I’m still working my way through Prey. Not much to add except for a bunch of minor observations:
The thing with the kids was thankfully a very small part of the game. There still hasn’t been any explanation as to why the main character acquiring “spirit powers” led to the preteen poltergeists, and now I’m far enough past it that I don’t think any real answers will be forthcoming. It’s just this weird thing that happened.
I have all of the weapons now, and I’m pretty disappointed. Combat in this game just isn’t very rewarding. Usually the weapons increase in power as you progress, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Once you move beyond the most basic weapons (the wrench and the weak “infinite ammo” gun) the rest feel about the same in terms of power. Oh, one might HIT harder than another, but the various tradeoffs like refire rate, accuracy, and projectile speed all come into play so that no matter what weapon you use, it takes roughly the same amount of time to put somebody down. In other games I tend to save the heavy-hitting ammo for special moments, but there doesn’t seem to be any point to that here. (Okay, the elemental gun hits pretty hard, but has very limited ammo capacity, so you can’t really stockpile it.) I end up just using whatever weapon is full. I never have any moments where I think, “Wow. This gun really gets the job done.” So combat is getting to be pretty yawn-inducing.
On the other hand, the puzzles continue to tickle my brain. Not just puzzles, but simple moments of disorientation and amusement with the surroundings. At one point I found myself running around on the surface of a spherical asteroid about the size of a ten-story building. Due to the alien technology, it had its own local gravity which caused it to function like a planet. There were two such spheres, with sets of pipes connecting them. If you walked on the pipes in the right way you could leave the gravity of one sphere and enter the other. I don’t know why, but I got a real kick out of doing this. I made a couple of trips between them just for fun.
Moments like this populate the game, where earlier concepts and puzzles combine to provide something new for the player to do.
Inhabiting the alien spaceship are a group of rebels. They are people abducted from Earth centuries ago, and who have managed to form a small society living in the disused areas of the ship. They are called “The Hidden”. There is a running joke in that these guys speak only in movie quotes. Or nearly so. In the few instances they’ve said some non-movie dialog, it could be that they were quoting a movie I haven’t seen. If I go through the game again I’ll pay more attention to their dialog and see if this is the case. I can’t recall all of their quotes now. (I should add, the quotes all work in-context. They aren’t just spouting quotes at random. If you’d never seen any of the movies, their dialog would still make perfect sense. Or at least as much sense as anything else in the game.)
The main goal of the player (or at least my goal) is to find whoever is running the ship and kill them, preferably after freeing the surviving humans first. The goal of the main character is to rescue his girlfriend. He’s really focused on this. So I was pretty surprised when I rescued her (for the second time) it turned out she’d been horribly and irrevocably deformed, and had to die. I really didn’t expect that. While a sad moment, it didn’t have the emotional impact the writers clearly intended. I’m not sure why it didn’t work for me.
I like that the game has swearing. I never understood why games would be willing to depict blood-splattering violence but then have the characters saying “The HECK with YOU!” to the bad guy. I’m thinking back to Max Payne*, where the game had murder, hookers, torture, bloody gore, death of innocents, corrupt cops, a satanic cultist, and incredibly hard drugs, and yet the mafioso guys in the game were always saying things like, “Freakin’ kill that stinkin’ guy!” Prey breaks this absurd tradition, and when the main character gets upset he talks exactly like you would expect him to.
* I said before that I couldn’t recall another game where kids got killed, but now I remember that in Max Payne his wife and baby die in the opening moments of the game. THAT was a brutal moment. It made me physically ill. Still, I wasn’t offended by it the way that I was in Prey. I’ll need to think about this some more and see if I can figure out why one worked for me and the other didn’t.
Could Have Been Great
Here are four games that could have been much better with just a little more work.
Crash Dot Com
Back in 1999, I rode the dot-com bubble. Got rich. Worked hard. Went crazy. Turned poor. It was fun.
Artless in Alderaan
People were so worried about the boring gameplay of The Old Republic they overlooked just how boring and amateur the art is.
So what happens when a SOFTWARE engineer tries to review hardware? This. This happens.
The Best of 2013
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2013.