Prey, like Dishonored, owes a lot to many games that have come before. But also like Dishonored, Prey is an altogether different experience than what you may have played in the past.
Comparisons to both the Bio and System Shocks of this world are seemingly inevitable. While I grant that there’s certainly a lot of inspiration drawn from those seminal works, calling Prey “Something Shock in space” does Arkane’s work a disservice.
Prey is a fresh look at a genre that’s been home to some of the greatest games ever made. Prey takes its spot amongst those games with ease.
Like Half-Life, Deus Ex and, yes, BioShock, Prey emphasises exploration and experimentation. There’s no right or wrong way to play. Prey gives you a toolbox filled to the brim and lets you choose when and how to use each tool. You can of course blast straight through and head directly for each checkpoint if you want. Doing so though, will mean you miss out on most of what’s on offer.
Prey squirrels away the best bits of its lore and discovery in its fringes. You’re encouraged to go looking for hidden items, diaries, doors, hatches and paths because more often than not, you’ll be rewarded for your curiosity. Talos I was a place bustling with life and energy before it became an orbiting mausoleum. Finding out what happened is just one reason to explore.
Another is to improve Morgan’s abilities through the tech left behind. In Prey’s alternate future, humans have discovered a process in which skills and abilities can be recorded and used to improve other people. For example, a recording of the brain waves of a championship chess player can be recorded and then used to turn anyone into a chess player of the same skill.
You Want to be the Very Best
These recordings are called Neuromods and they’re the key to Morgan’s abilities and the lynchpin of Prey’s plot. Humans aren’t the only subjects used to create Neuromods. The mysterious aliens known as Typhon have also been experimented on. As with all good sci-fi, experimenting on a strange alien always turns out just fine…
..And that’s where you come in. If you’ve played Prey’s opening hour demo you’d have seen the intro. If not, I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that it’s easily one of the best beginnings to a game in recent memory.
Oftentimes, games struggle to get going. Holding the player’s hand too long or taking too much time to establish the scenario. Not so with Prey. It starts strong and continues in that fashion moving from wonderment, to confusion and settling on paranoia, claustrophobia and constant fear.
It’s a great place to be and a testament to Arkane’s skills in setting a tone.
Even when you know you’re alone on Talos I, you’re never really sure that you are. Typhon enemies are everywhere. Mimics, which have been a focal point in the promotion of Prey, can appear as anything and everything. Harmless objects spring to life as nightmarish shadow spiders and even health packs can be a Mimic masquerading. Nothing is as it seems is Prey in a nutshell.
Watch Out! Radioactive Man
Other, more dangerous enemies lurk around most corners and figuring out how to dispose of them is one of Prey’s highlights. As you progress, Morgan will become better equipped and more heavily armed, though you’re not required to engage if you’d prefer. In Prey, you always have options.
It’s not just a choice between combat and stealth though. You can set traps and use the environment to your advantage. Creativity is always available and always rewarded. Not always materially, but when you use the game’s systems to their fullest, there’s no better feeling.
It’s not perfect however. Prey is excellent, but it has its flaws. Combat is really, pretty clunky. Aiming weapons feels off and keeping Typhon enemies in your sights is much more difficult than it needs to be. Talos I is a huge place too and getting lost is a frequent occurrence.
Not getting lost on purpose mind you. Getting lost because the checkpoint markers don’t really lead you in the right direction.
There’s a lot to see and do, but sometimes it becomes a chore to find where you need to be. You’ll trudge back and forth through the same corridor five or six times before you find your way. Compounding this issue are the excruciatingly long loading times – at least on Xbox One – rendering any sense of agency, dead on arrival.
Staying within the current area won’t give you any trouble, but as soon as you need to head through a loading door, go and get yourself a cup of coffee, from the café around the corner.
Prey for Mojo
The framerate also suffers noticeably on Xbox One with the occasional full lock occurring when there was apparently too much action on-screen. Thankfully I am a chronic quick saver, if not I’d have lost plenty of progress as Prey’s autosaves are infrequent at best.
Despite these issues, Prey is undeniably a magnificent piece of science-fiction and a must-play videogame. It’s a slowly unfolding, complex psychological horror game that explores humanity’s need to evolve at any cost. Prey explores that cost and the impact of bringing out our fullest and most dangerous potential.
Prey was reviewed on Xbox One using a digital copy provided to PowerUp! by Bethesda.
Game Title: Prey
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