As someone who really enjoyed games such as BioShock, Half-Life, and Dead Space, I wasn’t really sure what to expect with Prey. Not only is this a reboot of a series that had roots in a completely different genre, but also attempted to succeed where those very same games I mentioned did. I’d wondered just what exactly was I in for and would I enjoy this or would Arkane Studios disappoint do more damage to a dying genre.
Thankfully, Arkane Studios manages to knock it out of the park, albeit with a few issues.
Game Name: Prey
Platform(s): PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Bethesda Softworks
Developer(s): Arkane Studios
Release Date: May 5, 2017
The story of Prey is played throughout a derelict space station called Talos. Or at least, that’s what we initially are. However, it isn’t until later in the game that we find out that the space station once had another name; Kletka. Kletka was the product of both North America’s and the Soviet Union combined efforts in the space war (race?). However, there was something else that wasn’t outed to the public, the actual purpose of Kletka. You see, the Soviet’s had encountered an alien race of metamorphic creatures which would later be known as the Typhon. It would seem that there were undocumented experiments and resource done to the Typhon. I’m pretty sure this didn’t sit well with the Typhoon, as things started going very wrong. After enough mishaps and other things happening, Kletka was abandoned. That is until the Yu family winds up as the new owners of the space station and renames it to Talos.
Oh, and those experiments started up again, under the pretense of the advancement of mankind. You see, those Typhon’s possessed a unique ability that let them do specific things. The Yu family wanted to harness this and use it help the human race in ways never seen before. Those advancements led to the Neuromods. A device that would afford a human to learn new abilities and skills in an instant. All it took was taking this weird looking device and stabbing yourself in the eye (I’m totally nice kidding). Who needs college or trade schools when we have Neuromods, right?
Prey has an interesting start in which you are able to choice your character, Morgan Yu, as both a male or female protagonist. I say this is interesting as the characters name is unisex and I liked the idea that I was able to choice what sex I wanted to play the game as. The game doesn’t change regardless of which sex you chose, but I liked the option to pick who I wanted.
Without spoiling too much, let’s just say you’re not alone on Talos. A number of stranded Typhon aliens are also very present, some annoying, others incredibly deadly. Speaking of annoying, let me point out one particular alien that everyone knows about by now – the mimic. There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than walking around the space station, trying to figure what’s going on and wonder exactly what is or isn’t a mimic. I’d have to say that as much as I hated the mimic, they were a refreshing game mechanic and very ingenious. Fast, dangerous if not put down and very sneaky. Not the hardest alien you’ll encounter but they serve to create a sense of dread and anxiety. See that cup over there? It could be a mimic, but are you sure? Was it there a minute ago? It’s the fear they instill in you that causes you to hit every non-animated item you find. Because if you don’t, it could be a mimic. They’re even able to disguise themselves as ammo, health kits and more. They’ll definitely keep you on your toes, otherwise, they’ll kill you.
Still, for the most part, Prey was very enjoyable, despite the number of aliens wasn’t as much as expected. And yes, some encounters were plain bad, as you’re forced to confront an alien, run because you’re ill-equipped to fight them off or try to hide and hope for the best. That last bit, the hiding, and the stealth part were something that was advertised for the game. I was pretty excited that I wouldn’t be forced to fight everything and that stealth was a thing. However, I found that nearly impossible to do at times. It was if they could sense me half way across the room or down hallways.
But you don’t always have to run, you can stand up for yourself and fight back. Now while you aren’t the DOOM marine or another crafty scientist, you aren’t completely defenseless. You’ll start out with just a wrench, and eventually find one of my favorite tools in the game – the Gloo Cannon. This gun shoots out blobs of a substance that sticks to anything; walls, floors, machines, aliens, and more. It’s particularly useful in most combat situations as it can freeze an enemy for a short while, giving you time to run or kill it with other items in your disposal. In addition, you’ll come to find other weapons such as pistols, shotguns, lasers, turret placements and a few others.
You’re also able to craft items. Almost every time you collect in the game can be broken down into materials. These materials can then be used to craft a number of things ranging from health packs, weapons, and various other items. They’re also useful for when you find schematics that allow you to craft even deadlier or more useful items. That said, you don’t have to but they do serve to make the game easier to manage.
Featured in Prey is a vast talent tree, which is the real star of the game. Here you’re able to customize your character to fit your playstyle. In addition, certain talents will benefit you more than others, so you’ll have to think about what is you want to do, versus what is going to work out for your overall goal. You can choose to be able to move heavy objects, hack your way to victory, increase your health and stamina, become a weapons smith and much more. Starting off you’ll have access to three different specifications, but as you progress in the game, you’ll gain more and eventually able to the very same powers that the Typhons use on you.
Being able to use those aliens powers definitely changes the pace of the game, but you’ll have to be careful. The further you decide into the alien powers, the less human you become and then things get interesting. For example, all those gun turrets you setup to keep you safe from the aliens will now target you as you’ve become an alien yourself.
The game also has several ways of playing, morally that is. You can be a jerk and only care about yourself, or you can be that hero that goes out of their way to help others. Saving an NPC from certain death could rob you of precious material while allowing it to die would stop you from access some other goodies. Every decision you make will affect your gameplay, from your resources to potential helpers and more. The game does a good job of tricking you with this as well. In the beginning of the game, there’s a questionnaire you have to answer. One that I’m sure many people will dismiss as being nonsense, however, the more you play the game the more you think about it. Were those questions some sort of foreshadowing? What exactly does it all mean, if anything? Needless to say, it’s all tied into the game and has a deeper impact than I initially thought.
To call Prey just another First Person Shooter title, would be a huge disrespect to both the game and the Arkane Studios. Still, I think it was a huge mistake to call this Prey, given the game’s previous history. In fact, this is more of a Dead Space X Bioshock X, only just not as deep. The Talos space station is huge, the enemies plentiful and the experience is amped up due to the uncertainty of what’s going on. While you’re eventually told why you’re on the space station and everything is made clear, the game isn’t linear. There are a number of side quests for you to pick up, which can be either beneficial to your story, or a waste of time. That also means the game has some longevity if you’re someone who likes to do 100% of everything available. On the flip side, it does serve to drag out a story and game that should have been much shorter than it was. My first run through the game took about 30 hours, and that’s because I did every quest I found. My second time, however, was much shorter (18 hours) thanks to my first session and ignoring but the main mission.
Outside of that, perhaps the most impressive location in the entire game isn’t in Talos, but outside of it. You’re able to venture outside and once you do, you’re treated to one of the best zero gravity segments of any game to date. I found myself at times just flying around outside as it was just cool to marvel at. This also serves as the game’s form of fast travel and you’ll eventually be able to use this to travel all of the station. Providing that you’re able to locate and unlock each of the areas airlocks.
Cosmetically, Prey is a beautiful looking title on the PC. Every environment you encounter are detail, crisp and enhance the game. I didn’t encounter one place on Talos that wasn’t impressive, regardless if I was lost or if I was being assaulted over and over. That said, I did see in certain places that the textures were bland and pixelated, but that was few and far in-between. The sound is equally impressive, especially the audio logs that you pick up. You can tell exactly what each character was feeling as you replayed their last recorded moments. The sound effects range from gunfire, aliens making slightly audible sounds, and even footsteps that you create or from the Typhoon that is seeking you out.
One of my main concerns going into Prey was the performance on the PC. Arkane Studios last entry, Dishonored 2, had a number of performance related issues with the PC versions. In fact, some of those issues still remain. So as one can imagine, I was really praying (insert pun!) that Prey didn’t suffer the same issues and thankfully it hasn’t. For the most part, the title ran a consistent 1080p@60fps / 1440p@60fps (and above) on both of the PCs I used for testing.
After 20+ hours of gameplay, I’ve only encountered one section of the game where there was a huge FPS drop. I was quick to point this out to Bethesda and Arkane Studios, and I imagine this will be addressed in an upcoming patch. That said, I’m impressed with the optimization that has gone into making Prey run as well as it does on the PC. On the PC options side, it is lacking options that you’d see in other high profile games. You are still able to adjust your resolution, V-sync, shadows, and several other graphical options. And while the FOV is missing from the games option, it is still available via changing the game’s configuration file. Arkane Studios has mentioned that will be addressed at a later date, though if I’m being honest I would have liked that to have shipped with the game on release. In its current state, it feels slapped on, even if that wasn’t the intention.
Despite the PC version performance being decently optimized, it isn’t all perfect. On average it takes 45-50 seconds when you’re loading into new areas. On several gameplay sessions, I found I was able to get something to drink and return, only to find that the game was still loading. Thankfully, this isn’t an issue when you are respawning from a death. The game controls very well, regardless if you use a keyboard/mouse or a gamepad. I’ve tested this with both the Xbox 360, Xbox One and Dualshock 4 controller and I had zero issues (outside of getting the DS4 configured) while playing Prey. In fact, I played exclusively with a gamepad for a good 10 hours before I switched to the keyboard. The controls are tight, responsive, once you adjust the sensitivity.
*Prey on the PC was purchased by the review for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
While I wasn’t sure what to expect with Arkane Studio’s reboot of Prey, after finishing the game I did come away impressed. Despite being vastly different than its predecessor, the title still managed to captivate me with its sci-fi settings, horrifying encounters, and story, despite it being slightly unoriginal. Adding to that, the mimics have become my favorite alien in any video game so far, thanks to their jester-like demeanor.
I also have to applaud the amazing PC performance and putting to rest the fears that Prey would end up a steaming pile of, well you know.
Arkane Studios has created an enjoyable new sci-fi series and I’m hoping that we’ll see more Prey in the future. If that’s even possible will depend on which ending is actually canon.