Alien to good taste

Outstanding graphics (based on the famous Doom 3 engine), a decent story line and underlying themes of duty, love and sacrifice are admirable in a first-person shooter computer game.

prey disk 88 (photo credit: )
prey disk 88
(photo credit: )
Prey, a DVD-ROM in English by Human Head and 3D Realms, distributed with a 34-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP and a 2 Ghz Pentium 4 PC, for ages 18 and over, NIS 219. Technical rating: ***** Moral rating: 0 stars Outstanding graphics (based on the famous Doom 3 engine), a decent story line and underlying themes of duty, love and sacrifice are admirable in a first-person shooter computer game. But what if the realistic environment consists of slimy aliens that enslave humans and treat their bodies like meat in a hamburger joint, a plumber's wrench-turned-weapon that is coated in blood and a pulsating machine-gun with sinister claws that shoots organic grenades? It will get a male gamer's heart pounding, but it is also likely to turn the sensitive player's stomach. Geared to adults over 18 and laced with filthy language, semi-nudity and some really gruesome scenes, Prey should definitely not be played by minors. But since the age level on the box is only a recommendation and not enforced by computer shops, I fear this well-designed and addictive game will become popular among younger teenagers; I pray they don't see it. The hero of the story is Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic working on the Indian reservation where he was born who has no interest in his heritage - unlike his girlfriend Jen and his grandfather Enisi, both of whom are believers in Indian spirits (in fact, the ominous story in Prey is based on an authentic Cherokee legend). The game begins with Tommy facing his image in a bathroom mirror in the bar where Jen works and walking out to encounter two drunk customers whom he beats to a pulp with a wrench because they flirt with her. Within seconds, he, Jen and Enisi are abducted and sucked upward into a giant spaceship that serves as a cosmic slaughterhouse. It isn't long before the grandfather dies and turns into a spirit who teaches Tommy how to use his abilities, which include walking on the ceilings and walls. Although he can be wounded and killed, Tommy never really dies, as he turns into a spirit that takes him to places his body cannot reach and then struggles to return to his body. One of the disk's unusual features is portals - elliptical windows through which Tommy can be transported to completely different places. When you shoot into a portal, your own bullets may ricochet back to you, but from different directions. Note that if fast-moving video games give you motion sickness, climbing on glowing walkways that turn into ceilings and watching objects "fall" upward and other gravity tricks may make you nauseous. The enemy creatures that patrol the spaceship and attack Tommy one at a time - rather than the conventional en masse invasion common in first-person shooters - range from mutilated humans turned by the aliens into slaves; two-footed alien hound dogs, dinosaur-headed beasts that thrive on freshly killed bodies and well-armed hunters that pursue captives who manage to escape. Located in this hellish environment, Tommy is forced to hear Jen's disembodied screams and desperately wants to rescue her. Don't be surprised if after a short while, you'll begin to understand what these aliens are saying: They're actually speaking English (although without an Oxford accent), and if you listen carefully to them, you might find what you're seeking. There is no limit to the ghoulish visuals. One scene has a captive human's "Want to Go Home!" scrawled in blood on the wall, a sentiment that I fully shared from the outset. If there is a redeeming quality in all this violence, it is that Native Americans are uncommon heroes in this hair-raising tale, and their traditions are treated with respect rather than ridicule. There are Indians living on reservations somewhere in the US who will see Tommy as their hero and role model - let's just hope that they don't look for the nearest wrench to act out their anger and frustration.