Developer: Arkane Studio, Human Head Studio
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
A review by Heather Fischer
A few weeks ago, I provided some of my initial thoughts after playing through the Prey demo. Although I now know that a few corrections are in order (there are way more than just mimics to be afraid of, much to my dismay), many of my initial reactions still hold true. What remains of life on Talos-I is both horrifying and exhilarating. No resources, no other human life to speak of, and a starship full of alien monsters.
From a technical standpoint, Bethesda does not disappoint. They know how to make a game visually appealing right down to the smallest details — which are critical in Prey. If you think that is an overgeneralization, trust me when I say it is not. Trash, discarded items, even different camera angles are pertinent to your survival. The story, while mostly linear, can be taken in a handful of different directions based on the decisions you make as Morgan Yu. Will you take time to save former co-workers from certain death and risk your own in the process? Or will you stay the course and focus on one thing: escaping this damned metal tin.
The environment is much more immersive than initial impressions yielded. Even after 24 hours of gameplay, I don’t think I came close to exploring every square inch of the floating space station. Why might this be? One reason comes to mind: survival! Seriously, while playing through the game this strange thing happens where you are overcome with the sheer need to survive. Everything can kill you so easily for the majority of the main campaign that it makes it impossible to leisurely explore or stroll through the levels of Talos-I.
As far as gameplay mechanics go, I’m a bit conflicted on my final thoughts. While I appreciate that every choice you make about the neuromod (the psychological tool invented by TransStar that alter human’s natural abilities) enhancements must be carefully thought out due to limited resources, it did make my gaming experience rather narrow. I chose to level up only a handful of ability traits rather than dabble in all that were available, which left me in strenuous situations with some of the Typhon varieties. As they are elemental enemies, if you didn’t use a neuromod to build out that particular tree you are left with two options: die or run. In addition to the neuromod skill perks, you also have the option to adopt Typhon abilities which carry additional consequences. Being punished for getting stronger is a tough pill to swallow, but it adds to the overall atmosphere of act-consequentialism.
Prey is not for the speed gamer. Anyone looking to run through and ignore the non-essentials will not have an enjoyable gaming experience. That being said, the slow pace and dependence on sneaking was the only way I maintained my composure. There were times that I wanted to sprint through an area just to avoid something terrifying that had spawned, but I knew that if I did that it would trigger a Nightmare (a giant Typhon summoned by other beings if too many detect you at once). A Nightmare makes the worst sound I’ve ever heard in a videogame, and my anxiety was barely controllable when I accidentally caused one to appear.
While all of those things sound like negative aspects of Prey, they’re not. This is a difficult game that challenges the player to think and plan, rather than just bulldoze through areas. I enjoyed the narrative and am not deterred from playing again to see what kind of abilities will work better against the Typhon. DLC is rumored, but as the story has a definitive end (sort of), it is difficult to hypothesize what DLC would look like.
Buy it! Prey is a different sort of game than we have seen lately. It has been compared to Dishonored or BioShock. As I’ve not played either of those games (lecture me if you will), I appreciate Prey for what it was. It scared me during gameplay, left me frustrated, but the controller still compelled me to pick it back up and explore the world aboard Talos-I through the eyes of “Morgan Yu.”