[Full Disclosure:] Before I start the review I already did a first impression of the game which you can find here. So I will be copying and pasting some of what I said there in this review because the first impression I got from the game pretty much stuck till I finished it last night. That and I am a lazy asshole. Despite the name, the new Prey has absolutely nothing to do with the original game released back in 2006 by Human Head Studios. It also is not a reboot like Wolfenstein: The New Order or DOOM. And for those living under a rock, Prey is from Arkane Studios the same studio that brought us Dishonored. So unlike other reviews that slammed the game in ignorance expecting it to be like the rest of the franchise, the game only carries the name of the original franchise and that is where the similarities stop. And shouldn’t be compared to it in any way.
Prey is extremely narratively driven just like the games they took inspiration from, and it is extremely refreshing to see that approach being used in first person games again. So I am going to be purposefully vague regarding the story since it would be easy for me to spoil the entire story since it is so story-heavy. But without giving away to much you play a scientist named Morgan Yu who is doing research in the field of neuromods (They are comparable to the Gene Tonics in Bioshock.) which instantly give you new skills and knowledge by injecting it into your eye and straight into your brain. Through a series of reality-defying revelations you find out that scientists have been experimenting on captured aliens and like things go in these type of games, they go horribly south and the captured aliens manage to escape.
I was extremely surprised by just how much happened in just the opening hour of the game, and I was afraid that the game would not be able to keep up the stories pace it set out during the early parts of the game. But I am glad to report it keeps the story moving at a similar pace during the entirety of the game, the story also gets “supplemented” by audio logs and computer e-mails from Talos 1 crew members. Showing what things were like before and after the alien outbreak. From the first time you set foot in the world of Prey and Talos 1 the space-station where the majority of the game takes place, you get a clear indication that Arkaine Studio’s inspiration comes from games like System Shock, Bioshock, Deadspace and Half-Life. And like they say: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.
And by taking inspiration from all the games mentioned above Arkane Studio’s managed to absolutely nail the atmosphere in Prey. And in the process, they managed to create a creepy yet interesting environment, which is a mix between the level design of Half-Life, the creepy space-station design of Deadspace and System Shock. Talos 1 itself is an absolutely massive space station, and you can easily get lost in the hundreds of corridors and foyers. So it stands to reason that exploration is a huge part of Prey. You will regularly need to backtrack to previously inaccessible areas that you can now access because you upgraded some of your neuromods giving you access to abilities that unlock these areas. So yes there is some backtracking involved in the game.
Especially during the multitude of side-quests, you will find in the Prey, and no it does not really detract from the game I actually loved exploring every inch of Talos 1. And honestly, it really is worth backtracking and exploring every nook and cranny, for all the audio logs and e-mails. Not to mention all the weapon upgrades and neuromods you will be missing out on. And that is the biggest draw for me in Prey. The superb level design and how Arkane Studio’s implementation of the abilities and powers that give you access to previously inaccessible areas of the game. Not to mention the subtle puzzle elements found across the game, and by puzzle elements, I don’t mean in the traditional sense. But rather figuring out how to enter a room or area with the items or powers you have at your disposal. In some cases, there can be anywhere from two to six different ways to achieve this:
From using items ranging from a passcode found on a computer, key card on a corpse, your trusty wrench, alien powers or a crossbow that shoots foam darts which can be used to shoot switches and buttons through open windows. Prey is truly a play how you want to title and gives you a multitude of different ways of achieving your goals and I really loved that aspect of the game. The combat in Prey is thoughtful and intense and has plenty of survival horror elements, even on medium difficulty the game can be tough and unforgiving and will punish you for making mistakes. Adding to that ammo for your weapons are pretty scarce most of the time and the only time you can get plenty of ammo for them is by using a rather interesting key element of Prey.
Which is the ability to recycle any objects (junk) using the recycler which breaks them down it base materials and then using those base materials to 3D print something else from those broken down materials using the fabricator. From new weapons down to modifications, ammunition, health packs and neuromods you can pretty much create any weapon or item in the game as long as you have the blueprints and the materials. This encourages you to start picking up all kinds of junk you find in the game, and most of the times I found my inventory filled with more junk than anything else. In addition to this, you also get weapons that can convert enemies into those base materials, which is handy if you are running out of junk to collect and need resources to craft weapons or ammunition for them.
Every weapon you come across in Prey, down from the Shotgun, Pistol, Q-beam or the Gloo cannon, all feel decidedly different to handle and use, bringing a nice mix to the combat of Prey which never gets old by the way as there are multiple ways of tackling an enemy. In the very same way, it gives you multi ways of exploring Talos 1. On top of your normal arsenal of weapons, you can even harness the aliens (Typhon) abilities, allowing you to teleport like a Phantom, or disguise yourself as an object like a Mimic does. Added to that you also get neuromods (They are pretty comparable to the Gene Tonics in you found in Bioshock.) which instantly give you new skills and knowledge by injecting it into your eye and straight into your brain. Which brings me to one of the most terrifying aliens in any FPS game I have ever encountered.
And as the name implies Mimics have the nasty ability to camouflage themselves as everyday objects. Never in my life have I been so mistrusting of everyday objects in a game, see that coffee cup on the table? Maybe it’s just a Mimic waiting for you to get close enough before attacking you, and I lost count how many times I shit myself when a random piece of furniture turned into a Mimic and started attacking me. This one single enemy in the game manages to make every room you walk into an extremely unsettling experience, to say the least. Graphically the game looks extremely impressive and the lighting is extremely well done, and the framerate remained steady throughout the entirety of the game. I cannot remember a single time I experienced a dip in framerate that impacted my gameplay.
My only gripe with the game is its music, gone are the musical tracks from legendary composer Jeremy Soule, who did an excellent job on the last Prey game. While Mick Gordon’s (Who coincidently did the amazing soundtrack for DOOM) creepy, paranoia-inducing soundtracks work most of the time. There are times where it fails terribly, random musical notes would seemingly flare up with no catalyst behind them or no aliens around the next corner ready to attack, it was a little jarring at times and did break the immersion for me more than a couple of times. Other than that my one minor gripe there us very little to hate in Prey. The pacing is solid, the narrative is well crafted coupled with a beautiful atmosphere, makes pray one of the most memorable FPS games I have played in the last couple of years.