Prey Reviews

AuthorReview
Slam Shot Sam
589,544 (320,008)
Slam Shot Sam
TA Score for this game: 289
Posted on 12 May 17 at 23:55, Edited on 12 May 17 at 23:59
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Prey | Xbox One | Review

A reboot of 3D Realms’ 2006 shooter, Prey finds itself fighting an uphill battle. Sharing little but its name with the original, while standing in for what looked to be a promising sequel in Prey 2, many fans of the property are approaching this 2017 reimagining with a justified degree of trepidation. Whether you fall into that camp or not, reset assured, Prey was always very safe in the hands of Arkane Studios (Dishonored).

It’s a very familiar game, in just about every which way, but that’s hard to see as a negative when the comparisons drawn are to the industry’s elite. Whilst Prey might not surpass the likes of System Shock, BioShock, Deus Ex and Half-Life, it does manage to play at their distinguished level, which, in itself, is no mean feat.

You begin by selecting which Morgan Yu is you, male or female, before being whisked away to prepare for life as a scientist aboard Talos I, the game’s rich space station setting. The opening sequence is incredibly stylish, with a closing twist that saw Prey immediately sink its hooks into us and refuse to let go. From here on in, the main narrative is about unpicking truth from a tangle of lies to inform your ultimate decision.

In addition to the primary quest line, there’s an absolute glut of side content, though that terminology admittedly sells it short. Self contained stories are told through environments, emails and audio logs, which you’re free to consume or ignore at your leisure. Personally, I more often than not pass on in-game documentation, but, thanks to their engaging content and a little and often approach to delivery, that wasn’t the case here.

Uncovering Talos I’s many dark secrets is an unending treat, taking in environments from the grand central lobby to the lush Arboretum at its highest peak along the way. The aged Art Deco aesthetic works wonders in highlighting the alternate future setting, in which President Kennedy survived his real-world assassination and changed the course of history by leading the US to victory in the space race. With focus squarely aimed at developing the space program, other technological advancements fell by the wayside, which offers up an intriguing meld of conflicting timelines in one grounded, believable location.​

Uncovering Talos I’s many dark secrets is an unending treat.
You’re free to prowl the detailed station at will, though certain areas are cordoned off until you acquire the relevant skills or items to proceed; as a result, the world slowly unfurls around you in a way that’s not dissimilar to a classic ‘metroidvania’ game. With high character mobility and constant branching paths to accommodate different playstyles, the lavish level design saw us obsessively scour every surface not for medkits, ammo and crafting components, but for the sheer pleasure of it.

Mind-bending microgravity sections in which you fly through claustrophobic maintenance tunnels and around the ship’s huge exterior further contribute to making Talos I a thoroughly memorable - and, dare we say, iconic - setting that ranks amongst gaming’s very best.

Of course, the encounters you face in these quintessential halls play no small part in the achievement. Prey’s enemies are the otherworldly Typhon, a pitch black alien race that look and act as though they stepped out of the static on a television screen. Harvesting human life to multiply, they come in many shapes and sizes, from the hulking Nightmare that crops up for repeat mini-boss encounters, to the invisible Poltergeists that violently throw you around via telekinesis, to the spider-like Mimics that hide in plain sight.

Mimics in particular imbue the experience with a suffocating sense of unease, posing as unassuming, inanimate objects to ensure you’re never certain of your immediate safety. Their unpredictable nature rarely affords you the opportunity to stand at ease, making Prey a game you play on edge, constantly scanning environments with a critical eye for anything that looks out of place. When a Mimic attacks, generally blindsiding and causing you to jump in the process, the ensuing panic has seen us forget about the shotgun in our hands and frantically throw mugs instead.

Paired with a lack of regenerating health and limited resources, enemies become imposing predators, relegating the player to the fitting role of prey. Despite that, there’s a relatively vast breadth of options when it comes to combatting the Typhon threat; a range of satisfying firearms and alien abilities can be used in conjunction with one another to create powerful combined attacks, set traps and get the drop on your opposition.

Enemies are imposing predators, relegating the player to the fitting role of prey.
Neuromods - the game’s eye-injected upgrade currency - are used to purchase skills from a whopping six trees, with the embarrassing wealth of abilities on show making it difficult to choose. Everything looking enticing is a great problem to have, mind, especially as diversifying can position you to take the upper hand. Scanning enemies with the Psychoscope gleans knowledge on their abilities, strengths and weaknesses, so it pays to be somewhat a jack of all trades to ensure you have the tools to take advantage of this information. That said, whatever your build, it’s generally a good idea to disable an enemy with the stun gun or innovative GLOO Cannon (which can also be used to create makeshift cover and platforms) before launching your attack.

Talos I’s security measures are configured to target Typhon DNA, so there’s a risk associated with acquiring abilities from the alien trees. Accruing enough will eventually turn the system against you, but, while investing in some hacking upgrades will remedy that by bringing them back onside, it won’t help quite so much when the Nightmare makes you a higher priority target. Rather than being drawbacks that prevent you from experiencing some of the game’s most fun and powerful abilities, these mechanics materialise as dynamic balancing tweaks that shouldn’t put you off experimenting with everything on offer.

Prey’s audio is worthy of special mention too, thanks by and large to legendary sound designer and composer, Mick Gordon. After delivering last year’s face-melting DOOM soundtrack, heavy metal gives way to a building, synthetic sound that’s menacing and intense. Atmospheric ambient sound, harrowing, distorted Typhon murmurings, punchy explosions and gunfire, along with repeating motifs that accompany specific events make for an all-round aural treat.

Whilst we’ve lavished Prey with a lot of praise, rough inevitably comes with the smooth. Distracting texture pop-in is prevalent, FPS dips crop up occasionally and load times between areas are fairly lengthy. In addition to these technical issues, a number of glitches were peppered throughout: dialogue went awry when we accidentally skipped straight to a later objective, items would randomly be absent from animations, and an objective marker became stuck directly in the centre of the screen throughout the duration of an entire area.

Though these niggles did impact Prey’s otherwise stellar sci-fi horror experience, in the grand scheme of things, they barely put a crease in Morgan Yu’s space suit. Prey is tense and unnerving, while at the same time playful and explorative. Its central mystery compels you to delve deep into the bowels of the expertly-crafted setting, Talos I, engaging in (or even avoiding) rewarding and tactical combat along the way. Arkane have a fundamental understanding of quality game design, utilising that here to produce another fantastic video game for their growing collection.

Pros

+ Talos I is an incredibly rich place to explore
+ Accommodates players with all manner of different play styles
+ Gripping and mysterious narrative
+ Varied, tactical combat
+ Mick Gordon’s audio design

Cons

- Distracting technical issues and glitches
- Human character models and animations are ugly

9/10

Achievements

The game's achievements aren't particularly hard, but you can expect to invest some time into gathering all of the collectibles and completing additional playthroughs. You'll need to complete the game killing no humans, killing all humans, purchasing no upgrades, purchasing only alien upgrades, and purchasing only human upgrades; if you're organised, however, it's possible to combine these and use the save trick mentioned here to get them in just two runs.

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Originally written for Pass the Controller, a copy was provided for the purpose of this review.

You can check out my PlayStation reviews over at TrueTrophies.

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