Also On: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
When I saw the original announcement for Prey 2 in 2011 it was a space bounty hunter game with some crazy graphics and a beautiful pre-rendered cutscene. Fast forward to 2017, with the now re-titled “Prey” and you will find a very different game. This is a reboot, not a sequel. You find yourself playing as Morgan Yu, and that is about all I will tell you about how you start off. The opening of Prey is by far its strongest point, and one that I immediately revisited upon finishing the game proper. Veterans of the Dishonored series will immediately notice a similarity in graphics and movement, as this is developed by Arkane Studios, but the similarities to their series pretty much end there. Prey is much more akin to Deus Ex, or even Dead Space in certain situations. There is surprisingly little connection to the 2006 Prey, but that ends up being of little consequence. You most certainly do not need to have played the original to enjoy this entry.
Prey takes place on Talos-1, a space station and research center. Things quickly go very bad for the inhabitants of Talos-1, as they are known to do in games such as this, and you are thrust into a fight for your life from the start. Prey starts out as very much a horror game, and that feeling lasts long into the later hours of the game, regardless of level or strength. Things start out innocently enough, with scientists running you through some odd tests a-la Valve’s Portal games. This serves as little more than an interactive, cleverly hidden tutorial to get you accustomed to movement and basic controls. While conducting the tests however, aliens attack the scientists that are working with you. Now you are playing Prey.
You are thrust immediately into a much less serene, much more horrifying Talos-1. People you casually passed moments ago lie dead and mutilated from the alien attack. And you have a wrench to fend them off. Good luck. The enemies that you will face from the beginning and all along the journey are known as mimics. These alien entities look like cosmic black spiders and act like Ridley Scott’s face-huggers, jumping up at you and trying to steal your life so they can multiply. The name however comes from their ability to transform, or “mimic” any object in your environment. This keeps up the feeling of true dread as you progress throughout Talos-1. Prey is a game built on exploration and resource gathering. Weapons, upgrades and powers are constructed through the use of the materials that you gather and break down, so exploration and gathering is key, but every object you encounter could be a mimic. This keeps you on your toes, no matter your skill and experience. This is a great addition to the game, but one that I feel is relied upon a bit too heavily in the closing acts. After your 500th mimic encounter, the jump scares start to get a little old. Prey can easily take a curious explorer upwards of 30 hours to really complete, and 30 hours of the same scare tactic begins to wear out its welcome.
This leads me to my biggest issue with Prey as a whole, the combat. I don’t know if the amazing environment and intriguing story cause the weak combat to really stand out or if it is just that plain, but I never found myself really looking forward to an engagement. Fighting the aliens feels more like a chore than a desirable part of the game for the majority of the encounters. Prey is hard, but I am no stranger to hard games and typically relish in a challenge. Unfortunately the level of hard that you experience in Prey is not the kind that I like. Mimics are small, and jump around like spider monkeys. Hitting them with a wrench or trying to engage them with a firearm is frustrating at best. The have odd hitboxes and can feel like an annoying pest once you get past the initial shock of your coffee mug turning into an alien. As I stated above, mimics are a part of Prey from start to finish, so a frustrating mechanic like that can really leave a damper on the experience as a whole. I don?t want to give too much away, so I will leave the other varied aliens and the tactics necessary to defeat them a mystery.
Prey is at its best when it allows me to explore Talos-1 freely. I did not go into Prey expecting a puzzle game, but that is exactly what it is if you look hard enough. Every locked door and off limits area presents a puzzle, and every puzzle has multiple solutions based on your style of play. The skill trees are fluid, with no barrier to any style of play. You can choose to spec a certain class out or you can play with a little bit of everything. It comes down to whatever suits you as the player, which is something that I really enjoyed about it. Power ups are nothing more than scientific alterations, be it human or alien. An interesting mechanic that I personally enjoyed was if you choose to go too alien, the space station?s built in turrets and defense systems will start to see you as a threat and attack you. This brought a level of depth to the skill tree that you don’t see often in other games in this vein.
As far as performance, I will address the elephant in the room. Yes, I played Prey on the PC. I did experience a temporary save file issue, where it informed me that my current save was incompatible with the current version of the game. This was however completely resolved with the 1.02 patch that was released and in no way soured my experience with Prey. I understand, as should everyone, that issues like this happen. Unfortunately every single problem and issue cannot be found in testing, and they certainly cannot all be fixed. I commend Bethesda and Arkane on the timely resolution to this issue and hold no ill will toward them. It could have been handled much worse and taken a lot longer to fix, so thank you to them for correcting the problem.
Graphically Prey is absolutely beautiful. The art style is very much an Arkane Studios job, and it looks great. You can see foundations that were laid with the Dishonored games and a jump into a more realistic sci-fi setting. Smooth, 60 fps was the standard, and aside from a few areas where it dipped temporarily, my experience was never interrupted. I found the entire setting to be almost surreal and found myself looking around in legitimate wonder any time I felt safe enough to do so. This is a huge step forward for Arkane and makes me even more excited for their next offerings.
All in all I would definitely recommend Prey to anyone interested. It is very reminiscent of Bioshock with some hefty Dead Space elements thrown in and some solid Deus Ex mechanics driving it all. It is a well-balanced, lengthy game with a substantial story that is intriguing enough to keep you interested for an extended period of time. Lackluster combat can make some stretches a drag, but that next room to explore and that next secret to uncover keeps you going. If you are on the fence, I would suggest you pick this one up. In a year that seems to just keep on delivering, Prey is yet another success story.