Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: First-Person Action
Release: May 5th, 2017
Review copy provided by Bethesda Softworks (Playstation 4)
he Prey we see before us today has a long development process and many shifts in story and gameplay behind it. Initially developed by 3D Realms as Prey 2, this unfinished project was announced way back in 2006 and should focus on a bounty hunter called Samuels who lost part of his memory. When the rights transferred to ZeniMax Media, the game was re-announced in 2011 with changes to story, characters and a focus on a more open world. Six years later, we finally get to play a new Prey, it’s Prey.
The story takes place in a fictional timeline where President John F. Kennedy survived the day he was assassinated. This fuels him to fund space programs leading mankind into other worlds which attracts the attention of an alien race called Typhon. The space station Talos 1 is built to learn more about the Typhon. You start your adventure on the station as Director of Research Morgan Yu, who learns early on nothing is as it seems.
A SPACE STATION TO EXPLORE
Prey is built on a foundation that wants you to search and learn the environment before you progress. Talos 1 is a huge space station that you can explore freely once you unlocked all sections. Even trips to the exterior of the station are possible and serve as a faster way to get from A to B. In the beginning hours this freedom can be intimidating but as you progress through the story and learn the structure of the connected sections, Prey proves to be a well thought out giant map.
Unfortunately this is partly diminished by the very long loading times on consoles. Plan to spend about a minute in the loading screen when you move from one area to the next. This becomes frustrating when side quests or your need to backtrack for collectibles takes you through 3-4 loading screens at a time.
THE TOOLS ARE THERE… WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH THEM
Exploration is probably the strongest part of Prey. The level of care and detail that went into filling your surroundings with resources, crafting items and story info for you to discover is nothing short of amazing.
A Recycler makes use of unwanted items and let’s you produce valuable materials that are used to craft important survival tools at the Fabricator. Blueprints are spread all over the space station letting you build ammo, medkits and even upgrades for your weapons and abilities. Prey gives you the tools to manage your own survivability in a very satisfying way.
Neuromods are used to upgrade a wide variety of skills like the ability to lift heavy objects, repair terminals or hack workstations. By scanning your enemies you also unlock Typhon skills. These powers use their own energy bar and vary from different alien attacks to mimicking objects like a coffee cup to slip through small cracks that you would not be able to reach otherwise.
THESE SNEAKY MIMICS
Combat and survival in Prey is a challenge even on the lower difficulties. Especially early on you will run out of resources and options quickly if you move too fast through room without using your surrounding creatively. There are the Mimics, who can duplicate objects and hide in plain sight. This makes for a tense guessing game sometimes, which gets heightened by great sound design when enemies are near.
The controls often lack a bit behind these fast creatures and you fail to connect with your wrench or miss multiple shots. Bigger versions of the Typhon like the Poltergeist will disappear completely and throw objects at you. This problem with faster combat will fix itself partly when you know how to deal with each type and have the weapon power to stand up to them.
During your trip through Talos 1, you will encounter numerous side quests. While they are mostly not directly connected to the main story, they sometimes offer interesting backstories of crew members and the grim situation on the space station. These side trips are rewarded with valuable weapons, blueprints or safe combinations that will make your spent time well worth.
Just like in Arkane Studios’ previous game Dishonored 2, you always feel surrounded by possibilities to solve problems your way. While aiming and combat sometimes feel a bit too unresponsive for the enemy types, Prey gives you multiple tools to progress and rewards explorers continuously with better survival tools. It is a world where you sometimes have to resort to trial and error, but the game never leaves you feeling that you have tried everything.
This is what makes Prey such a great sandbox. Even if small fallback’s like long loading screens can get frustrating, this is a space adventure that will open up its full potential over time and grab you more and more as the hours fly by on Talos 1.