In some respect, Prey has been a long time coming. Originally, the title was planned and announced as a sequel to the 2006 game by Human Head Studios, also known as Prey. However, development hell ensued during the following years. Mostly put down to the acquisition of the IP by Bethesda from 3D Realms. It wasn’t until eight years after its announcement that its cancellation was confirmed and all seemed dead and buried for Prey. But that was not the case after Bethesda’s announcement in 2016 that whilst not a sequel, a so called ‘re-imagining’ of the first game was in development at Arkane Studios. It would be foolish to think that none of the previous work went into what we have today. But the question is, does this fall into the decade-long development hole that we all buried the likes of Duke Nukem Forever in? Or can Prey rise from the ashes and stand tall?
Prey takes an alternate approach with its plotline. John F. Kennedy has survived his assassination attempt. And with such, he is galvanised to pursue and fund further a space program as the United States attempts to lead all research against its rivals, notably Russia, in the race to learn and conquer space. Human presence does not long go unnoticed however as aliens known as ‘Typhoon’, made up of many different forms detect our presence and lead an attack on earth.
We’ll not give too much away here. But if we fast forward to the year 2035, you find yourself working for a company known as the Transtar Corporation who are carrying out extensive research of the so-called Typhoon aboard the Talos I, a highly advances research facility in space.
You take the reins of Morgan Yu who is recruited a few years prior to the events in 2035 by your Brother, Alex Yu. The first aspect to note is that you can take the lead as either a male or female. Arkane have rightly put the player in control of deciding what gender we would like our protagonist to be. This is a welcome and refreshing stance with female leads becoming far more prominent which doesn’t alienate one or the other by offering this choice.
You’re playing the role of guinea pig at first. Seemingly brought aboard as a test subject for numerous experiments. Disaster soon strikes however as you discover all is not what it seems aboard Talos I. And the Typhoon reveal themselves to have mimicking abilities. So we’ll refer to them as mimics from here on in.
Prey’s intro offers a cleverly designed absorbing cut scene that completely distorts your own reality. It’s at this point the gameplay reveals itself to be interactive in regards to the amount of objects that can be used, picked up and simply thrown around. Considering this is by the same team as the recent Dishonored 2, you may know what to expect. There’s a very ‘Bethesda’ feel as soon as you start.
The first-person view is fully utilised to give you greater control and a larger sense of the surroundings that are to come. As is somewhat standard in games these days, you’ll be able to collect skill upgrades. But Prey gives you a choice of what area you’d like to focus more on. If you begin with upgrading your I.T skills, you may be granted powers to unlock certain areas sooner than if you opt for a different area. Essentially this could work to both your advantage by leading you to new environments, whilst also meaning you may miss certain story aspects and upgrades by waiting it out until you find the official access codes for these areas. But it’s all about choice, and this is what Prey gives you.
Mechanically, Prey feels fluid for the most part. The tools at your disposal, once acquired, give the player the ability to think and play with possibilities. Notably here the GLOO gun which you will pick up early on. This doesn’t just temporarily cement your enemies within a glue-like substance, but also allows for you to build your own platforms to access previously unreachable areas. It might not be obvious where to do so, but having the ability to experiment is Prey’s way of saying to us “come on, see what you can do with me”.
You need to be careful on this infested ship too. Mimics are everywhere. And doing what they do best, you’ re constantly questioning if a coffee cup is real or if it’s a mimic. If you’re going through all guns blazing, you will likely miss such moments and later in the game, it may become more obvious what’s real, and what’s mimicked.
Graphically, Prey offers visuals that sometimes astound dependent on your situation, and sometimes just leave you feeling with that average feeling. Built using the Cry Engine 5, it’s definitely not a shabby experience, but occasional stutters and jagged edges make themselves known. This is by no means a game breaker at all and on the whole, you’ll be pleased with some stunning design and attention to detail that Arkane have given to Prey.
Dependent on your playstyle, you may find yourself blitzing through the main story in ten hours or so. But if you keep it slow, you’ll get a lot more out of the games lore, and environments. You may feel compelled to return and challenge yourself on a higher difficulty, or take a different route with upgrades. But once you’ve seen the conclusion to the main story, there isn’t much more to return for and no multiplayer aspect.
Prey offers a familiar but refreshing experience within this console generation. Many have dubbed the game as the spiritual successor to System Shock. Others class it as Bioshock in space. But it can stand tall and proud on its own merits. Whilst not flawless by any means, Prey delivers a compelling experience both with intrigue and its original ways of testing you through inviting thought. Overall, Prey may have started out its development a decade ago, but this is one title that does not fall into that Duke Nukem trap.
Prey is available to purchase now from the Xbox Store, Priced £49.99 and on physical disc at all good retailers.
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