Throughout my twenty-or-so hours playing Prey, I felt a sensation that hasn’t hit me in quite some time: unnerving. Prey did what few games have done to me; made me feel tense and afraid.
Playing as Morgan Yu - male or female based on player decision - find yourself aboard the space station of Talos 1. A station designed with a mixture of both high-tech and 1960’s inspired decor. In many ways Prey is just another amnesia tale that encourages player discovery and environmental storytelling. Prey owes a lot to the different narrative-driven games that have come before it. In terms of narration games such as System Shock and Bioshock come to mind, even the recent Dishonored games from Arcane France present a familiar-yet new-spin on the genre.
The presentation is quite impressive, taking on an alternate history spin where JFK wasn’t assassinated and both U.S.A. and Russia collaborate on space discoveries. One of those discoveries is Typhon’s. Featureless tentacle aliens that have infested the space station due to a research mishap. Coming in an array of different types, from the smaller-more agile-ones such as Mimics to the bigger, trickier ones known as Technopath’s.
Typhons aren’t the most stylistically designed enemies found in video games, but what it lacks visually makes up in gameplay. Throughout the campaign I was on edge, mostly because Typhon’s can be lurking around every corner. Mimic’s-in particular-“mimic” the environment in order to attack the player by surprise. Making any item found in the environment potentially dangerous; from a chair to a coffee cup. Making for effective jump scares that are perfectly timed with composer Mick Gordon’s score.
When it comes to combatting these tricky aliens Prey’s combat falls on the wayside. In many ways Prey’s combat is serviceable-yet clunky. Your arsenal consists of a few weapons: shotgun, silenced pistol, stun gun, and laser gun. There’s also the addition of a “Gloo gun,” which shoots glue onto surfaces or enemies. The Gloo gun makes getting to out-of-reach places easier by creating platforms for the player to climb on. Even though the gun makes it easier, climbing on platforms can be somewhat finicky. It also works freezing an enemy for a brief period of time in order to deal greater damage.
The modest assortment of weapons get the job done, but the problem comes in the form of actually engaging enemies. Like Dishonored, combat can feel clunky due to the slow response of committing to your actions. Especially considering Typhon’s are incredibly agile. Whereas the use of Neuromods make encounters easier. Neuromods are similar, in a way to plasmids from Bioshock. Once used the player has the option to choose from different upgrades and abilities that cater towards a specific style. Most of these upgrades are in the style of typical health and damage boosts, but when it comes to Typhon powers, gameplay tends to feel somewhat easier.
PSI is used to gauge Typhon powers, each one has a certain cost to use. Some of these powers are of trivial use, such as the mimic ability-used to transform yourself into an object in the environment-, while other abilities make use of combat. Most of the combat-related powers make gameplay easier when confronting large groups of enemies, making Typhon powers the go-to in tough situations.
Using powers is a smart decision considering ammo availability is scarce. Luckily certain types of junk found laying around the space station can be recycled. Using the recycler, your junk turns into valuable materials used to make items such as bullets and health kits at crafting stations. So not only are you getting creative, you’re helping out the environment as well.