Following its release in May, Arkane Studios’ RPG Prey made the gaming news for both positive and negative reasons. However, the developers insist ‘update 1.05’ fixes the problems so widely reported on release. What follows is a review of the fully updated version of the game.
This psychological horror first-person shooter is set on the abandoned and desolate space station, Talos 1. Accompanied only by aggressive alien life, our protagonist Morgan (male/female depending on the player’s choice) is a marooned scientist suffering with complicated memory loss. Prey follows Morgan’s attempt to escape and prevent the alien Typhons from escaping with him.
Talos 1 is presented as a vast open world. Airlocks allow the player to ‘fast travel’ to other locations, however, they are not always the safest way to get from A to B. Prey makes it clear that being strong enough to face the monstrosities on the space station of Talos 1 is key. Powered-up weapons are hidden in locked rooms and Prey’s autogenerated passcode system means that you’ll have to find your way into these sealed rooms on your own, without the help of the internet. Every respawn leads to another autogenerated password change for you to uncover.
Talos 1 is teeming with alien life forms after a series of experiments went drastically wrong. The Typhon’s take on a variety of forms and sizes, each a black, otherworldly mass of horror. The smallest of the bunch, the mimics, disguise themselves as everyday objects meaning that jump scares are frequent as these monsters take on the shape of chairs, mugs and ornaments around you. These interactions successfully keep you alert through the game with your wrench clasped firmly in hand. Whilst mimics aren’t too dangerous their cousins, the humanoid Phantoms (who appear in both fire and electric variants), and the elusive and gigantic Nightmare, feel almost impossible to deal with and at times, sprinting past them and getting lucky is the only way to survive.
Just like the Witcher 3 and Horizon Zero Dawn, Prey’s scenery is scattered with both important items and seemingly useless trinkets. Recyclers and Fabricators are wonderful ways for players to rid of any extra weight and turn the random mess strewn about the ship into usable ammo at the same time. The only negative with these machines is that they’re limited to offices and central hubs so travelling to them is often a cause of frustration and leads to you scratching your head as you get inevitably lost between ports.
Another unique thing that sets Prey aside from other space games is the capability to modify Morgan’s skills and take on aspects of the aliens’ characteristics. By installing neromods Morgan can understand the Typhons by becoming more like them. The ability to warp into objects to avoid detection changed my whole experience of the game as I now had a strategy when facing a mob of aliens. Other modifications allow for extra health, better stamina and the ability to slow down time to help you focus on combat at a slower speed. For most of Prey I favoured the weaker weapons such as the wrench over guns, because ammo is so sparse and hard to find. Prey’s arsenal only contains three weapons that inflict damage on aliens. The other eight are mostly used to distract.
The biggest fault Prey has is that, until the later part of the game, you feel extremely under-equipped to deal with the threats constantly thrown at you. Prey feels unfair rather than challenging. the Aliens tend to soak up the damage rather be hurt by your attempts, and with so many enemies plaguing the space station you need at least some ammo to deal with them or some significant way to hide from them. Prey offers little in the way of either, leading to a frustrating experience and far too many death screens. This paired with annoyingly long loading times results in a rage-inducing 25 hours of gameplay. Frankly, the game at times feels like a lacklustre copy of Alien Isolation, which produces fear and claustrophobia on a more convincing level.
That being said, if you do make it to the end of the game a superb final twist awaits. I did not see the shocking ending coming and did not expect it given the frustration I felt whilst playing the game leading up to it. Whether you find this ending worth all the strife will be down to your resilience against hundreds of death scenes.
Overall Prey is an exciting yet problematic space romp. Yes, it has innovative features, but they can’t lift this game beyond a frustrating example of what happens when game developers don’t get the basics quite right.