The original Prey was released back in 2006, and while it was received well by critics and gamers alike, it took some time for Bethesda Softworks’ sci-fi thriller to return. With Dishonored’s Arkane Studios taking the helm for this long-awaited reboot, there’s plenty of pedigree to pull it off, but do we really want a Dishonored in space?
That was my greatest fear when following the pre-release coverage of Prey. Dishonored is a solid franchise, but with Dishonored 2 releasing just a few months back, I didn’t want more of the same. Thankfully Prey took that concern and launched it straight out the airlock, as the introduction to the newly imagined Prey universe was possibly one of the most exciting gameplay openings I’ve experienced in a long time.
Players take on the role of Morgan Yu, brother to Alex Yu the CEO of TranStar Corporation, in an alternate timeline where President Kennedy was not assassinated and mankind’s corporate elite chased the goal of infusing alien technology directly into the DNA of humans through the use of Neuromods. It’s not all too dissimilar to Neo learning kung fu in the Matrix movies, except it’s a collection of needles injected directly into the eye as opposed to a big one in the back of the head (it’s equally flinch worthy nonetheless). The story follows Morgan Yu as he remembers past events that follow the removal of his Neuromod’s and along with them, all of the memories that took place following their installation.
Prey’s story is one of the games most defining elements, though you’ll need a bit of patience to fully explore all of the narrative on offer. There’s a solid path to follow within the main story of the game, a plot filled with with questions, and the very concept of “what if” that culminates in a brilliantly crafted ending that will leave you questioning your very existence long after the credits rolled. Further strengthening the games narrative are lots of hidden stories, relationships between past crew members, Morgan’s relationship with his family, and even the journey of a group of crew members and their escapades in a Dungeons & Dragons like board game. Sadly, a lot of these are narrated through email documents, text-based notes, and simple voice-overs that play as you explore. While somewhat disappointing, having the station filled with survivors would have drastically reduced the thrilling experience of exploring a nearly deserted space station that is void of almost all life except that which will take yours.
Talos 1, the space station where you spend the majority of the game, is an environment worthy of any Hollywood science fiction flick. Despite being a single space station, Talos 1 is segregated into different areas, each with their own distinct taste and flavor. If you ever had the chance to sample Arkane Studios’ Arx Fatalis back in the day, it has a similar vibe. Exploring is always fun, never dull, and utterly thrilling. Visually it’s very impressive, and combined with excellent use of lighting and a strong variety of alien enemies (Typhons) types and jump scares makes exploration one of the games most rewarding elements. That’s without mentioning the incredible use of sound effects and audio. From the blast of a shotgun to the shock revealing of an enemy Mimic disguised as an office chair, Prey is heaven for your ears. Well, if heaven was a sci-fi space station filled with alien creatures and death hazards.
Whilst exploring Talos 1, you’ll often be faced with obstacles and cleverly disguised puzzles that will test your ingenuity and ability to adapt. Whether you’re facing a collection of powerful Typhon enemies, a locked safe, or a keycarded door, I never once found a situation that had only one single solution. A strong variety of weapons and a huge skill tree of both human and alien abilities provides a huge level of freedom when choosing how to progress with your character but regardless of your choices, you’ll always have something at your disposal to solve a problem.
At times I often forgot the fact I was a near-lone survivor on a space station doomed for failure, as the ability to turn myself into a mug and crawl through a gap in security glass left me chuckling away to myself in glee. The world of Talos 1 is one that rewards dynamic thinking, approaching each situation from a different angle and still managing to come out the other side. It took everything that made Dishonored varied and rewarding, infused it with alien DNA, and blew all expectations straight out the window.
Technically the game is very sound. I didn’t run into any noticeable frame issues or hard crashes, but I did suffer a few minor hiccups. Playing on the PlayStation 4, I often noticed Morgan would move of his own free will. My controller was sitting atop my desk, but Morgan would be turning or moving in a random direction without any human input. I did test with other hardware but the same problem. It was a rare occurrence and something I’d expect to be fixed in the first few patches.
Prey is Arkane Studios’ best work to date, and is a thrilling sci-fi journey into a world of question and uncertainty.