Prey review (PS4)

The rebooted and then re-rebooted Prey has finally seen the light of day. We’ve been playing the PS4 version of the game and here’s what we think.

Prey has been a long time coming, because it’s been over ten years since the original game was released and I still remember sitting down for a live gameplay demo of Prey 2 a couple of years ago. That version has since been canceled, but looked very different from the original Prey with its climbing and jumping across a futuristic city inhabited by a wide host of characters. 2017’s version of Prey is only similar to that version in that it has little to do with the original.

In the version we can play today, you play the role of a scientist researching a race of aliens called Typhon – a few of which you have trapped aboard a space station called Talos I. The aim of the research is to investigate, but also to extract some of the unique abilities that these creatures have so they can be adapted for human use. Arkane has done a great job of drawing you into the story of Prey during the first half hour, which features one of the most memorable opening sequences in recent years. After that, the game tries to keep the momentum up using more traditional ways of laying out the story. Emails and notes that you can find, personal stories people have left behind – the usual stuff, but implemented with a ton of attention to detail.

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Nearly the entire game unfolds inside the confines of a singular spaceship, but don’t let that deter you – the Talos is absolutely huge and offers a lengthy campaign. What’s more, it’s also a campaign that can be replayed in many different ways – a trademark Arkane aspect that we’ve seen done to near-perfection in Dishonored. The implementation is different in Prey, and has more to do with character development than it does with alternate ways to tackle your objectives.

Developing your main character, Morgan Yu, is primarily done by choosing which augmentations you want to implement when you have acquired enough upgrade points. At the most fundamental level, this is a choice between human and alien augmentations – boosting your health bar or granting you powers like the ability to teleport yourself across short distances. This strongly affects how you (can) approach combat scenarios, but also changes the way you navigate through Talos I. Acquiring alien powers might give you an edge in combat, but it will also trigger the ship’s defense systems, which might now recognize you as hostile. It’s a trade-off that’s interesting on your first playthrough, and makes sure that a second one can feel just as fresh.

These are the key dynamics of the core campaign’s gameplay, but Prey also has a wide array of other activities to engage in. Many of these are side quests that follow from the various tidbits of information you find on board the ship, and have you following the footsteps of other (past) passengers. You can also collect resources in almost every shape and size, and once you find the appropriate blueprints this can help you survive. It’s a lot like the crafting that I wish I could disable so I could make quicker progress, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying games like Bioshock either.

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Prey plays out at a relatively slow pace, and one of the main reasons for this is that you’re slightly underpowered against the Typhon. You have to tread carefully, and very often you’ll have to change your tactics to suit your enemy. This usually means exploiting a weakness that they have before being able to deal serious damage, which of course also ties into the upgrade system and the arsenal that you have available. In terms of guns this is relatively limited, ranging from the usual pistol and shotgun to the more exotic beam weapon and GLOO gun. The GLOO gun shoots out a kind of glue that can slow down the much faster Typhon and is also explosive, which comes in handy in combat as well as other creative ways.

Arkane’s already shown us how well they can craft a certain atmosphere, and Prey certainly isn’t an exception. The story starts strong before becoming a tad more formulaic, but it’s extremely well fleshed out which makes the game world feel alive. This feeling is further enhanced by the excellent audiovisual presentation, with diverse and detailed environments and a musical score that augments the mood or setting of a particular mission or interaction perfectly.

Prey’s slower paced exploration and combat won’t be to everyone’s liking. There is a lot to do in the game, but the combat isn’t as diverse as it could have been. As far a story-driven sci-fi adventures go, however, I haven’t seen many better examples than Prey.

Score: 8.4/10

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