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New computer, new danger (pt3) - prey
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Poo Bear
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Joined: 14 Oct 2002
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Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2008 12:54 pm    Post subject: New computer, new danger (pt3) - prey Reply with quote

I heard that Valve were running a weekend special with Prey for just $5 - couldn't really resist that. I haven't played an mainstream games in a while, I've been enjoying the recent crop of indie titles. I'd forgotten that what my computer is capable of Smile Prey looks great and runs nicely (PIV-3.4GHz w 7600GT). I had to do a double take though, for a while I thought I was playing Doom3 i.e. same plastic shine on everything, same bio-zombie enemies and organic hellish levels. It actually seems to improve on Doom3 though, it isn't pitch black everywhere and there seems to be even more techno shader wizardry going on.

[spoilerish alert]

Silly technical flash bangery aside, this is actually really good so far (I'm about 2 hours in). The story and setting are silly, but it's so crazy it makes it quite a fun ride. You play a modern day native American who gets kidnapped by aliens (along with the requisite wise father figure and obligatory girlfriend who needs rescuing). After escaping confinement your father reveals your true indian heritage and you access your spirit side helped by a falcon spirit guide. Inside the ship there are portals everywhere and it's possible to change local gravity and generally do some really crazy mind bending puzzles. I thought Portal was the first game to do this kind of thing - guess not? The potential for getting lost (Doom3 gloomy corridor mazes) or just confused (upside down inside out backwards room portal gravity shenanigans) is huge, but so far skill full level design has avoided those pitfalls. The enemies aren't quite as dumb as Doom3 either, they actually attempt to hide now and again.

$5 for a game with this amount of development effort is shocking, I hope the developers were well paid http://www.humanhead.com. Worryingly the website doesn't mention any new project, no word of a Prey2 and I get the impression Humanhead don't own the IP, then there's the fire they had recently at their office (nobody hurt) and the CEO left the company saying "he didn't like the new direction they were going in". Oh dear.
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Poo Bear
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Joined: 14 Oct 2002
Posts: 4121
Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2008 1:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does this game demonstrate the evolution of the save?

Doom1 - save constantly, death is a pain.

Doom2 - quicksave button, just press F8.

Doom3 - autosave, now when you forget to save you only have to go back 10mins instead of 30.

Prey - when you die you play an easy 30second shooting mini game to decide how much life you'll reset with. No need to reset ever!

Is that actually a good thing? It helps immensely to get me through the game quickly on my lunch hour which is great. However, I don't fear any encounter, I just go in blasting not caring about ammo or damage. Possible consequences:

1. the game design is unaffected and as a result the game is over very quickly - the idea that you could make 3 times the content of a normal game to combat this is silly, you can't, not compelling content anyway.

2. the game is super difficult such that even with infinite lives it still takes as long as a normal game - could work, but I suspect it would just be annoying.

3. the game is designed more around puzzles and thoughtful decisions, shooting enemies and risking death is no longer an exciting option due to the infinite lives - sounds good to me, but puzzles are very risky as they can become a brick wall to the player. Tough enemies might just need you to go back get more ammo/health/weapons, but if you don't know the answer to a puzzle your stuffed. Some kind of hint system could help, but then you're approaching the infinite life problem all over again.

Prey certainly isn't doing option2, so far at least, it feels like a normal shooter with the infinite lives thing generally making it much easier. The portals, spirit walking and gravity features show there is a touch of option3 going on, but so far they've kept that at a very simple level (hence me not getting confused so far). So are they going to ramp up the puzzles, reveal an epic amount of content or just let the game end fairly quickly?
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Poo Bear
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Joined: 14 Oct 2002
Posts: 4121
Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[spoiler alert]

Finished it. Quite enjoyable. The interesting elements for me were the use of local gravity, portals and how that led to some really great level designs. Moons suspended inside hangars, with shuttles flying around, battles on the moon surface, portals here and there, upside down local gravity walk ways. A lot of really cool mind bending stuff. A tiny planetoid in a glass box on a table in a room, a portal in that room takes you onto that planetoid where a battle ensues, looking back out you can see the room (now huge). Huge chambers filled with gigantic alien machines that require the use of free flying shuttles to get around. Wonderful.

Not too convinced by the weapons though, you get an automatic rifle that has an alternate sniper mode, right at the beginning of the game and I was using it all the way through. All the other weapons just seem to be generic limited ammo high damage doers, something you switch too when a boss enemy appears, but otherwise ignore.

The story, voice acting and glorious setting all combine to create a wonderfully immersive setting that makes the game feel real and creates tension. This is then ruined because you're being asked to push buttons in a specific order that for no apparent reason opens the exit whilst the guards portal in one at a time completely ineffectively, etc. The usual FPS type puzzles and challenges. It reminds you it's a game. Being reminded you're in a game is fine if it's an abstract or fun setting, but when something is trying to be immersive and realistic (within its own setting) then it becomes a problem, but this is a common issue with lots of modern games that push realism. I think that's why Half Life succeeds, I don't remember being asked to do something that seemed unjustified or overly "gamey" that dragged me out of their world.

Anyway, good game, not too long at about 6 hours to finish. $5 is a crazy price for something that was obviously many thousands of man hours of work.
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