Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: First-Person Survival Horror
Official Site: https://prey.bethesda.net/
Release Date: May 5, 2017
Where To Buy: PSN Store, Xbox Live Marketplace, Steam, Local Retailer
Space may be the final frontier, but the way it is depicted ranges in video games: from everlasting exploration, like that of (the unfortunate) No Man’s Sky, to the mysterious piecing together of events, like in the upcoming Tacoma, to the terror of being aboard a ship with a killer, seemingly invincible alien, as you are in Alien: Isolation. In this spectrum, the newly rebooted Prey is much closer to the latter two, with all the mystery of figuring out what happened and all the horror of trying not to die while doing it.
Prey is a first-person shooter with heavy, heavy survival horror elements created by Arkane Studios, the studio that brought the Dishonored franchise to fruition. While I went in expecting the game to be more along the lines of Bioshock, Prey went much farther in the direction of true survival horrors like Resident Evil and Dead Space, will all the accouterments that accompany them, including brutal difficulty, not enough ammo, way too many enemies, and the creeping suspicion that nothing can be trusted, even yourself.
You play as Morgan Yu, a scientist who wakes up for her first day on the job at TranStar, a research company owned by your brother Alex. During some tests, a strange shadow creature bursts forth beyond the glass in your test room and starts attacking the scientists, leaving you stuck in a room being gassed. You wake up in your bed repeating the same day, before a voice tells you to get out, explaining that your reality is a simulation. You break through the glass and enter the real world, a space station known as Talos I filled with a deadly alien species called the Typhon which has caused considerable damage and casualties, in an alternate reality where John. F. Kennedy avoided assassination and pushed even harder into the space race.
Upon returning to your old office, you watch a recording of yourself explaining some of the circumstances and meet your benefactor that saved you, an AI named January who has been encoded with information that unlocks the more objectives you complete. Though you don’t have a complete picture yet of what’s happening, you do have a mission: destroy Talos I and save humanity from this alien race. And this is where the game sends you off, though the information you find on your journey may begin to convince you otherwise.
The gameplay of Prey is that of a first-person shooter, giving you a number of different weapons at your disposal to eliminate this shadow alien scourge, but you’ll quickly learn that going in guns blazing is the dumbest thing you can do, and more often than not will result in a quick, terrifying death. Instead, most of your time will be spent observing the different ways you can get around a room without being detected. Not long in, you’ll discover neuromods, the system by which you upgrade yourself by injecting modifications into your system. There are an immense amount of options to choose from that let you repair machines, hack into systems, and pick up heavier objects, to say the least. You also gain the ability to access alien abilities, which are the most powerful and versatile in the game, but carry their own drawbacks, as now you can be identified as “alien” by the station.
Between the story and this gameplay, Prey manages to do the thing that so many other games fail to do: give the player actual choice that matters. You can choose to modify only your human traits and continue to walk through the station without worry of the AI systems turning on you and continuing to use them to your advantage, or you can tap into the alien abilities and use them to act upon the weaknesses of the creatures, but lose the convenience of using the AI to your advantage. You can choose to help those on the station as you come across them, or keep your limited resources for yourself and leave them behind. You can even choose to believe yourself or doubt even your own voice and options. This is truly a bastion of true meaningful choice in gaming, and when you get to the finale, you’ll realize quickly why it all actually matters.
The choices you make in Prey also determine the level of difficulty you’ll experience, whether that will be brutal or extra brutal, even on “medium” difficulty. The game does an excellent job at scaring you any chance it gets, through intense music, audio cue jumps every time you alert your enemies, jump scares, and a growing suspicion of everything around you. The Mimics in the game are creatures who can replicate themselves to look like an object as they hide and I genuinely don’t think there was a single moment that I didn’t jump when they leaped out at me. I even began second guessing health packs on the floor as potentially being hidden enemies. Even though they’re not the strongest enemies, a pack of them can quickly become overwhelming.
My problems with the game are few and far between. The combat, when you find yourself in it, is fairly clunky. Though it’s clear that it shouldn’t be your first option in the game, the reality is that the hitboxes and aiming make it hardly an option ever, meaning I spent more of my time running and hiding for fear of not actually being able to hit anything. Inventory management was hardly ever a problem, but some of my identical objects started not combining with each other, forcing me to drop things that could have helped later. Also, one of the most frustrating things in not being able to backtrack without enemies respawning immediately after you leave. As a number of the massive amount of side objectives require you to return to areas you’ve been before, having to fight enemies that you’ve already wasted resources on make it feel almost not worth the frustration of fighting again, so much so that I missed out on a massive amount of them and the story that they come with.
Prey may not have been what I expected it to be, but it was a crazy ride that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was incredibly hard and immensely deep. What Fallout is to Elder Scrolls, this game is to Dishonored. Though I missed out on a lot with my first playthrough, I have every intention of going back and playing again to find them. This may not have been the Prey 2 that got canceled, but it’s an awesome experience that I can’t wait for more of.
- Gameplay: Stealth parts and customization are great, combat is not
- Graphics: Gorgeous all around, especially out of station
- Sound: Ominous, suspenseful, and sometimes vintage sci-fi
- Presentation: Minor flaws overall don’t tarnish a stellar experience
- "Play Your Way" to the fullest experience
- Interesting and compelling story
- A large amount of customization
- Clunky combat
- Constantly respawning enemies deters exploration
- Occasional glitches