One of the bigger surprises of E3 2016 came from Bethesda with the announcement of Prey. After rocky development and the subsequent cancellation of Prey 2, many were surprised to discover this new Prey was developed by Arkane Studios, the team behind the Dishonored franchise. Gamers wouldn’t have to wait long to fill the shoes of main character Morgan Yu, as Prey released less than 12 months later in May 2017. Bethesda showed the ultimate confidence in Prey by allowing gamers to try a free, one-hour demo prior to release. Prey (2017) has finally arrived on consoles and PC; but was it worth waiting over ten years for?
Our character awakens inside what is seemingly an ultramodern apartment in 2032. You play as Morgan Yu, a new scientist recruit aboard the Talos I, a research laboratory and space station. Morgan’s gender is up to you, aside from a different voice actor I did not notice much difference between choosing male or female. It isn’t until some glaring malfunctions that you discover that your most recent past was part of a simulation. Talos I is in a state of emergency after aliens known as the Typhon have taken over, killing most of the crew. Plenty of abandoned emails, notes and a few survivors will help Morgan make sense of what’s going on. It’s up to Morgan and A.I. companion, January to work together to fight the alien invasion and save humanity.
Prey is a first-person shooter with more of an emphasis on exploration than combat. I would best describe it as a mix of Bioshock and recently released indie game, The Assembly. Morgan starts out with nothing, sprawled across the Talos I are dozens of areas to search and items to pick up. You will find yourself picking up many types of items, most of which appear to be a waste of space. Prey uses a simple and effective method for scrapping these items thanks to the recycler and fabricator. All scrap items such as wires, metals, banana peels and biohazard waste can be recycled into 4 basic element categories: organic, mineral, synthetic and exotic. Using the fabricator allows you to insert the correct elements and create helpful items like ammo, health packs and weapons. The direct correlation between collecting scrap and extra items really gave importance to this recycling aspect of gameplay. Once you are well equipped you will make your way across the Talos I, constantly redirecting yourself to a new optional objective or area to pass an unexpected roadblock.
Weapons in Prey are a mix of classics like the silenced pistol and shotgun, and more unorthodox ones like the GLOO cannon and huntress boltcaster, a toy gun. Taking on the Typhon proves to always be a challenge due to their fast movements and awkward shapes. The best methods are to chain together weapons such as slowing them down with the GLOO gun then shooting them; if you can mix in a surprise attack for enhanced damage, even better. Ammo management is important, smart players rely often on their melee weapon, the wrench, and less on spray and pray (no pun intended) shooting. Larger enemies like the phantom can make life miserable with powerful long range blasts while the speedy mimic is hard to hit and can hide itself inside common objects. Unfortunately, combat is my least favorite part of Prey. I died early and often and many times it just felt deflating. I honestly wouldn’t mind if there was no combat at all and it was purely exploration.
Skill trees are used to gain extra abilities and proficiencies and are only unlocked by collecting neuromods. Want to be able to lift heavier objects and access blocked areas? Invest in the leverage attribute. Spending neuromods on hacking abilities will allow you to bypass some password locks on doors and safes. There are plenty to choose from that can really shape your experience, also included are more standard perks like increased health, stamina and gun proficiency. After scanning and researching the enough Typhon samples, you will unlock alien powers. This adds another dimension to combat and gameplay, another tool in my box to take down enemies. The first power I chose unleashed a powerful energy blast within a circular radius, knocking down enemies with ease. Other choices varied from: transforming yourself into another object or mindjacking a corrupted human. Suit and helmet perks can also be discovered and added for better proficiency in a variety of areas.
Graphically Prey looks very nice, with characters having a semi-cartoonish look that Arkane Studios is known for. Traversing through vast open space areas and visiting the lush green atrium come to mind as most memorable. Overall the graphics and art more than sufficed, it’s just not setting any benchmarks for 2017. I enjoyed the voice acting from all characters, especially Morgan and January. One of my other main complaints about Prey is the longer than normal loading times. Expect to between 60 and 80 seconds between visits to main areas. The loading times after deaths aren’t nearly as long, but tend to get annoying whenever I repeatedly died. It’s also worth mentioning that Prey is a single player experience. Don’t expect any head to head or co-op playing as the mimics and humans, although that does sound intriguing.
Prey is a divisive game that many will adore while others will be quick to bash. Prey is not a shooting game with fast paced action, a bevy of guns and bullet sponge enemies. It’s a slow burn, one that rewards thoroughness and efficiency. It reminds me of the controversy of Metroid Prime being a first-person adventure. One of those rare single-player only gems that provide just enough variety to warrant a second playthrough. I could have done with shorter loading times and the combat can be overly difficult, even on easy. Despite these couple shortcomings, Prey keeps me coming back…marveling in awe at the eerie silence of space and what lies behind the next door.