Following cancelled sequels and a complete re-imagining of the series, Prey has returned and brings players to the space station Talos I. From the beginning though, Prey isn’t exactly what it seems and this sci-fi shooter plays with your head more than the average shooter.
Set in 2032, Prey stars Mogan Yu and he/she is preparing for a trip to Talos I . However, after a slow but memorable intro featuring a twist that will be talked about alongside moments like “Would you kindly” from Bioshock, the fundamental structure of the game and its world change and it my not quite be like the game you’re expecting.
The intro to the game gives the impression of a tightly-structured narrative set in a linear world but instead, the opposite is presented in front of you. There are stories littered throughout Prey but they are ones built into the world itself, with every room offering a new story. These stories range from the destroyed office of some researchers to something as simple of two coffee cups sitting a little too close together.
Prey makes you question everything, doubting the positioning of every object in the world, and every room presented in from of you. This is largely due to the game’s main typhon enemies: the mimic. While they may not being devastatingly tough on their own, they have the power to surprise you by mimicking any object in the world, luring you into a false sense of security. It isn’t long until paranoia kicks in and you start to swing your wrench at everything you can when entering a room. It’s excellent psychological gameplay that rarely replicated so well. I feel a slight sense of maddening every time they caught me off guard, as I had learned another lesson about trust.
The typhon are the alien antagonist in Prey, offering the opportunity for different playstyle approaches. Prey prides itself on the freedom of choice, choosing how to handle different situations and for the most part, Prey succeeds in feeling free. However, there are moments, especially when the alien race is concerned where it feels funneled, forcing you to play in a certain way, regardless of you capabilities at this time. There were a number of times throughout the campaign where the location I was revisiting had been altered and I was surprised to understand the my regular approach would not be nearly as effective. On one hand, it meant that I had to mix things up and explore different options, but simultaneously, there were moments when I was beings stretched across the station to simply progress the story slightly and this mean trekking through this area.
But that freedom is appreciated throughout its playtime. There were many times when the game enticed me to explore, uncover more of the art-deco in space station, and uncover more about the inhabitants of Talos I. It was genuinely intriguing exploring every nook and cranny, feeling more invested in the world with every new room I entered. Not every room added to my emergence but every room felt like it was worth investigating. The main story keeps you on a rather linear path and in many ways, you ca simply do that – but it be neglecting the best character of the game: The space station. It felt like I was living there, exploring the different parts of it and wondering exactly what went wrong, well, apart from the alien race determined to wipe the humans out.
The typhon come in many shapes and sizes, each one requiring a different approach. Weapons and ammo are scare on Talos I so not every encounter is worth fighting, but each one feels rather unique. The phantoms feel like the most generic in the beginning: Human shaped enemies that can weave around the environment at a blistering pace. As the game progresses, this type of enemies can be devastating when elemental types are introduces. The rest of the cast like the weavers, nightmares, and cystoids all offer different combat opportunities and challenges making Prey not an easy game, even on the standard normal difficulty.
Apart from traditional weapons, Morgan Yu can use the game’s upgrade skilled called “neuromods” to learn new skills and even learn some of the typhons abilities to be used against them. This does have interesting consequences to how you are seen by turrets throughout the station. In the beginning, these turrets offer valuable protection but should you invest too much into the alien powers, the turret will see you as one of them and turn on you.
The typhon abilities though bring with it a whole new series of approaches to combat and exploring the world that makes it feel almost required to get the most of the of the excellent world design. Prey warrants multiple playthroughs and its through changing your upgrade path that it will being you a whole host of new ways to explore and kill.
Prey hits some rough spots with combat sometimes frustrating but the world its created is one of the most memorable in recent memory. The main narrative has its weak spots but the overall story it tells is captivating. It makes you not only doubt where it will bring you next but it questions its very existence. This is a game that extends its message beyond the screen. After I finished after 20+ hours, I was hooked into this new world Arkane has created. We may miss the space cowboy sequel that once was but this new Prey is unforgettable.