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Aspyr Media
Release Date

January 11, 2007 | Michael Miller

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Let me re-emphasize wits, actually, because this is where I get to return to the topic of engines and what they can and cannot do. Prey sets out to accomplish a number of things that might induce nausea, disorientation, and vertigo, but are primarily geared towards changing how you approach puzzles and combat.

Flipping the gravity of any given area means that the wall, or the ceiling, can suddenly become your floor. An obvious statement, to be sure, but realize this: it forces you to understand your puzzles, and your combat maneuvers not just in a traditional up down, forward and side to side perspective, but in a full three dimensions. Enemies can be coming from any angle, you might be forced to spot them and engage from any possible field of vision, methods for navigating the room can suddenly change themselves with the abruptness of an optical trick revealing itself to your brain. Imagine walking along a catwalk and as you reach the end, and prepare to jump, you discover that the gravity has reversed and you have flipped around to be walking on what was once the bottom of catwalk; the entire room simply reverses itself in terms of perspective. And enemies that you shoot? Don't be surprised if they suddenly start falling up to the ceiling, to drape themselves against some boxes there. Or fall sideways against the wall. If there is one thing that Prey seems intent on teaching you it's that the concept of 'up' and 'down' are very much a matter of perspective.

This allows for any number of new combat difficulties, but potentially new opportunities as well - I spotted an enemy walking on the same gravity pathway that I was at one point, and quietly slipped out of my body. The spirit is not subject to the gravitational effects of some fields, so I dropped softly down next to the control panel controlling the walkway. With a ghostly flip of the swtiched, the gravity to the walkway was turned off and my enemy plummeted to his death. Along with my body, of course, which I had somehow failed to consider, but that is beyond the point.

And then, you get to combine that with portals. Games have, for eons now, used 'gateways' as a method of transporting you to a new map, or a new place on the map. The way Prey engages Portals, however, is to actually transport you to a physically (um, in game terms, not in reality, sorry to disappoint) different place within the same level. For example, what used to be a tiny location can suddenly be a place you have warped in to, and it's a compelete area for you to explore, even though all that's changed is your perspective. This is the example used early on in the game, and almost everyone talks about it. You enter a room that has a small glass box standing on a pedestal, inside of which is a suspended a small sphere. On the sphere ther are two small structures that look like goalposts on a football field. Mildly interesting and, outside of that, useless.

Now, the only way out of the room is through an upturned crate, on the open end of which you can see not the crate bottom but an entirely different area. Crouching down, you can go into the crate, the gravity flips and you are dropping down onto rocky soil. In the distance, you can see the curve of the horizon, and beyond that, a huge, massive room. With an absolutely gargantuan alien pounding and staring down at you, as though you were a small insect in a glass box. In the middle of panicking and running around, expecting to be squashed like said insect, one comes to the realization that all you are seeing is the room you were just in, and now you are on that - once seemingly - tiny sphere. You get to witness the alien open a portal in front of himself, through which you can see the sphereoid you are on, and the instant the alien steps through, he is in front of you, firing away in an animated manner.


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