In today's cookie-cutter video game world, developers frantically search for something to set their titles apart from the pack. They also hope for a breakout sales leader that might finance the swelling budgets of other creative projects. So, instead of your run-of-the-mill radioactive zombies, the creators of Prey have given us a Cherokee Indian who has to shoot his way out of ... an alien intestinal tract.
At the beginning of this first-person shooter we meet Tommy, a downtrodden Cherokee staring at himself in a dirty mirror. He's frustrated with his heritage and his dead-end life on a reservation. If only he could ask his beautiful girlfriend, Jen, to run away and start a new life with him. But before he can screw up the courage to ask (cue the Twilight Zone theme music), Tommy, Jen and his wizened old grandfather are attacked by aliens and sucked into a giant organic spacecraft.
E.T., Eat Home
No heart-warming E.T.s here. These UFO denizens harvest humans to be used as food or turned into freakish zombie slave workers. Tommy must figure out a way to escape his bonds and save Jen and his grandfather—not to mention, of course, all of humankind. And since the aliens don't want him to succeed, they send all manner of slimy, slavering creatures (with guns!) to hunt him down and kill him.
To cut through this multitude, Tommy acquires an assortment of bio-weapons, ranging from crawling crab-like grenades to insectile guns that writhe and quiver in his hands like something out of a David Cronenberg nightmare. Moreover, this stomach-clenching bad dream extends to the whole ship. Every surface is alive and membranous with huge filth-pumping intestinal pipes and puckering orifices that disgorge caustic streams of human entrails and body parts. All in the name of good fun.
And if battling through this feculent world wasn't enough, you must also find your way through trans-dimensional portals (that send you from chamber to chamber) and decipher brain-stumping puzzles. For example, on one level you find yourself caught inside a kind of gravitational Rubik's Cube that must be solved before you can proceed.
Speaking of which, the gravity elements in the game are actually some of the more interesting bits. You can shoot glowing pads on the walls, for example, and invert the whole cavernous room you're in. Elsewhere, powered gravitational pathways crisscross the walls and ceilings. Climbing these walkways can help you find your way around obstacles. But they constantly change the player's perspective and turn the playing field into something resembling a dizzying, multi-dimensional Escher painting.
Of course, this isn't just an upside-down puzzle solver, it's a shooter. And Tommy kills a horde of nasty aliens (over and over and over) and gets close to death himself (feverishly spewing f- and s-words, and abusing God's name as he goes). To survive, Grandfather teaches him how to tap into the "Cherokee spirit world" of his ancestors. From there he can shoot and drain the energy from floating wraiths and recharge his flagging strength.
The Same, Only Ickier
Blood and gore splash everywhere as Tommy battles his way through ever larger and more gruesome creatures. He even has to fight his beloved Jen, who's disgustingly grafted to a huge lizard creature at one point. Eventually his path leads to the Mother alien, in all her naked-from-the-waist-up-anatomically-correct "glory." And, of course, the door is left wide open for future sequels.
So, in its attempt to push the gaming envelope, Prey has, at points, flushed the envelope altogether. But, for all its bizarre originality, this game is really little more than a standard shooter with loads of disgusting bio-goop to wade through. Along with the M rating warnings on the box, Prey ought to include the disclaimer, "Periodic showers and a sanitary toilet brush are recommended."