Bethesda’s space thriller has arrived
The folks at Arkane Studios clearly have a deep love for sci-fi video games. Prey, the studios’ new first-person sci-fi game, feels like an amalgamation of some of the biggest names in the genre. These include BioShock, Deus Ex, Dead Space, Alien: Isolation and Warren Spector’s 1994 classic, System Shock. Influences from Arkane’s own Dishonored franchise be felt throughout the game as well.
Does that mean Prey lacks its own identity? Initially, it might feel that way but the more you play the more the game’s unique aspects come into focus. This includes the superb blending of multiple genres into one 25+ hour experience. Part action, stealth, survival horror, and even puzzle platform, Prey flawless blends it all into one thrilling outer-space adventure.
Welcome aboard Talos I
Prey begins with you awakening aboard the Talos I, a space station orbiting the moon in the year 2032. You play as Morgan Yu—male or female—the subject of questionable science aimed at fusing human and alien DNA. Soon, however, you discover the space station has been overrun by the hostile extraterrestrials used during these experiments. Now it’s up to you to rely upon your wits, and tools found on this station, to survive this nightmare.
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Prey does away with cutscenes and long expository in favour of much more subtle and clever storytelling. This comes in many different forms, each offering unique windows into how the catastrophe began.
The most explicit insights come from audio diaries, sticky notes, voice comms, and email communications left by the crew. These are found all over the massive Talos space station and provide glimpses into the lives of individual crew members. You’ll learn valuable tidbits like passcodes and room secrets, but also everyday communication that adds a nice human element. For example, you might discover certain crew members love Nerf gun battles, while others partake in tabletop role-playing games. In a world as dreary as Prey, these lighter moments provide a much-needed escape.
Furthermore, you can stumble upon some neat world-building elements if you take the time to look around. My favourite moment was finding the ship’s museum and learning its history. Here a larger story opens up involving John F. Kennedy (who survived the assassination) and the U.S.S.R., which helps frame the events on Talos. There’s even a portrait of Kennedy as an old man to make the story even more real.
Finally, a lot of the storytelling involves the environments themselves. This could be smeared bloodstains on the floor leading to a corpse, prompting you to imagine the horrific fight that must have taken place. Or it could be lighter scenarios such as finding a snowman built by the crew using a GLOO gun. Rewarding moments like these not only fill in more backstory, but also encourage you to search every nook and cranny.
Finding weapons to stay alive
Staying true to its survival horror nature, resources aboard Talos are in dire short supply. So much so that a wrench becomes your primary melee weapon against the hostile Typhon alien race. However, with enough determination you can find better weapons, like a silenced pistol, shotgun, and the powerful Q-Beam laser gun.
Then there’s the game’s signature Gelifoam Lattice Organism Obstructor, or GLOO Cannon for short. This unique tool shoots blobs of sticky gel able to freeze Talon creatures dead in their tracks. You can then follow-up with crushing wrench strikes to shatter the beings into itty bitty pieces. With most enemies more powerful than you, freezing then quick melee attacks becomes a necessity for survival.
What’s more, the GLOO Cannon’s sticky gel can also be used to create makeshift steps for climbing walls. This comes in handy when you encounter upper floors inaccessible by foot: you simply use the goo as stepping stones. Generally, it felt like I shouldn’t be able to reach these higher areas so easily, but I suspect this freedom of exploration is all part of Arkane’s plan.
Human and Typhon powers
Above and beyond weapons, there’s a whole array of human and alien modifications you can acquire. These are divided into six skill trees—three for Human and Alien—and can bestow immense power to you.
In order to enhance your abilities though, you need to locate the often hard-to-find neuromod tools. These self-administered gun-shaped devices rewrite your DNA by injecting a needle through your eye and directly into your brain (seriously!) Instantly this process adds a new power to your repertoire.
Your new Human abilities can range from hacking skills to bypass security measures, increased lifting strength to move obstructions, or boosts to your movement speed and health. By contrast, Alien abilities resemble BioShock‘s plasmids and range from elemental attacks, to telekinetic blasts, to changing form into everyday items like a coffee cup.
By and large these enhancements shift your approach to situations significantly. For instance, large cabinets blocking an entrance can be lifted, opening up new paths to take. Or, by morphing into a clipboard, you may be able to slide through a small security window. As your powers expand, so too do your available options, giving you a mind-boggling number of ways to tackle challenges.
Recycling and fabrication
Another cool aspect of Prey is how virtually every item aboard the ship has utility, even its trash. Junk like banana peels or fried hard drives can be converted into valuable materials using a Recycler machine. Then, by discovering blueprints you can craft useful tools at any of the station’s Fabricators.
As an illustration, you could convert useless items like discarded cigars and corroded coils into life-saving Medkits. Then again, you may decide it’s better to use these materials to construct bullets for your shotgun or silenced pistol. Weighing the pros of cons of building one item over is never easy, but Prey is all about making tough choices.
While crafting items is immensely useful, I found it even more rewarding to have a reason to search rooms thoroughly. Areas you wouldn’t normally inspect—dark corners or under desks come to mind—might just hold valuable resource you so desperately need. Through my junk searching I discovered hidden paths, blueprints, audio logs and more, all of which I might otherwise have missed.
Prey is a thrilling and immersive experience that really comes into its own the more you play. Initially it might feel like blend of familiar sci-fi adventures, notably games like BioShock and Dead Space, but Prey gradually charts its own path through subtle storytelling and unique weapons and abilities. Perhaps its crowning achievement is how it effortlessly blends multiple genres, be it survival horror, action, stealth, or puzzle. I had a scary, unsettling time exploring the winding corridors of Talos I, but it was worth every minute.
+ Unique story that unfolds organically
+ Top-notch graphics
+ Huge assortment of weapons and abilities
+ Dozens of ways to approach situations
+ Talos I is vast and interesting to explore
+ Rewarded for searching rooms high and low
– Load times between areas is a bit long
– Very challenging game (even on Easy difficulty)
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.25/5 (85%)