Prey is a game that almost didn’t exist. The original released back in 2006 after eleven full years of on-again, off-again type of development cycles. After such a long period, it was surprisingly good! Naturally, fans of the game wanted more, and it wasn’t long before we started seeing glimpses of Prey 2. Then in 2009, Bethesda acquired the rights to the franchise, and things start to get a little rocky. After many delays, a potential cancellation and then a changing-of-minds, the latest title in the series was finally handed off to Arkane Studios. Known for their work on the Dishonored series, the studio and Bethesda decided it would be best to start from ground zero, and re-imagine the series in a new light. Thus, the second installment in the series is simply called Prey, and it feels very much like an extension of everything Arkane has ever worked on. Read on for our full Prey review.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: May 5, 2017
Game Purchased for the sake of this review
Prey puts you in control of Morgan Yu, a human on board a special space station known as Talos I that is overflowing with an alien species called the Typhon. One of the coolest aspects about the story is that it takes place in an alternate timeline where United States President John F. Kennedy survived the assassination attempt back in 1963. Because he survived, he was able to flesh out a lot of his ideas, one of which was dumping a lot of funding into the space program.
Due to the acceleration of humans into space, the Typhon take notice and begin an attack on Earth. The United States and Russia join in a fight again the alien species, and successfully defend our home planet while leaving the everyday citizen clueless about what is happening in our skies. They build a space station to keep collecting data on the Typhon, but after numerous setbacks on Earth, the whole project is shuttered, with the captive aliens still left alive on the station. Fast forward to 2030, and the TranStar Corporation has control of the space station now, which has been re-branded as Talos I. The game starts a few years after this, as the Typhon have broken out of captivity, and it’s completely up to you what happens from there!
Much like Dishonored, Prey evolves and shapes itself based on choices that you make and the way you decide to progress your character. At the very beginning of the game, you can choose to be a Male or Female protagonist, which is the easiest choice you’ll make throughout the 23 hours or so it takes to finish the main campaign and a portion of the side quests. How you end up playing the game is dictated by the skills you invest in via neruomods. These handy little things can be found all throughout Talos I, and they let you invest in skills spread out across a number of different paths. If you want to invest in more human-like abilities, you have the freedom to do so. On the other hand, if you want to invest in more Typhon-like abilities, have at it!
Even in the first few hours of the game, you’re free to explore around the space station and get familiar with the play style and your surroundings, to an extent. As you wander around, you’ll start to pick up on key skills you should invest in as soon as possible if you want to make your time with Prey a little bit easier. Leverage, for example, will allow you to pick up heavier objects, which can then be thrown at enemies for extra damage, or simply moved out of the way to let you access rooms and entire areas that would otherwise be blocked off. Other useful skills to invest in at some point would be Physician and Hacking. From there, it’s all a matter of preference and the style of game you want to create.
There is a crafting mechanic involved, and to get the resources needed, you’ll be making quite a few trips to the recycler and fabricator. Like it sounds, the recycler allows you to input all your junk and spare weapons that you find on Talos I and turn it into useful material. From there, you can visit the fabricator which will let you craft many different items and objects thanks to blueprints that you’ll find all over the place. Ammo, guns, turrets, medkits, special items… all useful things you can produce at the nearest fabricator. Make mental notes where they are when you see them, because in some of the more intense portions of the game, it’s nice to be able to run back and quickly pump out a few medkits or boxes of ammo as supplies begin to run low.
Speaking of which, Prey is without a doubt one of the hardest games I’ve experienced in quite some time, and that’s on normal settings. Perhaps it was the way I choose to tackle the skill tree, focusing entirely on human abilities, that made this difficult. Either way, I spent a lot of time creeping along, and I always made sure to bring one or two turrets along with me whenever possible.
Some of the best moments in the story occur when Morgan is tasked with traveling outside Talos I and you get to experience the gravity-free universe. There are a few times when you’ll need to put on a space suit and explore the unknown, even if you don’t exactly travel all that far away from the station. The controls for these sequences felt so natural and were a good representation of what it would feel like to actually be doing the same thing. I wish more time could have been spent outside the station, or even on different areas.
That is one of my biggest complaints with Prey. The amount of backtracking that you have to do is borderline insane, especially if you tackle most of the side quests at the end of the campaign like I did. There are a significant amount of missions to take on that are completely separate from the main campaign, and most of them are actually quite enjoyable and offer up rewards worth going for. It was the mindless run from one area to the next, back to the first area, and then back again that brought down the fun-factor slightly. It’s best to pick and choose the side missions that you are particularly interested in, because like I mentioned, this game is difficult, and your resources are extremely limited. You don’t want to get stuck in an area and have to rely on your wrench and hope that you can get through an area without taking damage.
The level of creativity that exists within Prey is reason enough to give this one a chance. Veterans of other titles from Arkane Studios will instantly feel right at home, and that’s a good feeling. There were a few hiccups along the way, such as game freezing and enemies glitching out, but other than that, it held up well. Offering a style perfected with the Dishonored series and a difficulty that does not mess around, Prey will keep you busy for hours on end.