Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Developer: Arkane Studios
Release Date: Out now
TL;DR: A return to form for the FPS genre, Prey delivers in almost every way
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I’ve been looking forward to writing this review for a few months now. Everything that I’d seen of Prey in the lead up to the release suggested that the game would be at the forefront of a miniature renaissance for the FPS genre, and in some respects, those feelings were right. Prey delivers on a winding story, diverse play styles, and an incredibly dense environment that can’t be truly appreciated in a single playthrough. And whilst Prey has been a game that’s kept me up until the early hours of the morning, I am reluctant to call it a masterpiece, it’s more a breath of fresh air for a genre that has stagnated in the last couple of years.
Prey puts you into the shoes of either a male or female Morgan Yu, a talented scientist and innovator who, along with their brother Alex Yu, has managed to create the “Neuromod,” – a device that allows people to instantaneously learn new abilities or improve their health. Without going into spoiler territory, all I’ll say is that the plot involves Morgan having to wipe out the alien race of “Typhon,” that have overrun the Talos 1 space-station in which Prey’s story unfolds, whilst trying to figure out the truth of Morgan’s mysterious past.
The story missions will keep you busy with objectives that lead you through each area of Talos 1. And whilst the mission objectives aren’t that varied – you’ll be running back and forth a lot, collecting key cards, samples, or repairing machines – the pay-off presents itself in the chunks of story progression that come with each completed mission, which will keep you playing the game as you mutter “just one more hour” to yourself.
My only qualm with the game’s story is that, in places, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s going on. The reality is that Prey’s story should probably hit the nine or ten-hour mark, but my initial playthrough clocked in at 21 hours, and I was having to push through to get this review finished.
The extra hours of the main campaign come in the form of mission objectives that need you to jog back and forth to go and get the ship functioning again. It’s a bittersweet point, because I hate moaning about the game offering more gameplay, but I do feel that some of the missions that revolve around diversions are a cheap way of needlessly extending the story.
Prey brings back the Arkane staple of, “Play Your Way” which will be all too familiar with fans of the Dishonored series, allowing you to approach almost all situations in a few different ways. It was this aspect of the game that I found most intriguing, because of the differences in the characters of the two titles. Whilst Corvo and Emily’s characters were created to have an affinity with combat and stealth, when I played Prey, I never had the feeling that Morgan was a fighter or a stealthy character. Morgan is supposed to be a scientist – a creative thinker, and this idea bleeds into the ways that combat and stealth work in the game.
So whilst you feel in control of combat in Dishonored, or you feel like you’re stalking people from vents, you never feel like this in Prey. The shooting is, in my opinion, deliberately sensitive – it takes you a couple of hours to get used to; neither do you ever feel like you’re securely hidden away. Morgan’s sudden twist of fate has forced the character to become a fighter, and though you can choose to how to approach these situations, Morgan’s vulnerability is always present.
Of course, when it comes to improving Morgan’s chance of survival, the Neuromods you collect throughout the game will be integral to this. The Neuromods can be used for six different categories of skills; the first three – Engineering, Scientist, and Security, are used to increase health, stamina, gun modifying abilities, and hacking. The other three categories are the alien skills, which are made up of Telepathy, Energy, and Morph. I found that the alien powers I used the most were the combat focused skills, which allow you to electrocute, set fire to, or basically telepathically punch an enemy.
Then there’s the Morph skill set, which allows you to transform into pretty much anything you can pick up. The mimic power can be used to evade enemies, or to transform into a turret and mow down aliens; that said, I only ever used the ability for puzzle solving. The speed at which enemies can attack you means that using the mimic ability never seems like a viable option; I constantly forgot to use it or, when I did use it I ended up dying soon after. It’s a lot of fun seeing yourself turn into a tape dispenser or a turret, but the only time if seems like a good idea to use it is when you’re exploring or fucking around.
Throughout the entire game, one thing’s very clear – Talos 1 is a bloody beautiful environment. Whether you’re running for your life through the now abandoned lobby which is littered with leather-bound furniture and looks out at the endless void of space, sneaking through the arboretum that plays host to an impossible garden, or bouncing around in the most unceremonious of ways against the exterior of Talos 1, which is decorated with debris from hull breaches all around – what’s clear is that Arkane have surpassed anything they’ve created before.
Where the environments of Dishonored were compact and layered, Talos 1 is far more linear initially, though as you begin to explore the station, the layout becomes almost maze-like. You can pretty much go and explore any area you want from the off, with exception to one or two areas, and you’ll find that if you go exploring you’re going to get the same minor thrill of finding a different route than before, or using your GLOO Cannon to forge a new path and divert yourself from enemies. It’s an environment that invites and rewards exploration; I feel that I’ve only scratched the surface of what is hidden around Talos 1 and I’m looking forward to jumping back in.
People said that Prey was going to be a spiritual successor to Bioshock. and in ways, it is. Talos 1 is an environment that oozes character, both aesthetically and through the miscellaneous things you’ll find, an intricate story that will have you wanting to go back and try out different actions to see the consequences, and a host of abilities that all work to craft a unique playstyle that’ll change from one playthrough to the next. Prey is by no means perfect; the latter half of the game gets a little stale, missions come across as a series of grunt work, and some of the enemies you face are straight up irritating – I’m looking at you robots – but Prey is worth every penny you put down for it.
What Rocks :)
- Talos 1 is an intricate environment that demands exploration
- There are tonnes of side missions for you to go about completing at your leisure
- The entire game will have you wondering what would happen if you did something different
What Sucks :(
- Too many missions are glorified fetch quests or unnecessary diversions from the game
- The robot enemies, which become more frequent in the later stages, are a headache
Prey is rated 18 in the UK and M for Mature in the US. Expect heavy combat, spooky shadow monsters, and putting a needle in your eye.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game purchased for the purpose of this review