Now for some of you the 2017 Prey will be your first exposure to the series. That’s okay. I forgive you for being young. Not everyone can be as old as me. My first exposure to the series was in 2006 when it released on the Xbox 360 and I was in love. It was an awesome first person shooter with personality I haven’t seen again in years. It was reminiscent of games like Turok and I loved it. For those of you who don’t know what Turok is, an Indian who hunts dinosaurs….Do I need to say more?
(My Jam in the 90’s)
A Brief History of Prey
Now if there’s one thing we know about 3d Realms (old company again) is they had a very tumultuous time in the 90’s. Multiple games were being worked on that never released. Games were flopping, they had to fire people, it was just a nasty mess. Regardless though one of the original products was Prey. Originally designed to be a game where you were abducted and had to fight aliens, Prey went through a lot of different design phases. Remember Doom? Well Tom Hall, famous guy who helped develop doom, came up with the original idea and helped solidify that alien vibe. Tom Hall left about a year into the development to create IonStorm!
Which if you know anything about the history of Doom, then you know that Ionstorm died in a terrible fire that John Romero created, well and a lot of other reasons too. So after about a year the project “Prey” was scrapped and a new Prey emerged. Around 1997 it was decided that the game was going to take place on a giant space craft. You were going to play as an indian name Talon Brave who would be trying to survive against 4 other alien species. Really cool ideas here, right? Probably because most were in the 2006 release. One thing that was always kept was the idea of Portal. Prey used these portals to jump around from place to place, what wasn’t kept though was the idea of destructible environments.
(Prey Changed a lot before the 2006 release)
Unfortunately for the original version of “Prey” it never left the ground floor. Technical problems were plenty and the focus on portals in the game created a really big problem that the game designers couldn’t fix. Eventually by 1998 it was put on a hiatus and it wouldn’t be until 2001 that prey would have any work being done it. In 2001 the idea of Portal technology in gaming had become a mainstay and 3d realms decided to use the Id4 engine instead of creating the technology themselves. In 2005 they announced the game and in 2006 Prey for Xbox 360 officially released.
Why Prey Is and Was a Good Game-
Now if you haven’t played the original and you weren’t alive for shooters before this time period, Prey will seem pretty run of the mill. It’s not got super in-depth gameplay or even a story that goes much deeper than the surface. What it does have is super great characterization and an extremely well realized world, as well as a strict adherence to Indian culture. Prey in some ways is the weirder and more mature brother of Doom 3. Preys introduction is still one of the best intros of all time, introducing you to characters and making you care pretty quickly.
Prey starts with you as Tommy in a bar. You are part Cherokee, you have a girlfriend and a grandfather. You work at the bar, there are problems and then boom. Aliens out of nowhere, you are all abducted and now you are out there to survive and figure out what happened to your family. It’s a pretty strong beginning narrative. As you adventure through the weird alien structures you find pieces of the bar, like slot machines, and it brings to life that idea that an alien invasion has truly taken place. ITS AWESOME!
(Sci-Fi has never been so good, well in 2006 anyways)
Now obviously I’m not going to go and ruin all of the good parts of the game, because then I’m pretty sure that this article contradicts itself. The reason prey really sticks in my mind though is the gameplay and the story, but we won’t touch on the rest of the story today. Gameplay though was truly a merging of setting with good old-fashioned killin’.
Prey’s Guns Are Awesome
If there is one thing that I remember about prey it is just how impressive the entirety of your arsenal is. You aren’t playing with traditional pistols or assault rifles. Instead you are using guns that are from…wait for it….SPACE!!!!! These guns are awesome and remind me of what it was like the first time you picked up a plasma pistol in Halo. The first time you pick up a crawler, which was totally and rightfully creepy, you know you’re not in undisclosed Indian Reserve #1. You can take these creatures and then they explode all over the nearest enemy which hey, is awesome!
(Cute, Cuddly, and most importantly, EXPLOSIVE!)
The only traditional weapon is the wrench and it’s cool, but every other weapon in your arsenal is just begging to be used. From Crawler cannons to Acid Sprayers the weapons just sell you on the entire world and not once are you even introduced to traditional pistols or rocket launchers, it just fits. The coolest weapon though, which has become a cliche’ in years is the bow and arrow. Now yes I said no traditional weapons, but the bow is a spirit bow and this is what sets prey apart.
The Indian Difference
Now I’m not a deeply spiritual individual, and neither am I a deeply cultural person. My culture is white redneck, not much to celebrate there. If there is one thing that Prey really makes you believe though, it is that culture matters. From the moment that Tommy gets the ability to leave his physical form, you know this game is different. Tommy gets to use his ancestral spirit in combat and for puzzles. This means that gameplay gets extremely varied, very quickly. Every shot you make as a spirit can help Tommy out in more ways than one and it’s great.
(Spirit Mode is totally rad, if not a bit fuzzy)
You can also pass through barriers that you normally couldn’t and Tommy’s spirit shows up on the other side. Prey is just one part awesome and one part woah. The first time I played this I remember being so impressed with just how cool the ideas were. Oh and those portals that the original version wanted. Prey had that as well. You could go through portals to appear in all kind of different places. You would be standing in a room one second and then bam, you are on some other planet fighting aliens. It’s totally well done and is a blast to experience.
My Final Plea
When Prey releases Tomorrow, or 5/5/2017, I can’t help but feel just a little nostalgic. Prey was one of the First Xbox 360 games I ever played. It isn’t a perfect game by any means, in fact there are some parts that are just flat-out bad or poorly done. The multiplayer wasn’t memorable, but that was early Xbox 360 days. It may not compare to Doom 3 in its use of atmosphere or other aspects, but damn it was good to me.
The game is full of surprises and I have no doubt that Arkane Studios is going to knock it out of the park with the rebooted franchise. I just ask that everyone do one thing, don’t forget the original, because you are missing out on a special piece of gaming history if you do.