Prey has swallowed the Doom 3 engine whole and regurgitated bilious goo that will stick to your eyes and keep them glued to the topsy-turvy screen until you've passed through its extremely alien world like a pepperami through a dog. A dog trapped in a washing machine.
It's very impressive how far the Doom 3 engine has been pushed for Prey. While the Doom legacy remains instantly recognisable in the awesome lighting and shadows of the mech-organic, sci-fi environments, occasionally Prey will rip a level open and show that it can actually handle very expansive vistas as well as the insanely texture-detailed corridors that the claustrophobic Doom 3 specialised in.
This allows epic set pieces such as the jumbo jet screeching through the centre of the alien Dyson Sphere, foreshadowing the later chilling crash site. When you imagine alien abduction you usually just think cows and rednecks, but the most impressive aspect of Prey is actually not the scale and detail of the environments, it's the scale and detail of the imagination.
SUCK IT DOWN
From the moment that you're sucked into the sky at the start of the game, along with your girlfriend, grandfather and chunks of the sleazy bar you were drinking in, you know that this is going to be a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.
And, just like a rollercoaster, you ride a rail through the alien sphere for the first five minutes as the abductees are transported into the core, soaking up the fear and confusion of utterly alien sights before being plummeted into the action, jumping your rail with the aid of mysterious alien rebels and continuing on foot (and occasionally roving space vehicle) to rescue your loved ones. Along the way you'll also be forced by peyote-addled grandpa to re-discover the value of your Native American heritage and spiritual culture.
AXIS OF EVIL
But never mind that, the real discovery is in squeezing through the next dripping orifice-portal to find a yellow school bus guarded by the demoniacally possessed ghosts of evil little girls, or a chamber where gravity walkways criss-cross walls, floor and ceiling in a tangle that would have made Escher go back to bedroom planning at MFI. Gravity is the tasty topping that really sets Prey apart from vanilla sci-fi shooters.
Throughout the game you'll need to navigate walkways that loop you onto the ceilings and walls and gentle puzzles usually involve shooting gravity switches to flip the axis of reference and allow progress past obstacles that blocked the original plane. While it's a gut-churning game to spectate, Prey plays surprisingly well. Gravity puzzles work as devices to slow down the pace of progression and add a light level of tactical gun fighting which helps compensate the entry-level AI of your mutant foes.
Disorientating at first, you'll soon get used to wall-walking and to looking above you far more than is usual in a single-plane shooter. For those who can still remember the distant origins of the shooter genre, it's like Duke Nukem crossed with Descent. I'll get my pipe.
But gravity is not the only trick up Prey's contorted back passage. Our probing endoscopies also revealed fantastic use of both portal technology and the spirit legacy of the Native American back-story. Rather than simply spawn more enemies from unseen corners, Prey opens impressive portals that allow them to drop in from other rooms and levels, so you never feel safe, even in a cleared room.