Review – Prey
The latest game from Arkane Studios may just be their best one yet, from the locations to the world, art style, down to the core gameplay. Prey pulls together the best parts of games like System Shock, Deus Ex, Dishonored and Half-Life, then brings in its own twists for a one of a kind experience. This new iteration of Prey has nothing to do with the original that launched way back in 2006 though, so don’t be expecting a similar experience.
You play as Morgan Yu, a wrench wielding scientist who must deal with the consequences of a research experiment gone wrong (sound somewhat familiar?). When you start the game Morgan has no memory of what is happening aboard the Talos 1 and how he or she (Morgan’s gender is player determined) is involved. This central mystery is a great hook and will keep you invested.
Talos 1 is the real star of the show and easily one of the best video game locations this generation. As Morgan you will explore this space station and find dozens of secrets, supplies, lore details and more in one of the most organic worlds in the past few years. There’s a surprising amount of variety in locations aboard Talos 1; you will explore an Arboretum, the lobby, crew quarters and even go for a space walk around the station. Each area feels unique and is designed with plenty of pathways to choose from. Want to get into a locked room? There are numerous ways to do this from simply finding the password or hacking the security lock and even a ton more that I won’t spoil here.
Presentation is generally on point. While the graphics are very serviceable, they won’t blow you away. There were definitely a number of times I encountered low res textures, and the character models could be better. Talos 1 has a unique style with its gold framed interiors and technology that is pulled from multiple eras. You will find self repairing touch screens but will also find old school projectors. It’s a unique look that works incredibly well.
The universe Arkane has crafted is interesting and I always wanted to learn more. Well in this game you are constantly rewarded for exploring and you will stumble onto a number of side quests, NPCs, resources, and even simpler things such as emails and audio logs. These are some of Prey’s best moments, thanks to excellent voice acting that makes the world more believable with a great cast of characters.
As you move through the areas you will be hitting enemies with the wrench or blasting them away with a very satisfying shotgun and, much like Arkane’s other game, Dishonored, you can upgrade Morgan with a number of alien powers that will help you explore the world or take on the enemies in creative ways. To obtain these powers you will first need to scan multiple enemy types to get their unique powers and then have the right amount of Neuromods to install them onto Morgan.
Choices are key in Prey. Your actions have consequences. Some are subtle and won’t really show until later and others are obvious right off the bat. As I installed more alien powers the turrets around Talos 1 began turning hostile so I decided to be a bit more cautious with my upgrades. And depending on your actions human characters can actually turn on you too. But don’t worry too much about killing an important NPC since there’s always an alternative way to progress with your objective.
Enemy variety isn’t a strong point in Prey. Throughout Talos 1 you will be dealing with a few variations of the Typhon. One of these variations are the Mimics, a smaller spider-like enemy type that can hide as many props in the environment to get the jump on you, and the way these react to you are amazing, if you notice where they are they will either attack you head on or rush away to look for a new hiding spot (sometimes hiding within larger groups for a well done ambush) leaving you to look for items that seem out of place. I figured this gimmick would get old after the first half dozen hours but surprisingly it was fun throughout and definitely the standout enemy.
Phantoms are more humanoid enemies and have 2 main attacks. At a distance they will shoot energy at you, dealing high amounts of damage and up close they will use a basic melee attack. I would have liked the Phantoms to have a few more tricks but I have no complaints about them. There are another 3 or 4 Typhon enemy types but none of them were particularly fun to fight and can feel a little bit cheap sometimes, leading to some irritating deaths.
The visual designs for the Mimics and Phantoms are top notch, the inky blackness look has a creepiness about it and can be a subtle little hint to the locations of them if you lose track of them, which can be very easy.
Mick Gordon is the man behind most of the soundtrack and much like his last effort, Doom, it is memorable, works incredibly well, and is occasionally incorporated into the world, although I wish there was just a little bit more. The rest of the sound design is also excellent. While exploring Talos 1 you will hear the Typhon roam around hinting you to their locations without fully giving it away. It genuinely sounds creepy.
However, Prey lacks a certain level of polish. A ton of times whilst exploring the environment I fell through the map and had to reload. The game’s autosave can kick in at the worst time and I could end up in a death cycle and have to reload to an earlier save or the bigger enemies can get stuck on the environment. But generally on PC I had few issues with the game. I managed to lock 1080p 60FPS on an R9 290 paired with an i5 6600k at high settings with only ever minor occasional drops in certain areas.
Finally there’s a large amount of content in Prey. My first playthrough took around 15-17 hours with a fair bit of side content done, but doing everything could take upwards of 30 hours. Not only that but there’s plenty of replay value with the multiple play styles Prey offers. I’ve played 50 hours and I want to keep going back for more.
Reviewed on PC.