I picked up Prey last weekend, when Steam had it on sale for a ridiculously low $4.95. I wish other old titles were available like that — I’d gladly plunk down $4.95 for the convenience of downloading Deus Ex or System Shock 2.
Anyway, Prey shares the same engine as Doom 3, and it shows. Stuff that would have been jaw-droppingly gorgeous two years ago now looks a little dated. However, I’ve got to say that in every important way, Prey is the game that Doom 3 wishes it had been.
For starters, the story, while filled with sci-fi cliches (and an odd plot twist courtesy of The Matrix movies), is light-years ahead of Doom 3’s. You can argue that plot and characters aren’t that important in a first-person shooter, but it can make the difference between an experience that feels like a tech demo (Doom 3) or a real game (Prey).
Second, while there are plenty of darkened corridors in Prey, there’s a vast difference in level design over Doom 3. (The lead character in Prey actually makes fun of Doom while walking a darkened corridor, sarcastically saying that he’s "doomed.") While I wasn’t a big fan of the fake boss battles near the end of the game, I never felt like the level designers on Prey were just phoning it in.
If there’s one fundamental thing that bugs me, it’s the space station that 99% of the action takes place in. Thinking strictly in terms of efficiency and engineering, how much work can get done on a station where getting from one side of a room to another can involve a puzzling mixture of inputting codes, turning the gravity upside-down and crawling through vents? No wonder a single human manages to take the massive station down… it’s a very silly place.
Still, Prey is well worth your $4.95 if it ever goes on sale like that again.