Set aboard a space station called Talos I in the year 2032, you play a character involved in experiments meant to change humanity, but things go wrong and the ship is soon overrun with aliens, and you must now survive. Check out our review to see if Prey should make your games list…
In Prey you play the role of Morgan Yu, a character that can either be male or female with the player making that choice right at the beginning of the game. Aboard the space station Talos I Morgan is a scientist involved in experiments which you experience during the opening minutes of the game, here you meet Alex, Morgan’s Brother, who tells you “not to worry” and “just be yourself” as you wait to proceed. Entering the experiment area a Dr. Bellamy introduces himself, and tells you to “go with your gut” and “in the most natural, intuitive way possible” as you perform the tasks for the experiment.
I’m highlighting this opening part of the game as I not only liked its non-typical tutorial style of getting you used to the game’s mechanics, but also the dialogue which I mentioned, which for me at least plays a huge part in how players should perceive Prey, and I’ll go back to this a little later. Before the experiment ends things go horribly wrong, as the space station is seemingly overrun by an alien race known as the Typhon, as the initial attack unfolds Morgan passes out only to wake up in his room again, but with things this time being a little different. The Typhon have taken over Talos I with its human inhabitants either missing, dead or in hiding, it’s now down to Morgan to navigate the station and put a stop to the Typhon one way or another.
The pace of Prey during the opening hour or so is a little slow, and those expecting a run and gun experience will definitely be put off. This slow pace gives the game time to introduce the story and characters that play major roles within it, along with key mechanics and equipment. The first of note is the crafting system, there’s plenty of junk to find around Talos I from scrap parts to food scraps, at first these items seem of very little use, but you’ll soon be picking up every bit of scrap your inventory will allow you to carry. Dotted around the station are recycling machines that turn items into valuable resources that in turn can be used at fabricators to create things such as ammo and medkits. The balance between resources gained from recycling and used in fabrication is such that you may only be able to craft one or two items per visit, this coupled with the scarce locations of these machines brings in a touch of strategy.
One of the first weapons you come across is the wrench, which is only really effective against Mimics, these are the standard enemy in Prey and are quite abundant, they are also unique in the fact that they can take on the form of any object hence their name and will often hide until you are close enough for them to jump up and attack. Melee combat is a little clumsy, but thankfully you’ll only really need this for Mimics as going toe to toe with other Typhon will only result in death. This brings me to the GLOO gun, a gun that fires out balls of expanding foam that can stop enemies in their tracks for a brief period, but can be used for much more, which I’ll pick up on later.
Prey starts to open up once you get your hands on the Psychoscope, a device that fits to Morgan,s head which is effectively an advanced pair of optics that can be used to scan Typhon, and as more and more are scanned abilities are unlocked that can be ‘purchased’ via the use of Neuromods that can be found around Talos I, There’s two tiers of abilities, Human, which includes things such as hacking, stamina, etc. and Typhon, which includes being able to use the Mimic ability and kinetic powers etc, giving options as to how you want to build your character.
This brings me back to the opening part of the game which I mentioned earlier, taking note of “being yourself” and “doing things in the most natural, and intuitive way possible” it’s down to the player to play through the story and explore the station how they want, it’s more than ‘go from point A to point B listen to some dialogue start the next quest, repeat.’ How you do so is down to your ability as a player to think logically about things, what equipment you have at your disposal, what abilities do I have and what’s the best way to use them. Without being to long winded I’ll try to give an example;
A quest may need you to access a room that has a locked door that requires a keycard or code to unlock. The first thought would be to go and find the code/keycard which may be located on the other side of the station, however, there’s a window next to the door with bars across it, but you have the mimic ability. Outside the room you need to access there may be a table with a cup or two on it, so break the window, move the table up close to the window and place a cup on it. Now using the Mimic ability transform into a cup and roll between the bars through the broken window and into the room, but what if you don’t have any Typhon powers? Here’s where we go back to the GLOO gun, not only is it effective for stopping enemies in their tracks for a few seconds it can also be used to create makeshift ledges and staircases. Take a look around, does the wall that separates you from the room go all the way up to the ceiling? often the answer is no, and with a few well placed shots from the GLOO gun you can climb up and over into the room. This is a just one example of how you can approach many aspects of the game from different angles, and it really is quite satisfying to work out different ways of approaching situations that quite often are much quicker than going for the obvious.
The gameplay is quite enjoyable and is as immersive as the well written story, having a ‘quick look’ through a door that you just happen to be passing can end up in hours of exploring the station, in which you’re not restricted to the inside of, you can exit through various airlocks and have a good look around the external area, with plenty of breaches and other bits to check out. there’s a strange calm while floating about in space with the debris from exploded parts of the station. There’s more than just ammo and scrap to find too, with plenty of accessible computers, books, files and notes to read all over Talos I, it gives a glimpse into the lives of all who were aboard the station and adds even more depth to the game.
This also goes for the vast amount of side quests available, while completely optional they overlap and intertwine with each other as well as the main story, they’re well worth taking the time to check out. most of these side quests will have different ways in which you can complete them, as do some of the main quests, how you choose to deal with them collectively have an impact on the game. much like the rest of Prey, it’s your choice, even down to the combat, which I touched upon earlier, you don’t have to actively engage in it, there’s even an item called a lure which you can use to get Typhon out of your way so you can slip past unnoticed.
Visually the game is great, although slightly dated looking, the massive station is packed full of highly detailed stuff, and has a very distinct overall design. the downside to this is the load times between areas, while not Sniper Elite 3 bad, they’re still in to the minutes. The audio is rather impressive coming in and fading out when needed to add that extra bit of atmosphere to the game, it’s really well done.