Way back in 2014 all hopes of a Prey sequel were dashed when work on Prey 2 was canceled by Bethesda. Jump forward to E3 2016 and our hopes rose from the ashes of disappointment when it was announced that Arkane Studios would be working on the Prey reboot.
Prey is a first person action adventure game with horror elements. Releasing on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on May 5th 2017. This release of Prey is a re-imagining of the original Prey that was released in 2006 (Human Head Studios). Arkane Studios built Prey also as a spiritual successor to System Shock, and as you’ll find out, it does a very good job of following that blueprint.
Prey is set in a not too distant future, but a future where John F. Kennedy survived the assassination attempt in 1963. Due to the failed assassination, Kennedy directs more funding into the space program, to propel the United States forward in the “Space Race”. Due to the growing attention of humans in space, an alien race soon catches on, called the “Typhon” and attacks Earth. The USA and U.S.S.R join forces to fight off and capture the the Typhon, and build a space station called “Kletka” to hold the captive. Jump forward to 2030 and the space station has been renamed “Talos 1”, where constant study on the alien race is performed. The research conducted allowed the creation of Neuromods that enhance the human brain with new special abilities.
The game starts in 2032, and you play as Morgan Yu, and you are recruited to join a research team on Talos 1, known as TranStar. As you are inducted into the team by completing a number of tests, the doctors are attacked by a Typhon and you are knocked out in the process. When you wake up, you find things are not as it once seemed. This is where the game takes off and leads the player down a huge rabbit hole of conspiracy, twisting and merging plot lines and this ultimately lends itself to being a well crafted story that had me completely enthralled in the tale.
Graphically, Prey is an impressive feat. The attention to detail that has gone into the environments and character design is clear for all to see. The enemies found in Prey are some of the most imaginative, creepy and well designed I’ve seen in a game.
Textures are all really high quality, and the lighting effects are spot on. This really lends itself to Prey’s aura of unknown. Not being able to quite see what's hidden in the darkness can be invoke both feelings of wanting to explore, but also coupled with fear of what you may find hidden within. You definitely get the feel that this game also brings a lot of influence from Dishonored in it’s graphical style and effects too. Whilst it’s not a steampunk environment like the aforementioned, there is definitely a hint of that style that seeps through into this world.
Before launch, Arkane Studios promised that Prey would be optimized for PC players. Many were worried we were getting a fiasco akin to Dishonored 2 with performance problems and bug ridden experiences. Thankfully though, the studio delivered a near perfect PC port. Playing the game on 1440p with all of the graphical settings maxed out, I was able to achieve a steady 60fps in all situations. It didn’t matter how busy the screen was, or how many special effects. Not once did I notice a drop in frames or get any stuttering. I also came across zero graphical glitches or tearing throughout either. Hats off to Arkane Studios for pulling this one out of the bag there.
With all horror style games, sound is one of the most important elements that makes or breaks a game. The sound effects really add to the suspense that music brings. It does come across as obnoxious when it tries to catch you with the jump scare moments but for the most part the sound effects are well executed. The same can be said about the voice acting; there are times when some come across as a little off but for the majority the dialog is well spoken.
The music like I mentioned above, aids the immersion factor with different tempos depending on the gameplay mechanics taking place around you.
As the game was from a studio which focused much on the stealthy aspect of adventure games, I thought I would be experiencing something much like Dishonored in terms of gameplay. Stealth is an option in Prey but the mechanic just doesn’t sit right with me. Not only does it not feel believable that this advanced alien race can be distracted or confused by such meager attempts to trick them such as a flying pizza box, but also the distance for enemies to spot you is so small that you can often be within a few steps of an enemy and they not see you. It helped with the progression of the gameplay, but it was very off putting and left me a disappointed that we didn’t get the same in depth immersive stealth gameplay from the likes of Dishonored.
Prey makes it very clear from the beginning of the game, that you should play the game exactly how you want. That means you can either take that stealth route, or you can take the more ‘in your face’ option. If you choose the latter then you are definitely in for a completely different experience. The combat is difficult right from the start, and the game has a heavy survival aspect coming into play too. About an hour into the game you’ll start picking up weapons such as shotguns or pistols. If you use them too much you are obviously going to run out of ammo, and the game is very scarce with providing you with more. As you progress further you will be able to make use of the game’s crafting system to make more ammo for yourself, but the opportunities to do this are only at small checkpoint zones scattered throughout the world.
The most prominent way I dealt with enemies was with my trusty wrench. Towards the start of the story you find yourself a GLOO gun, this lets the player freeze or slow down enemies in their tracks; allowing you to either run away, fire off a few shotgun rounds in their face or run up to them and start whaling on them with the wrench. The GLOO gun can be used in a few “unconventional” manners too which I’ll touch on in a bit, but it’s an interesting weapon that definitely has more staying power than you might first think. The melee combat is a difficult angle to take though, as that marmite of a mechanic is featured; the stamina bar. You can only swing your wrench a couple of times before Morgan becomes lightheaded and starts flailing around like me after running a cross country marathon.
You’ll find that most weapons you find in Prey will have more than just their regular use of shooty-rooty, take the GLOO gun for example. You can use this to create ledges to let you explore unreachable locations, or fill in holes of flowing gas pipes. Think of it as Batman's utility belt; if you are ever in a bind more often than not the GLOO gun can help in someway. I thought the imaginative design behind the weapons was very well presented and was pleased we didn’t get the generic machine guns and rocket launches that most games go with.
Prey also has a crafting system. As you explore the space station you will find an abundance of junk items to loot, ranging from lemon peels to destroyed hard drives. You then recycle this junk into crafting materials that you can change into ammo, health kits or weapons. It’s a basic system and not on the in depth levels of some systems, but it does it’s job and if it was any more complex I think it would have been a chore to contend with rather than the nice addition that this is.
The story mode is littered with side objectives for you to complete. As the game doesn’t have a leveling system like other Bethesda games, you gain no “experience” from completing them, but they do open up new opportunities for the player to learn more lore, and backstory. Of course when taking slight detours from the main route this also offers the chance to find more loot and items. One of the most common side objectives is finding lost crew members; they can either be dead or alive. More often than not they have met their gruesome demise at the hand of the Typhon though; but their loot is just as valuable.
Depending on how many of these side objectives you undertake will hugely affect your game time. The main story will take around twelve hours to finish, but if you couple that with the majority of side objectives you find you can soon hit the fifteen-twenty hour mark. It’s also worth mentioning that I pussy’ed out and played the game on easy mode. I am obviously not as good at video games as I once was as the combat was just too hard for me to master on anything but easy. So if you are the hardcore type and playing on higher difficulties that too will have an effect on play time.
I can’t really say Prey is an entry level game for the action/adventure genre, it is difficult game to get to grasps with and has some advanced mechanics that newcomers to the genre would struggle to adapt to. The game doesn’t have an overly intuitive tutorial system; just a splash screen here and there when you encounter a new mechanic. The controls can be a little fiddly but you soon get the hang of it once you train your brain to work a little differently. The most difficult aspect for the controls come when you head out into space to conduct spacewalks and are moving around in a 3D space.
Prey was as immersive and in depth as I was expecting. It’s a real action adventure that will challenge anyone playing. With some interesting game mechanics and a well thought out story line to keep the player engrossed right until the end. High production values in the technical department combined with the excellently optimized PC port makes Prey one of 2017’s Game of the Year contenders. It doesn’t have the replayability that Bethesda games are known for, but not all games need to be 100 hour time sinks. Prey is a wonderfully crafted single player experience that any action/adventure fans should be checking out even at full price.