May 08, 2017
A space station overrun with aliens, a human experiment gone wrong; you'd think that things couldn't really get much worse for Morgan Yu on his first day, but they very quickly do. And help isn't coming any time soon either. Prey starts off bleak and doesn't get any more optimistic as you progress, the confines of Talos I a tomb for the employees of the TranStar Corporation, where you're seemingly the last remaining survivor. It's also the setting for one of the most tense and gruelling sci-fi survival horror games since Alien: Isolation, where resources are to be used sparingly, and every encounter with the extra-terrestrial Typhon is a fraught and dangerous one.
Playing as research scientist Yu (male or female), Prey begins in suitably intriguing fashion, as things go awry aboard Talos I and the facility is infested with little slimy aliens that would like nothing more than to suck the life out of you through your eye sockets. From small aliens like Mimics able to copy any inanimate object, to huge beasts like the Nightmare that hunt Yu relentlessly throughout the game, the Typhon are a threat that will keep you constantly on-edge, as you suspiciously eyeball every piece of furniture and each apparently innocuous item. Then, when you least expect it, one will leap right at your face, causing you to swing wildly with your wrench. Shooting is rarely the best course of action, and bullets can be scarce.
You're able to fabricate certain resources if you have the fabrication plans and the required organic, synthetic, mineral or exotic materials to create items like medikits, bullets, weapons and other useful items. Gathering said materials is a case of harvesting Typhon organs, discarded junk, excess stuff you don't need and other trash, then stuffing it into a recycling machine. The device then spits out handy material cubes that can then be popped into a fabricator and turned into essential items that'll prove invaluable in keeping you alive.
Hoarding resources is but one ongoing concern for the duration of Prey, as gathering Neuromods also enables Yu to access new abilities, which during the early portions of the game revolve around human skills, like weapon proficiency, health, stamina, hacking and so on. Later, Typhon powers are thrown into the mix, changing things up enormously if you choose to embrace the supernatural abilities they afford. The more Typhon powers you take on, the more automated turrets will turn on you, so balancing the human vs. alien can be a tightrope walk.
There are always options, however, so even if you do choose to go full alien, turrets can be hacked to work for you, and there's always another way around a problem in Prey, whatever it might be. Talos I is an expansive, open-ended environment, so you can go about completing its myriad side objectives and main storyline as you see fit, until the inevitable point of no return, that is.
Your choices and the quests you choose to complete - and indeed how you complete them - all matter too, so you get a very real sense that every bit of content – and there's a lot of it – is there for a reason. Then there are the moral dilemmas you're faced with, almost all of which have an impact of some sort, even if it's not always immediately apparent what that impact might be.
Arkane has lavished a lot of care and attention on Prey's setting, its 'New Deco' art style and design brimming with detail and touches that all add to the overall atmosphere and sense of place. Weapons and powers handle like a dream too, all accessed through an ingenious spiralling radial menu that means you can cycle between guns, grenades and alien abilities with ease. Even when the odds are stacked against you, the game's mechanics and systems never conspire to make your life more difficult; it's always down to you managing your resources and choosing the right approach.
Using the Psychoscope (found later in the game), enemies can be scanned to learn more about them and acquire their abilities, while chipsets can be applied to the headgear and Morgan's suit, augmenting certain attributes. There's a ton of depth in Prey, and speccing your Yu to best suit your individual playstyle and path through each situation is vital, whether you choose to attempt stealth or all-out combat. The latter is usually the most favourable option, as stealth can be incredibly tricky, if not impossible at times. Factor in constantly respawning, always evolving enemies – including several deadly breeds of Phantom - and it's more than evident that Prey doesn't pull its punches.
Prey is challenging then, but never unfair, always providing you with the tools you need to progress. This is all tied to a superlative trophy list that encourages repeat playthroughs, as well as some smart, occasionally outside-of-the-box thinking. Like Arkane's Dishonored lists, Prey demonstrates that the developer truly understands trophies and how they should be used. You'll really have to earn that Platinum too, as Prey doesn't give much away without you really going out of your way to get it. But it's always more than worth the extra effort.
A stellar piece of work, Prey deserves a place alongside the likes of BioShock as one of the most memorable and compelling narrative-driven first-person experiences around. Not quite perfect, with some protracted loading screens between areas and the rare performance issue that causes the frame rate to chug, Prey is nonetheless quite possibly one of the most definitive sci-fi survival horrors of all time, keeping the spirit of System Shock alive and well. Add to that a post-credits aftermath that will give you pause, multiple endings and more than ample motivation to go back and play it all over again, and Prey proves nigh-on essential.
A brilliant synth soundtrack (the opening sequence tune is great) and sound design that'll keep you twitching at every little noise aboard the creaky space station. Amazing.
Occasional frame rate drops and the odd graphical issue aside, Prey looks great, its art style setting it apart from other sci-fi horror stablemates. From Talos I's claustrophobic corridors to experiencing Zero-G in the vast reaches of outer space, it all looks marvellous.
Refined gunplay, fun Neuromod powers, slick menus, a plethora of options and varying approaches to adopt, skill trees, a cool recycle and fabricate system. Prey is never anything but a joy to play.
A massive game that clocks in at about 15-20 hours in a single run, assuming you do a few side missions alongside the story. Do everything, and you could be pushing closer to 30-40 before you even consider repeated playthroughs. Best of all, it's all beautifully presented. A world you'll want to spend time in.
Arkane proves once again that it gets trophies. Prey's list is varied, inventive, clever, and makes you actually want to pursue its side content rather than just plough through the story. Everything matters.
Prey starts strong, then gets better and better as its compelling narrative gradually unfolds, and new terrors stalk the confines of Talos I. A sci-fi survival masterclass, Prey is quite simply sublime.