Arkane Studios’ Prey can be a very long game, but whether that is a plus or minus largely depends on how much you can endure a rather repetitive experience journeying through a wonderfully designed world.
At its core, there is no denying that Prey is a mechanically sound psychological horror/action title that does what it is supposed to do, well, but still falls short of its esteemed inspirations.
Set aboard the vast and daunting space station Talos I, this labyrinthine space dungeon is a masterclass in design, seamlessly encouraging backtracking while pushing you forward to explore parts unknown. It’s an essential tool of environmental storytelling that makes the world of Prey feel much more alive.
Aping the feel of modern Metroidvanias, you will routinely find locked rooms and areas that require a subsequent visit or a more innovative way to circumvent. From improving your hacking skills, augmenting your strength, or building your own platforms using the Gelifoam Lattice Organism Obstructor (GLOO Cannon), Prey challenges you to find a way past these obstacles or miss out on collectibles.
These enticing items can be resources, weapons, or more importantly, reading materials or sound bites that add just a little bit more to the story. Completionists beware, Prey will definitely push your compulsion to find everything to the limit.
As Talos I opens up, you’ll find that areas start getting connected through the use of air ducts, alternate routes, and even zero-g sections.
While I am not a fan of the clunky traversal through space, I appreciate that there are more ways to maneuver the maze that is Talos I. Visually, Prey is gorgeous, and as previously mentioned, is styled in a way that reflects the alternate time period of the game. From the failed assassination of US President John F Kennedy in 1963 up to the year 2032, the space station has endured clashing of styles and designs from the various eras that somehow fits perfectly.
You star as either a male or female Morgan Yu, whose time in the research facility quickly takes a turn for the worse as the alien organisms known as the Typhon overwhelms Talos I. No longer willing to be studied as test subjects, the Typhon become the hunters and you are the ultimate quarry.
Throughout the 20-25 odd hours of Prey, Morgan will gain access to neuromods – painfully and disturbingly administered through the eye – and gain new abilities.
You can upgrade your health, strength, technological skills like hacking or repair amongst others. Better yet, forgo your humanity and augment yourself with the aliens’ powers, opening up more possibilities for combat and puzzle solving at the risk of being terminated by the anti-alien turrets scattered around the station, a huge bummer.
A word of advice, be prudent at the start of Prey, as more often than not ammo and health packs are scarce. Mmelee combat against the fast moving Typhon can be frustrating, so you do have to be methodical in taking on these enemies.
While the game manages to scare you at the start with mimics (a type of Typhon that can mimic objects), it gets old fast. The tension may remain, but the fun is no longer there after you get used to expecting it. The plot undergoes a similar trajectory, shining at the start with promise, but peters out halfway through the game.
My time with Prey was one of wonder and frustration, bringing back better memories of its obvious inspirations like System Shock, BioShock, Dead Space, and even Arkane’s own Dishonoured series.
It’s not helped by the constant struggle to balance surviving as a human or having fun with the more alien abilities against the Typhon and Talos I itself. Prey tries to be a lot of things, but it ends up a messy experience that made me want to go back to comforts of nostalgia.