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What the hell is Prey? Well, Prey is a SciFi First Person, survival, action oriented, and narrative driven game. If you’ve played the free “First Hour” demo, then you have a slight idea as to the direction the game is going, but I believe it doesn’t serve the full game any justice. I wasn’t very impressed with the demo, but the actual game proved to be something more than special. Even though it’s inspirations are overly apparent, this doesn’t stop it from making its own unique mark in the gaming industry.
In an alternate take on history, President Kennedy survives his assassination attempt and fuels more funding into the US space program. Thus creating Talos 1, the giant space station where the entire game takes place. Jump to the year 2035; you play as Morgan Yu, a scientist trying to find out why these aliens (Typhons) have completely taken over the station. Not to mention, you can’t remember anything thanks to the experimental procedures you were exposed to, so the entire setting is a complete mystery that slowly unravels itself as the game progresses. “Who are you? Where are you? What are these things? How do I stop them?” these are all questions that you’ll be asking yourself in the beginning of your journey. Your mind is a clean slate so the story is told through various audio memos, emails, notes, and video files that can be found throughout the course of the game. I really enjoyed the fact that Arkane Studios chose to go this route, it really keeps you immersed in the world instead of having it broken by a three minute cutscene.
Without giving away any spoilers, I am happy to report that the story felt very fresh considering the setting. A space station being overrun by aliens is probably about the farthest you can get from originality, but Arkane Studios seemed to nail the unique tone quite well. Even though the scenario may seem a bit familiar, the actual heart of the story will keep you guessing till the end.
Prey plays a lot like Bioshock and a bit of Dishonored. But that would surely give it disservice if I said it was as simple as that. Prey manages to capture immersion through its stunning atmosphere and unique combat. Its influences are very apparent, but even though it reminds you of Bioshock, it most definitely feels like its own game. Upgrading weapons to defend yourself from the shapeshifting Typhon and enhancing your ability to gain supernatural powers all sound a bit familiar, but it is done so in a very distinctive way. Although the formula is similar, this isn’t a bad thing whatsoever. It works and makes for some really great moments. Even though the combat may have a learning curve, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this game didn’t feel like anything I’ve played in recent years, the experience feels fresh and that is an achievement in itself.
It’s tough to put Prey in a genre, only because it seems to be so many all in one, but I wouldn’t call Prey a horror game in the slightest. The Typhon aliens are creepy at first and the fact that they can shapeshift into any static object makes for some “jumpy” moments, but that’s all there is to it. The Typhon’s will startle you when you least expect it, but eventually you learn their behaviors and it becomes easier to spot them. The Typhons themselves actually reminded me a lot of the Symbiotes from the Spiderman franchise, but with elemental powers. The four main enemy powers are electric, fire, psychic, and kinetic. Depending on the type you are fighting, your weapons and your powers will need to be altered in order to survive the fight. Some enemy types are immune to certain powers and have weaknesses toward others. That being said, I found myself just barley getting by throughout most of the encounters in the game. Mind you, I was playing on Normal and I am quite adept at First Person Shooters, but this game was a challenge! The Typhons are not easy to defeat and require a lot of planning prior to engaging in combat. I loved this formula of not knowing if I would be able to survive the battle if I were to get caught. This caused for many intense situations throughout the course of the game, even toward the end after I had maxed out some weapons and skills. One thing is for sure, this game does not hold your hand. It gives you all the necessary tools and options to defeat your enemies and bypass locked areas, but ultimately it is up to you to figure it all out.
Prey starts out slow but gets much better as the game progresses. You begin to realize how huge this game really is and I’m not talking about its map size. During my playthrough I found at least 15 optional side missions that I could have done in between the main story missions. All-in-all it can easily take over 20 hours to complete everything in one sitting.
The graphics on PS4 were just as lovely as you would expect from a Cryengine game. If you want to check out how it runs on PC click here. The look of the game gives it its own futuristic and almost anime-like feel to it. You can absolutely see it’s Dishonored influences in the character models specifically, giving off that cartoonish look. The star of the game is the Talos 1. The setting is just stunning at times and when you combine the look of the levels with the genius level design, you end up getting something worth playing multiple times over. Stepping out into space and seeing the Earth and the Moon for the first time was one of my most “wow” moments of the game. Arkane has put a lot of love into this game and it shows with its close attention to detail. Explorers will be thrilled to know that it is encouraged to look inside every nook and cranny of the Talos 1, scavenging for supplies, keycodes, and more.
I believe this section is the most important when you decide to purchase a Single Player only game. Games aren’t cheap and it’s nice to know how much bang are we getting for our buck. Prey is easily over a 20 hour experience, giving players the choice to just about everything. From upgrading different weapons and powers, to optional side quests, and even multiple endings. Prey offers a lot in this department, giving you a variety of reasons to come back and play the story a completely different way. Just to give you an example, many of the side quests allow you to choose the fate of others, depending on your choice will ultimately affect the outcome and reward for the quest while also possibly effecting the ending to your game.
WHAT IT COULD HAVE DONE BETTER
Prey was a very fun game but had many frustrating moments. As I said before, this game is no walk in the park and you will definitely find moments where you’ll wish you were on an actual space station so you can take an escape pod and vanish into the nothingness of space. There were more than a handful of moments where I attempted to clear out a room full of Typhons in order to escape and just got completely wrecked over and over again. My plans tended to veer more toward actually avoiding combat as much as possible and running away. The combat does feel a bit clunky at times, especially in the beginning, but even toward the end you would expect to be able to get the upper hand when it comes to combat and that never really happens. Yes, you have better and stronger skills but the Typhon still feel like they have a huge advantage over the player which can make the game feel a bit unbalanced at times. That being said, I never felt like the game was cheating me from my win, there was always another way to go about the situation, it just wasn't always apparent. On a technical standpoint, the loading times on the PS4 version were a bit long. You have to load everytime you change areas so it’s noticeable and breaks the flow of the game, especially when you realize you went to the wrong area and immediately have to back track.
Prey is an absolute treat, this is what gaming needs to be. Immersion, story, combat, replayability; all of these things make a cohesive and worthy package of a single player experience and Prey has all of the above.