Dishonored 2 was our GOTY in 2016. Hands down, it completely blew us away.
Prey is a whole different beast with its twists and turns and gritty setting. Yet, there’s a very special aura around it which captivates throughout. Even if it lacks some of the polish and finesse Arkane refined in last years’ stealth-em-up.
As much of a sci-fi buff as I am, there are a few occasions where Prey lost me. I never put it down or gave up, but sometimes the plot took too long to reach a point, and when it did reach that point, the enemy was there to greet me in overly vicious and powerful fashion. The game never really got going for me until I acquired the Psychoscope – essentially the same as Bioshock’s camera. This enables Morgan to scan the alien lifeforms aboard Talos l, learn their skills, and discover their weaknesses.
The fact is, this is one game you’re going to want to notch down to Easy. It won’t harm your achievement progress or make you seem any less capable than anyone else. But Medium genuinely feels too rough of an introduction for a first run through Talos I. With enemies jumping out at you from just about everywhere, and others so powerful that they’ll take your health bar down with one strike, you either figure out the shortcuts, level up the right attributes, or accept the possibility that maybe you’re not ready for this yet.
Prey is a complete reboot and is, most definitely, not the same game from 2006. There are sly nods here and there, but for the most part, the games are nothing alike. It doesn’t even take cues from the cancelled sequel from Human Head. Arkane Studios have put their own stamp on things, and as Morgan Yu, you’ll be exploring a space station that was heavily into alien research. As one of the scientists, you’ll travel through an open world environment, but need to find keycards, technology, and recognition software in order to move about freely.
Morgan has lost memories and it’s up to the player to figure out what role they played on the station through emails, conversations, and other fragments of information scattered through the world.
While heavily influenced by the likes of System Shock, Alien Isolation, and Bioshock, Prey flaunts its own creativity in various different ways. For one, the morphing Typhon which can assume the shape and identity of objects in the environment. Whether it’s a mug or a health crate, you can never be too cautious as the enemy will lunge for your neck.
Fortunately, you have a Gloo Cannon which can be used to stick an enemy in place so you can have your wicked way with them. Whether you’re unloading bullets or smacking them upside the head with a wrench, it’s an effective strategy for staying alive. You have to be careful, though, as the Gloo can also be used to patch up hull damage when you travel outside the space station. By securing the hull damage, you can then unlock other areas which you can visit for extra goodies and story progress.
The Zero Gravity movement to different airlocks on the ship can be a fast way to get from one point to another, though it all depends on whether you end up in a tussle with typhoid or how far away you inadvertently steer from the ship. But it’s an interesting component which adds to the game and breaks up the action of walking around – sometimes aimlessly – around Talos I.
Aliens also have various different powers and abilities which you can actually take for your own. With so many powers available to you, this will also switch up the way you play as you can’t possibly claim them all before the game concludes. Factor in that the game has at least three different endings, with various consequences hinging on how you handle certain situations in the game, and Prey has some serious replay value.
But once Prey does get its hooks into you, they will stay in there for the duration. Sure, with complex lore and plot points, Prey requires your full focus and attention, but with the gameplay challenges and some of the frustrating backtracking, you may find you’re having a love/hate relationship with the game like me.
That doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a fantastic space horror. It doesn’t quite reach the subtle highs of an Alien Isolation, nor is it quite as memorable as a System Shock 2, but Prey is a game that proudly wears its influences on its sleeve. And, in doing so, offers a psychological phenomenon we’ve not seen for many years.
While not as immediately gripping as a Dishonored 2, Arkane Studios have still created one of the finest releases this year. They’ve been bold enough to devise a hardcore single-player experience which reintroduces classic gameplay traits that had begun to fade from memory. And, for the most part, they’ve done so effectively.
+ Excellent UI
+ Enriching lore and world
+ A harmonious mix of classic gameplay
– Brutal difficulty curve
– Plot lends itself to backtracking and overly long sections
8.5 out of 10
Tested on Xbox One