Game Review – Prey
A dark and mysterious title. And just like its enemies, Prey itself came out of nowhere. I’d seen it at E3 and looked forward to it, but I had no idea it was launching until a Steam pop-up alerting me of my last chance to pre-order it. Which seemed very odd. Prey seemed content to somewhat silently creep into stores and launch.
And the saddest part of it is, it didn’t need to.
Prey is an FPS made by Arkane Studios, the team behind the Dishonoured series and Bioshock 2. Prey falls into the same beats as both those titles; it’s an FPS with a limited selection of guns and powers, featuring a wide variety of upgrades and a sprawling story and world you can dive into.
You begin the game choosing whether or not your character, Morgan Yu, is to be a Male or Female. This doesn’t change much apart from the voice of your partner AI, January. The game starts with you waking up in bed. You get dressed, go to the roof of your apartment building and into a helicopter, where you’re flown to a facility and begin with a few basic tests done before some Scientists who, though nice, seem slightly on edge. Then something starts to happen, and you wake up lying in your bed just like when the game started.
You get out of bed again, just as you did before, and read an e-mail. And it warns you to get OUT.
Fast-forward and you’ll find a familiar weapon in a Wrench. Any Bioshock fan will be used to this one, but you won’t be using it on an enemy, not yet. The door to your balcony is closed but it looks like a beautiful day.
And then with one swing of your wrench, the glass falls to reveal a dark, empty facility, full of these strange aliens called the Typhon, all with different world-altering abilities and Prey has begun.
It’s a very powerful start, and Prey has a consistently interesting story through-out. You’re always left guessing, but not enough to feel confused. I always knew what was happening, but I wasn’t ever 100% on everything. On people’s motives and the reasons behind it all. It leaves a lot for you to piece together, and it works well.
The game progresses very simply. You have Main story missions with Objectives you must complete, though the way in which you complete them is left to you, and you’ll pick up a rather large number of side-quests as you explore the space station. The UI is quite cluttered and navigating to the correct side-missions can be a bit of a pain, and the screen can become overly cluttered with quest markers if you don’t manage them.
Gameplay-wise, if you’ve played Bioshock then you’ll find the entire system of Prey very familiar. It’s a solid FPS with RPG elements, with powers that you can utilize to alleviate some of your bullet usage. But it seems like Bioshock mixed with Arkane’s own Dishonoured series.
You have a variety of different sub-sets of ability to experiment with; Scientist, Engineer and Security. Scientist focuses on hacking and technology, Engineering on mechanics and robotics, and Security is your run-of-the-mill health and armour upgrades. Like Dishonoured, there’s always different routes you can take depending on how you’ve invested your abilities. With high hacking you could simply get through a door you might have needed to find the keycode for, or with high engineering fix an elevator and reach an area otherwise you might not have.
Eventually, you’ll also get access to your powers. You gain more of these by scanning enemies; different enemies will unlock different abilities. Ones with fire powers will unlock fire abilities, etc.
On the surface, it seems quite generic almost. But just peel the surface away and you’ll find with all the different types of abilities under your helm, you can customize your play experience quite well. One example is the Mimic ability, which lets you take control of any inanimate object. Initially I assumed it was so you could hide from enemies and yes, that’s exactly right.
But later on, I wanted to get into a security room I didn’t quite have the hacking levels for, and I could not find the keycode. From the table behind me, I placed a mug just beside one of those small windows you pass paperwork through. I possessed the mug, rolled myself under that small gap, burst out of the mug and I was inside!
Further into the game, I was struggling to defeat a large Typhon alien who had a swarm of possessed human beings to fight for him. After trying and failing multiple times, I went back through the level and found a turret which was firing at me. I destroyed it, hacked it, and then repaired it; after that I carried it all the way back to the room with the Typhon, deployed it, and then fought with the turret by my side and managed to win.
It’s that level of freedom you realize you have when tackling the game which is where Prey truly shines. It’s much more than just a Bioshock-like FPS, and has plenty of opportunities to play exactly how you want to.
These abilities are gained by finding Neuromods, which you will find dotted around in hidden areas, as rewards for side-quests, or crafted in a limited supply; all abilities use this same currency and there’s no respec so choose wisely. This is one weakness of the title. Mis-spending of Neuromods near the start of the game when you weren’t sure how exactly you wanted to play is a punishing thing. With progressing down certain skill trees to yield impressive results, the desire to “start over” can be very strong and it’s disappointing Prey doesn’t cater to this.
You’ll never feel particularly strong, however, no matter how you build. The enemies can be smart, and they hit hard. You’ll always feel a challenge, and there’s even stronger Typhons lurking in the darkness just waiting to come and find you.
The level design is reminiscent of old games like Dark Souls. There’s no fast-travel, and instead the space station the title is set on is designed in a clever way in that everything is connected. You’re never too far away from where you want to be, but enough to make the station feel like a real place when you start back-tracking and exploring.
And the enemies which populate it can be very dangerous and unpredictable. The classic Mimics will suddenly spring out of objects and attack you, causing your screen and vision to judder as they do, and lights will flicker as electricity-charged bipedal Typhons stalk towards you from down a corridor.
To help you, Prey features a rather impressive crafting system which manages to be simple and feature-full. The game has an inventory system like Resident Evil 4’s attache case, and you can fill it with a variety of items. Junk you’ll find everywhere; copper coils, wires, motherboards, etc. These can be piled into something called a Material Recycler, which are dotted around the facility, and different objects yield a variety of 4 different materials; Mineral, Synthetic, Organic, and Exotic.
You then have a crafting machine. If you’ve found the blueprint for something, you can craft it using a combination of these materials! A health kit, for example, takes lots of mineral and organic material, whereas a Neuromod can be crafted using Exotic and Organic materials. This leaves the crafting simple, but it has enough variety to keep you engaged.
And that’s what Prey does well. The game flows well enough to always keep you engaged and always keep you guessing about what will happen next and what abilities will best serve you.
I’d consider this title to be one of Arkane’s best. It takes the two games they’ve done and merges them together to create an FPS/RPG hybrid full of unique gameplay oppurtunities and plenty of space for all types of players to find enjoyment in. It just seems a shame the game released so silently; this game has the calibre to have launched so much louder.
An exciting FPS/RPG which offers players a variety of ways to tackle not only each objective, but the very game itself.