The Player

by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Prey, Rated Mautre, Xbox 360 & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n Prey, it turns out that the Native Americans -- well, a few, including my grandfather -- were the only people on Earth who were prepared to withstand the invasion of an ancient race of aliens. Unfortunately, the aliens attacked before I could leave the reservation. A few minutes ago, I was standing in front of the condom machine in the bathroom at the bar. Now I'm an escaped alien abductee running across the ceiling of a spaceship that's littered with the remains of humans who have been probed, dissected and partially eaten.

My grandfather is dead. He was juiced. But his ghost keeps urging me to take a more spiritual outlook on life, so I've learned how to leave my body and walk ahead of myself. I simply leave my skin hanging in the air like a set of clothes. Outside of myself, the inside of the spaceship looks overexposed and bland. But the souls of living creatures, even aliens, stand out luminously. They become perfect targets for the ghostly bow my grandfather gave me. One shot to the head and their souls are released from their flesh with a slurp. I'm free to return to my body and walk over their corpses without a fight.

The aliens themselves are bloated chunks of humans stitched to mangled insect limbs and robotic appliances. Their spaceship is a patchwork of blood, metal and weaponry. Mouth-like slits in ceilings spit out angry, praying mantis aliens. Quivering tentacles squirm from the ground like hostile stalagmites. Gore gathers in corners, even on the ceilings, which can become floors on this ship. Gravity, like everything in videogames and spaceships, is controlled by a computer. Prey often has me crawling on the wall, smearing my opponent towards the ceiling with blasts from a space shotgun.

In addition to waging gunfights that look like blood-drenched M.C. Escher paintings, the aliens also create portals -- floating round holes that look like mouths of space hanging open in space. Much more than special-effected doorways, Prey's portals are digital-only creations worthy of an alien race. Not only can I warp from one to another, but my bullets and acid grenades can travel through them as well. It's easy to see how the aliens (who hardly know how to shoot around corners, and who listen to Art Bell for information about their own invasion) have managed to capture so many humans: they have the technological advantage. They're on the Xbox 360.

THE GOOD: Prey's portals can turn me into a one-man, fully flanking squad of fighters, and the flip-flopping gravity forces me to aim my gun somewhere other than head-level. These features are imaginative twists on the standard shooter formula that should bring a dose of variety to the world of multiplayer gaming.

THE BAD: Aside from a few power-ups from my grandfather, the Native American storyline becomes irrelevant, and the main character's bitter sense of humor quickly fades to a few obscene observations. Given its high production values, Prey deserves to have a more substantial, polished story with which to present its innovation.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Prey extravagantly plays with space and gravity, and establishes the Xbox 360 as the premiere videogame system for bending the rules of reality.