By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
Tommy has a Spirit Walk mode which allows him to separate from his body and move along the environs in a way that enemies won't notice. But stay away too long and your flesh and blood body will be attacked. At times, you'll need the help of Tommy's grandfather, a wise teacher named Enisi. You'll have to give up the ways of the new and be open to the ways of the ancients in order to learn from Enisi.
You'll manipulate computer-like consoles to solve puzzles. And you'll eventually have a kind of space shuttle at your disposal, too. The hazards in the game are occasionally, well, disgusting. Growing in the ship are Vomiters which spew nasty acidic waste. Stay away: these things will diminish your health. The monsters, too, are gross and mutated. Meekly dubbed Hounds look like vicious skeletons with oversized brains, sharpened fangs and long, thick tails.
In some ways, Prey borrows its sci-fi innovation from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Where Alice went through mirrors and fell down rabbit holes to enter her worlds, Prey takes you through different environs via portals that sometimes look like black holes. Portals aren't there only for your game play. Monsters use them, too, so step lively. If you think you have a good grip on reality, think again. Not only are the monsters in "Prey" occasionally terrifying, the environment often throws you for a loop. And not only do you need quick reflexes to protect yourself, you'll need to think on your feet. Otherwise, you'll die. But dying is a kind of sweet sorrow. You'll be transported to a spirit world where you'll play a mini game with a bow. Kill the enemies and you'll be taken right back to where you left off in the game. What a smart twist.
While you wish there was even more story, you'll get a treat toward the end of the game. Here, the levels are packed with surprises and you'll be taken out of the usual maze-like passageways into some unusual, dreamlike gameplay.
One word of warning before you play: if you're prone to a feeling of motion sickness during a game, this one is going to make you pretty ill. If Doom is the roller coaster in the kiddie section of the amusement park, Prey is the scream-inducing, legendary "Cyclone" at Coney Island with a little of the turn-you-upside-down "Enterprise" ride thrown in, too. That's because in Prey you'll be walking on walls and ceilings. There are times when gravity seems all twisted or non-existent.
When you think about it, the game makers were wry and ironic when they chose the title. Prey is the perfect name for a first person shooter in which there's gore and a Mature rating. But, by introducing the spiritual element, the homonym 'pray' comes into play. You'll not only get into the mysticism and religion of Native American culture. You'll be praying you'll survive all the eerie things that come at you during the game.
Prey surely has some flaws, especially in its online multiplayer version on the Xbox 360. But at its best, it's like what Leary described in his 1964 The Psychedelic Experience. It "is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time dimensions, and of the ego or identity."
Urban Chaos: Riot Response
What good is a first person shooter, really? Is it like never-erotic masturbating just to get to sleep? I mean, is the real purpose of a shooter to calm you down and to relax you as opposed to the prevailing opinion that a shooter gets you going and makes you violent?
Those of you who peruse this column know that I don't really care for first person shooters. The reasons? First, we're in a fake war that I never believed in, and there's enough shooting going in that to last a life time. Beyond this, most shooters haven't changed all that much since Doom and Castle Wolfenstein. Even more, they don't have the full stories I need to keep my attention. With the exceptions of the Halo and Doom series, I haven't enjoyed a shooter for some time.
Having said that, the next two columns will be devoted to shooters that have gone above and beyond aiming, blasting, and running around. URBAN CHAOS: RIOT RESPONSE not only has a good story, it has an intriguing back story. Nick Mason has been sent to the Middle East to fight the never-ending battle on terrorism. He receives a frantic message from his father's friend: Nick's dad has been killed in a horrible gang attack. To complicate matters, violent gangs have taken over Nick's town, which is pretty much like the Big Apple, New York City. Nick is asked to return to the city to avenge his Dad's death and to rid the place of the marauding gangs. Despite the fact that you'll question how Mason got out of his military duties without snafus, you'll understand Mason's motivation to return and fight on his home turf.
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