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Platforms: PC, X-Box 360 - Format Reviewed - PC
The F word – unless someone licenses a Gordon Ramsey chef-related shooter (now there’s an idea) it’s unlikely that you’ll ever hear it used more often in a game than you do in the seven to nine hours it’ll take you to work your way through Prey. The game’s foul-mouthed Cherokee protagonist, Tommy, dishes it out at every conceivable opportunity; here a “f*** off”, there a “f*** you” and on the side, a tasty little garnish of “what the f***.” It almost makes you wish for some Gordon Freeman silence, if only so you didn’t have to turn the sound down so low when anyone else was in the room.
But then you can’t really blame Tommy. Within the first hour of Prey, he’s been sucked into a weird extra-terrestrial sphere, his grandfather has been brutally murdered, and his girlfriend has been abducted by forces unknown in a manner that makes you suspect that they haven’t got anything too wholesome in mind. And Prey will make you feel like letting out a few expletives of your own, not because the game is trying or frustrating – it isn’t, almost to the point of fault – but because the sphere practically demands such a response.
You see, Prey initially looks like another corridor shooter in the Doom 3/Quake 4 mould; a fact not helped by its appropriation of iD’s HR Giger bio-machinery aesthetic along with the Doom 3 engine. However, it’s actually something quite different. In the sphere, Human Head has arguably created one of the great sci-fi game settings – one right up there with Metroid Prime 2’s Aether and Halo’s Covenant ships and Halo. And it’s not the pulsing, organic tubes, sphincter-like doors and – frankly – gynaecological imagery that make it so, though arguably they push in-game body horror to a different level. No, it’s the way Human Head has formed a world of twisted physics, huge spaces and colossal architecture, in which the phrase “this way up” takes on a whole new meaning.
It starts with anti-gravity walkways, where you can walk up the wall, across the ceiling, and down the other side. It goes on with gravity switches, enabling you to switch the gravity in the room with a single shot, so that the floor becomes the ceiling, the ceiling becomes the floor, and anything that isn’t nailed down falls accordingly. Then the game throws in its infamous portals; rips in space that allow you to instantly travel from one section of the room – or level – to another, or even at one point blast your own ass (if that takes your fancy).