A big welcome back to a franchise that many originally thought went without the recognition it deserved, Prey. With the first Prey title being released back in 2006 and a few failed attempts at a second by a number of developers, we now have a new Prey title, even if it is named the same as the original.
Prey 1, as we might call it now to save confusion, was a surprise hit all of 11 years ago and though thought to be dead and buried we once again get the chance to be simultaneously awed and scared silly thanks to the guys over at Arkane Studios and developers Bethesda who are also responsible for huge fan favourites such as Doom, Dishonored and the Fallout series.
In Prey, the player initially gets to select either a male or female character and regardless of your choice the name fits as his or her name is Morgan Yu. Morgan is aboard the space station Talos I which is the location of research labs that are trying to gain a better understanding of a hostile alien invader called the Typhon.
These Typhon take many forms and shapes but generally resemble black fluid anamorphic shapes, although the smaller of the species called mimics have the ability to take the form of nearly anything. This could be an office chair, a lamp or even an unsuspecting tea cup all with the purpose of letting you get as close as possible before pouncing.
While on Talos I, there is an outbreak of the Typhon and it is Morgan’s job to establish what happened and why. This is aided by multiple NPC’s and a friendly computer program named January, kind of like Jarvis from Iron-Man or Cortana from the Halo franchise, who is the nearest thing you have to a friend on Talos I. As the story develops, Morgan has the option to gain Powers such as to slow down time and hack robotics from either a human nature or that of the typhon and it is up to the player which path they choose to go down, each having pros and cons.
This can lead to a degree of ”replay-ability” to see which approach works best for your own personal style of play along with there being multiple different endings depending on how the player interacts with the ship and surviving crew members. The story in Prey however seems like it has been told before and I’m not just referring to the original Prey 1. Many films and games before have had the narrative of an alien life force being let loose on an isolated space station so the story feels a bit dated.
The guys at Arkane Studios and Bethesda must have heard of the proverb “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” because there is a strong influence in Prey’s gameplay from its other stablemates resulting in a pretty good game to play. Similar approaches to Dishonoured, like using the right hand/trigger for shooting and the left hand/trigger for abilities, are clear but also the menu styles and upgrade functions are all somewhat in the same vein.
Throw in the inventory and option of dismantling supplies to their elements from Fallout 4 and you have yourself and solid base to build upon. The space setting leads to sections of the game being played in zero gravity which is always fun and the gunplay is not the worst. One of the main aspects of the gameplay in Prey is exploration, this is due to looking for key cards to unlock doors and finding alternate ways to get to your objective, all the while the Typhon could be lying in wait behind every corner.
The tone of suspense and eeriness is nearly always evident and the musical score is mainly responsible for this. Walking into a room to be greeted by ominous violins playing usually never ends well but it sure does add to the atmosphere. All of these factors result in an enjoyable gameplay experience and well worth the investment of a few hours.
Prey, again, resembles one of Bethesda’s other titles, Dishonored, in terms of overall art stylings. It’s slightly cell-shaded and cartoon like but there is still a high attention to detail. The scenery is obviously limited to primarily either the inside of a space station or the vastness of space outside it but the level design and staging of areas keeps it interesting.
The sections of the game spent outside of Talos I can easily be spent staring at far off planets and solar systems then forgetting what you were meant to be doing. There isn’t much in the way of cut scenes in Prey but I didn’t find myself looking for them like I would playing other games and it’s hard to say whether or not that it’s a bad thing.
So after the long wait for a sequel/remake/new take on the original 2006 version of Prey, has the wait been worth it? In my opinion, I think so but it’s not without its flaws. The plus sides are an interesting if not ground breaking storyline and good gameplay mechanics,the down sides however are the strong similarities to the other studio titles along with there being a lot of time exploring and back tracking throughout the game.
Prey was reviewed on Xbox One by TheEffect.Net contributor, Mark Reilly.