Prey Xbox One l PS4 l PC
DEVELOPER: Arkane Studios
PUBLISHER: Bethesda Softworks
RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2017
In the recently released Prey from Dishonored developer Arkane Studios and The Elder Scrolls and Fallout publisher Bethesda Softworks, you play as Morgan Yu aboard the space station Talos I.
The game is a re-imagining. A game of the same name was released in 2006, and a sequel to that was in development for a long time. But eventually it was decided to start from scratch.
The game is set in an alternate timeline in which history has played out a little differently on the way to the year 2032, when the story starts. It begins with you waking up in your upscale apartment, with a lovely view of the city outside. Your receive a call from your brother, Alex, the CEO of the company TranStar. You’ve decided to join the team, helping with testing (yes, something of a guinea pig, but just wait until you see your office!). But of course, something goes very wrong. How you get from this point to the massive, lavish space station overrun with a strange and dangerous alien species known as the Typhon we’ve known the game revolves around? I will not spoil such a thing, as it’s quite the trip.
Playing the original Prey, I had fun at first but recall growing bored fairly quickly. Thankfully, I had a far better experience playing this new re-imagining. The game has been compared by many to BioShock, one of my favorite games of all time, and I can see why. It’s by no means a clone or anything like that, but the two do share some similarities, and that’s not a bad thing. I can’t say this is as good as the dystopian classic—few games are—but it’s got enough going for it to make it a mostly enjoyable experience.
You level-up your character by finding something called Neuromods, quite possibly the most disturbing method of upgrading a video game character I’ve experienced. Using these, you can increase your health and conditioning or improve your abilities whichever way fits your playstyle best, from hacking to increased strength, stealthiness to weapon upgrades, repairs to combat focus, and so on. These are important, as you begin the game quite weak. I’m talking “can’t swing a wrench more than a few times without becoming exhausted” weak. You’ll want to immediately get that stamina up, but you’ll also be tempted by the many other intriguing upgrades, creating some tough decisions. In these cases I’ll often save the Neuromods I find until I come across a tough spot or something which requires an upgrade to get/use and go from there.
The story is often progressed through voice over, via direct contact, audio recordings, etc. There’s also lots of e-mails, book excerpts, and more to take in which adds lore and layers to your game…depending on how much you enjoy reading, of course.
There’s just one small thing about Prey I genuinely disliked, something that could be significant for some. That one thing? The infamous jump scare. I adore horror, but like many other fans of the genre I am not a fan of the jump scares. They can be effective in scaring you and sometimes they’re done well, there is no denying that. But they also feel cheap and lazy most of the time, and more than one or two can get old fast. This game has a hell of a lot of them.
The thing is, I can’t tell you that the many jump scares you have to deal with here are cheap and lazy. You see, the first and most basic enemy you face is called a Mimic. This alien is able to become various objects—a chair, a trash can, and more—allowing it to ambush you. Sometimes you’ll notice an inanimate object moving slightly when you enter a room, so you’ll know it’s a Mimic waiting to attack. But often you won’t know what’s coming, and suddenly there’s a loud noise and you have a nasty creature all over you. There’s also times where more than one of them will gang up on you. They can be killed fairly easy on normal difficulty, but they can also kill you quickly early on, especially in packs.
Slightly off-topic tip for those of you planning to play: save any Medkits you find unless you desperately need them. So long as you don’t die during a fight, your health will bounce back to 20 automatically and you’ll find various food and drink items that will help. Another trick I stumbled on is water fountains and sinks. Water gives you one single health point, which isn’t very helpful if you only find one source. But you will often see two fountains next to each other, or a bathroom with three sinks. Alternating back and forth, you’re able to completely replenish your health without burning a Medkit.
So, getting back on track, the jump scares do make sense considering the trick these sneaky little bastards can pull off. They just drove me crazy because they’re still freakin’ jump scares. It doesn’t help that the Mimics in their natural form look like demon spiders made of smoke and shadow, either. It’s worse early on when, again, you’re weak. As you add Neuromods and upgrade your skills/abilities (including one which allows YOU to learn how to mimic inanimate objects and turn the tables), acquire better weapons, and most importantly, learn the best ways to deal with enemies, the jump scares become easier to deal with. Dropping the music volume helps, too. And hey, if you happen to get a kick out of the jump scares, you’ll be in heaven.
But Mimics are just the start. You’ll come face-to-face with plenty more intimidating, and sometimes much larger, enemies on Talos I as well. I just felt it was important to mention this for anyone who’s like me and not so fond of jump scares. Thankfully, Bethesda was cool enough to release a demo for the game, so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about before committing to a full purchase if you so choose.
Apart from the one complaint, this is an enjoyable sci-fi action-RPG with unique enemies, weapons, and upgrades to help ensure things don’t get stale and boring when you play. There’s plenty to keep you busy, and the world itself is a lot of fun to explore, as well. Any game that allows me to hang out in space is one I have no trouble getting excited about.
On top of all of that, I can honestly say that Prey is the first game I’ve ever played that had me walking around nervously assaulting furniture in fear that it was going to kill me. That alone says something.