Have you ever felt alone? Maybe your parents are gone for the night and you’re home all by yourself and most, if not all, the lights are off and there’s a certain ominous feeling in the house as if you’re being watched? Did you see something out of the corner of your eye move or is that just your eye’s playing tricks on you? Your anxiety starts to build as your mind starts to allow your imagination to take over and the illusions of evil beings to seem more real than what you had hoped for. Well prepare to have that become a reality while playing Prey.
Prey was developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game. Prey is a first person, horror shooter that takes place on the Talos 1 in the year 2035 and you play as the male (or female) Morgan Yu. Aboard the Talos 1, your brother starts testing Neuromods on you, causing you to lose most of your memory and you actually start the game going through mundane tasks like pressing buttons and jumping over small ledges. That is when everything takes a turn for the worst as you enter the last task they have, which is just answering some Sophie’s choice-like questions. An alien race known as the Typhon, are the main reason behind all the testing done on the Talos 1 and the passengers aboard the space station can’t keep them contained any longer. You soon realize that you have been undergoing testing and have been carefully watched as you lived your life in a fake apartment building and a voice called January is helping you escape and hopefully solve the issue of what has happened to everyone on Talos 1. As you make your way through the ship, you soon realize that things on the Talos 1 are far worse than you had known and the Typhon have wiped pretty much everyone out and your brother, Alex Yu, is trying to prevent you from destroying the Typhon and the research he had done regarding them.
While playing Prey, there are a few things to keep in mind. One, ammo for your weapons is extremely limited and due to that scarcity, you are pretty much left to craft all your ammunition. If you didn’t preorder this game you get a shotgun that makes taking on the Typhon much easier. If you didn’t preorder it, don’t worry, you do get a shotgun, but it’s not till a little later on in the game. Another thing to keep in mind is that the Typhon grunts, called Mimics, can hide anywhere and that’s because they can change into any object they want to, which makes finding them a bit of a challenge. They tend to get a bit annoying in the start because all you have as a weapon is a wrench and it isn’t very easy hitting them with it because they are so quick. They might seem like they are going to charge at you, slip right between your legs and when you turn around, they are gone and you have no idea where they went. The Phantoms, the more humanoid looking of the aliens, are extremely fast too, one minute they could be ten yards away, a split second later, and they are right up in your face. None of the aliens you come across should be taken lightly, whether you have a gun or not. Second thing to keep in mind when playing is to make sure you search the areas you visit from top to bottom in search of emails, audio logs, and left behind key cards that are…wait for it… “key” to progressing forward onto other areas of the station. If you try to just blow through areas without doing some much needed scrounging, you will be left with no other choice but to backtrack and try to find the missing key to move forward, which can get tedious sometimes.
While playing the game, there are some really great and not so great aspects of Prey that I personally would like to point out. The sound and music you listen to while playing adds a great layer of eeriness and adds to the open environments you’re often exposed to. It gives you a sense of being watched and not wanting to stand still for very long. There are also audio ques that will seemingly be random and cause you to turn around and look for a second before continuing whatever you were doing before. It overall just makes you creeped out and gives you a great feeling of being scared, which I believe also adds to the immersion you feel while playing as well. Since this game is first-person, you gain a great sense of feeling like you are Morgan Yu and that you are wandering this alien infested ship all by yourself; It was a great and yet, terrible feeling. Another thing that makes this game great is the platforming mechanics it introduces when you find yourself a GLOO cannon. The GLOO cannon can not only immobilize enemies (mainly Mimics and Phantoms) for a short time, but it can also, when used correctly, be shot at a wall and create a narrow stairway up to a platform that you might not otherwise of been able to reach. This little mechanic, although as mundane as it sounds, is actually quite crucial later on when trying to reach new areas on the map.
This game does a great job when trying to give you that survival horror aspect, but when doing so, it tends to make the survival part a bit of a drag and sometimes, a bit cumbersome. Crafting your own ammo is awesome and a great way to really make you think twice before firing your gun, but when you are left with no choice but to use your gun on an enemy, the enemies almost seem as though they are bullet sponges. Technopaths, which are huge alien masses that mainly control other humans and operators, are probably the worst. Bigger enemies are expected to be tough but when it takes upwards of 12-14 shots from a shotgun to kill those things, it makes it hard to conserve ammo for other sections. When you run out of ammo, you are pretty much left with your wrench, which proves to be a near useless weapon later in the game due to it causing hardly any damage to enemies and thus, results in more frequent deaths and frustration. Another frustration that I personally had to deal with was framerate issues. There’s a section later on in the game where you are in a fairly big area and there is a little room that you have to drop into and do some stuff on a computer before you restart the system and then power it back on. Before you even reach that little room, you must find a way to get down there and not get completely destroyed by the seemingly biggest enemy in the game. On my way down there, anytime I had the central portion of the area (which is where I needed to go) in my viewing, the framerate would drop from a normal 30fps to a recognizable 10 and 12fps. It was absolutely terrible and not only caused multiple deaths, but caused me to not be able to finish the game because of the number of enemies that patrol that area. If Bethesda and or Arkane studios releases a patch for the game that fixes said issue, I would gladly go back and finish my play through of it. Until such time, it will be added to the seemingly endless backlog. A lot of people have said that the reason for the framerate is due to the high graphics and that Arkane studios put a ton of items and objects in each environment. That seems like joke. Other games have not only had more objects in the viewing screen of the player but have eliminated loading times going from area to area and have not had nearly as bad of a framerate problem as Prey seems to have.
An issue that isn’t that big of a deal but still should be mentioned are the powers. When you first start the game, you are introduced to these things called Neuromods. Neuromods are an upgrades item that you use to upgrade your character, ranging from health extensions to your ability to sneak up to enemies and etc. The reason this is an issue is because a little later on in the game, they introduce the alien powers you are able to obtain should you use the neuromods for those and not for the human abilities. Not only do you have to scan the different Typhon to unlock those alien abilities, but you then have to use neuromods to actually be able to use them. While that concept is awesome and makes you want to learn more about the Typhon and their weaknesses, the human abilities almost seem more valuable to the player. The alien abilities just didn’t seem that appealing outside of being able to use the Mimic ability to change yourself into any object in the game. While that seems fun, the Neuromods are also a bit scarce and while you can generate them later on, they prove more useful if used on the human abilities.
Prey, while it has some flaws, is still a good game and really brings the tones of System Shock 2 and Bioshock back on current gen consoles and does a great job with it. The game is gorgeously eerie and wonderfully scary and combines story, both told through the environments and through emails and audio logs, along with fun gameplay to really make playing this game memorable. I would definitely recommend this game to anyone who played the Bioshock series and or System Shock 2, but might tell you to wait till either a patch gets released to fix its bugs and frame rate issues or till it goes on sale. Either way, I do feel that this is a game that you should play just if you love a great story, enjoy suspenseful and heart racing situations and, most importantly, enjoy a good scare while playing a great game.