Prey was released on May 5th in 2017 on Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
Prey was developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks.
The developer Arkane Studios is well known for Dishonored 1 and 2.
The game is a science fiction first person shooter and the following review and footage is from the PS4 version on a PS4 Pro.
The year is 2032 and Morgan Yu is recruited by his brother, Alex Yu. Together they lead a science research team on Talos 1, a state of the art space station with some of the best minds from Earth.
Morgan wakes up and heads from his apartment to a nearby lab to take a few tests to prepare for the actual experiment. During the last of the three, something attacks the proctor and suddenly Morgan fades to black.
When Morgan reawakens, he’s in his apartment again but when he goes outside, the hallway isn’t what it was. When he breaks the windows of his apartment, he realizes that his apartment wasn’t really an apartment. It was a set.
People have been watching him and every day was a reset. However when he breaks out of his prison, there’s no-one to confront.
Everything around him has been deserted. Sooner or later, Morgan finds out that his brother Alex has been keeping a lot under wraps. He’s been experiment on people, developing dangerous enhancements, and basically researching live alien specimens.
These aliens known as the Typhon escaped from containment and just about killed everyone onboard.
With no memory prior to the groundhog day style experimenting on him, an AI known as January tells Morgan about a contingency plan that Morgan himself came up with before the experiment.
The contingency plan? Destroy Talos 1 and ensure the Typhon don’t make it to Earth.
The story is almost a cliche when it comes to Sci Fi horror. An experiment gone wrong and someone has to fix it by destroying the whole thing.
This formula should not be new to anyone. In fact, after the opening hours when the space station really opens up to you and you can free roam for the most part, the narrative takes a back seat and you won’t really notice unless you power through because it’s not compelling at all.
The overall plot tries to pit you against yourself in a way. Do you follow the orders of a robot that you programmed before you lost your memories or do you listen to your own brother who has evidence of you supporting his actions?
But by the time this conflict rolls around, it’s meaningless and I for one, didn’t care. I listened to the AI January because my brother Alex hasn’t shown himself to be completely trustworthy. It was an easy decision to make.
The chemistry between both brothers wasn’t there or at least wasn’t compelling enough for me to side with my in game brother.
Besides the actual story, there are also quite a few side missions you can go take on and some of them will actually count in the end game. You can help people, find hidden stashes, help clear up rooms, and so on and so forth. They’re generic side missions you’ve done before in games like this.
Not one character is remotely interesting or memorable either. The only thing that’ll really keep you going is the potential access to other areas or for rewards.
There’s also countless emails and audio logs you can pick up as you run around Talos 1 and they’re realistic. So realistic that they’re boring. The emails read exactly as they would in any other office job with people flirting, people ratting, people complaining, and people planning.
Once in awhile, you’d get the interesting email but it was never worth it. I’d had seen dozens of emails before I read something remotely interesting and it didn’t feel rewarding. Those one in many just appeal to our gossipy nature. They’re interesting and sometimes funny but they don’t help in any way. Exactly like in real life, gossip is gossip and you’ll hear a lot of stuff that doesn’t matter and then you’ll hear something really juicy but once you hear it, if you’re a normal human being, you’ll realize, why do I even care? This doesn’t do anything for me. So what if Juana is dating Juanito? How does that help me in anyway?
However, I’d be wrong if I said the game could have been better with out it. The emails and audio logs reveal what life was like on Talos 1.
The story is simple and straightforward. It’s not well written but it doesn’t have any major plot holes that I could think of at the moment. It just lacked personality and originality.
The visuals are good. There really isn’t anything bad to say about it. The character models are reminiscent of Dishonored, so it just seems to be Arkane’s art style. Some of the characters look disgusting but I can’t complain since it’s an art style.
There were several visual bugs but they have more to do with gameplay which I’ll talk about in a bit. Sometimes if you ran too fast, some of the assets could be seen loading in. They’d go from smooth to detailed but that rarely happened.
The loading times are ridiculous though. I’ll put a sample of how long a loading screen is and this is a digital copy installed on a PS4 Pro.
I am not kidding you, it gave me enough time to respond to the three people that were texting me at the time and when I wasn’t texting, it gave me time to read two articles on the News app on my phone.
That is simply too long a loading screen these days. And it’s not like it’s loading these massive areas. These areas are relatively small. So with all that loading, I really shouldn’t be having even the minor defects.
The frame rate was steady throughout up until the ending. I had this five second cutscene where it’s just a shot of space with Morgan saying one line and it was super choppy.
That being said, the inside of Talos 1 doesn’t really feel that special. Everything feels the same minus this part of the station that’s this massive garden. I can see why the people on Talos 1 were boring. It’s because the inside was boring.
However, i don’t hold it against the game. Space stations have never caught my eye in any medium film, comics or video games.
They have all more or less either looked like the white hallway at the beginning of Star Wars or the black Death Star hallways at the end of Star Wars.
The level design is pretty good though in that there are several ways of accessing certain areas. You can use the GLOO cannon to create bridges and stairs, you can upgrade your strength to move heavy obstacles, hack open doors, or even use the Typhon powers to mimic small items and slip through the cracks.
More often than not, there is only one or two ways in but the fact that there are that many possibilities, it’s pretty great.
However, that only applies to the area you’re in. When it comes to traversing the entire station, there is only one or two ways to go into a new area and then you have extremely long loading screens.
So sure, the immediate area may be fun and diverse to explore but as a whole, it isn’t especially when the overall look of the station is dull.
The audio part of the game reflects the visuals. The voice acting is pretty decent. You don’t ever hear your own voice from your character but you hear it from the AI you programmed, January. You can’t really criticize the voice acting when the character using your voice is an AI. It’s supposed to be robotic and emotionless.
Your brother is the one other person that makes constant contact with you and he sounds tired all the time. The writing isn’t there to support the relationship between both of you so it’s just a tired fat guy defending his actions.
Same goes for the other characters. Since they’re not memorable, their performances aren’t either. However, that’s not to say they're not bad. They aren’t.
The music is almost nonexistent and when the stinger comes on, it’s annoying. All it does is let you know you are in the presence of an enemy. When the game first starts, it’s effective. After a few hours though, it’s a mood killer.
Gameplay is where the game gets…complicated. Prey seems to have this identity crisis in that it doesn’t know what it wants to be.
So Prey has some pretty high highs but that also means that it has some really low lows.
The identity crisis this game has is that I was led under the impression that you could sneak past enemies or shoot your way out however, the game seemed to decide which one for you at random. Sometimes, I’d go into places where I can take everyone out if I was patient or I can sneak by a few enemies which was fine. However, sometimes, when I wanted to sneak, there’d suddenly be an insane amount of enemies that would detect me in no time. Other times, when the game decided that I had to shoot my way out, I’d run out of supplies.
I played the game on normal so I was usually stocked up on everything and it still wasn’t enough.
So I was constantly like, “Do I sneak through or clear the room of enemies?” And I asked that out of confusion and not out of choice. The game isn’t built to fight off waves of enemies but enemies can detect you way too quickly and there are too many things to explore to want to always sneak around.
It also doesn’t help that the game is still pretty buggy. I did buy this a week or two after launch so it may be that they are going to patch the game but still haven’t gotten around to it. So after this, it may very well be likely that my issues won’t be your issues.
However, I had a constant glitch where I would whack a fellow with the wrench and it wouldn’t register even though a hit marker would appear.
I’ll admit at the end of the game, I got extremely frustrated just because I had three glitches in a row. First of all, these robots were doing damage to my health. They were shaving it off. It was in a closed room so I knew there wasn’t anything else. I refilled my health mid battle long before it was in danger and instead of it being like every other battle ever, I immediately died.
Afterwards, there was a small cutscene where your brother stands with you but then a bunch of enemies attacked me during this little cutscene and also did damage to my health.
Then, a character became unconscious and you were supposed to escort them to a room. The marker never appeared so I had to just guess and since you have to use this awful drag action feature, I took him to the room but I let go and this character slowly bumped into a wall in zero gravity and died.
When he died, the marker appeared, the objective was cleared but then failed.
Other little glitches included enemies and people disappearing into the floor or into another room and while for me, this never became more than an annoyance, for others I have read and seen that it became game breaking.
I don’t know anything about video game development or the process of what actually happens when a game loads but considering the game takes forever to load small sections at a time of Talos 1, none of this should be happening.
Anyway, when it comes to the actual gameplay, like I said, it’s an identity crisis.
Don’t have the supplies for a shoot out and there’s too enemies to sneak through becomes a common dilemma. When it’s one or two enemies, it’s fine. I don’t know if it’s random but you can’t sneak past a crazy amount of enemies or when they’re standing in the doorway.
Which brings me to the neuromod system, Neuromods are devices that are implanted into your brain via your eye. The very first implant is terrifying but it’s never done again and I would have loved to have that animation every time I upgraded to really show that although you’re becoming superhuman, there’s a downside to it in that you’re essentially mutilating yourself.
Behind the scenes, people do have problems with Neuromods. While apparently the Yu’s behind Talos 1 believe it is the future of human engineering there is a moral dilemma happening with some of the crew because they require actual human sacrifices and testing as well as saying that it’s essentially injecting the Typhon into our brains.
So to show that with a terrifying animation would have been great but after the very first time, this sort of thing is forgotten.
Neuromods are used to upgrade your abilities and halfway through the game, you are given access to proper Typhon powers.
At first one or two are only necessary to get the introductory skill but then the more powerful the skill, the more neuromods you need and although they are plentiful, it becomes almost ridiculous how many you need later on in the game.
For something that was considered a touchy subject, seems like the point of neuromods is to use them without discrimination to make yourself as powerful as possible.
Beyond the thematic significance of neuromods though, they’re just upgrades you pick up and use however you like. You could upgrade the human part of you or upgrade the alien in you and it’s completely up to you.
Rather than upgrade any special alien abilities, I got one power and then just upgraded my human attributes like health, strength, hacking ability, and my suit.
As you walk around Talos 1, you’ll pick a variety of things besides neuromods such as food, medkits, and random garbage.
The garbage is actually incredibly useful because there are recycling machines throughout Talos that you can put in garbage and in return you get crafting material.
I don’t know why it was always a joy to toss in garbage and get back crafting material. I did it so much, that I was never at a loss to craft items and equipment.
Usually near a recycling machine, is a crafting machine. By completing certain quests and just exploring, you’ll find fabrication plans that allow you create essentially everything and anything you can use. You can create guns, ammo, medkits, and even neuromods.
As for the combat, it’s not that great. It feels a little too rigid. In Prey, your primary enemies are the Typhon. The enemies aren’t that varied and aren’t even all that well designed. All of them are oil slick monsters and from what I saw there are only three types of enemies: mimics, which are oily spiders, phantoms, which are oily humanoids, and then there are floating enemies like the Telepath which are oily floating blocks with one white eye in the center.
The designs aren’t that interesting and fighting them feels like a chore. Mimics are named after what they do, they mimic. When you walk into a room, you need to be constantly careful because that coffee cup on the table, might just leap at you if you get too close.
They actually got to me a few times during the beginning of the game. I’d see them scurry into another room, and then I’d go into that room just standing there and waiting to see any sign of movement but that feeling eventually dissipated. You can also get an upgrade for your helmet to be able to see where mimics are so mimics just felt pointless by then.
The oily humanoids are all the same with only elemental variations. There’s a regular one, there’s an electrical one, there’s a fiery one and there’s one that has a purple aura around him. They force you to come at each one of them differently…or I suppose that’s how they were designed.
I just beat them with the wrench and that was that. The only difference was that I would throw an EMP grenade at the one with the electrical element but then as soon as I did that, I’d beat him to death.
The floating enemies were the biggest annoyance of all of them. If you disabled them, they would run away and if you didn’t disable them, they would just consistently attack you with some over powered attacks.
Either way, the combat never felt fantastic. For me, it was just a chore to do so I can find junk to recycle. You’d think that’s a joke, but I really did not care for the combat.
Prey was regularly being associated with System Shock and Bioshock and although I haven’t played System Shock, I know the importance of it in video game culture and Prey has no right to be associated with either.
Bioshock’s combat may have been iffy and the enemies more or less all the same but that game had a personality like no other. The environment of Bioshock became one for the video game history books.
System Shock I never got to play since it was before my time but people have talked about it and it’s importance to the genre is clear.
Prey doesn’t deserve any of that hype. This was a mediocre game and that’ll all there really is to say.
The story is a giant cliche, the ending wasn’t worth it, and everything I did in the game was to upgrade my character so I’d always have a fighting chance and not because I wanted to help these boring characters.
The length of the game is decent but what good is a lengthy first person action adventure game when the game itself is mediocre?
Also, if you’re looking to play a game that has replay value, Prey doesn’t have that either. From someone who’s played certain games back to back or has said, “It’ll be awhile before I come back to this game,” for Prey, I know what I said when I beat the game, “I’ll never come back to this.”
Do I regret paying sixty dollars for this game? No. I wanted to play Prey. I wanted to see for myself if the hype was real and it wasn’t. The advertising campaign was non existent for me so I can’t even blame Bethesda or Arkane. I think people just assume that this is a great game because it’s been associated with Bioshock and System Shock. Like my best friend said, “People just seem to be in denial.”
My recommendation? This isn’t a bad enough game for me to say, “Never touch Prey” however, it’s far from being worth sixty dollars.
My recommendation is that if something like this interests you, wait for it to go on sale. Pick it up for anything less than thirty dollars but this new game at sixty dollars isn’t worth it.
So from me, Prey gets a 5…out of 10.