Prey is the latest game from Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks, taking its name from 2006’s Prey and re-imagining the series. Prey is best described as an action-adventure game with some RPG elements disguised in an FPS costume. It is also clear that Prey has taken some influence from, and has been compared to notable series such as System Shock, Bioshock, Deus Ex, and Dishonored. While the comparisons are undoubtedly welcome, it would be a disservice to claim that Prey is simply a combination of all those games. Rather, Prey has taken some elements utilized in other games and made something that is brilliantly and beautifully its own.
Prey takes place in a future shaped by an alternative course of history where John F. Kennedy survives his assassination attempt and pumps funding into the space program. Prey places you in the role of Morgan Yu (of a gender of your choosing), and after a brief series of events, you find yourself on the Talos I orbiting the moon. Very quickly, you realize that things are not what they seem, and you experience a loss of memory of previous events. You begin to learn of the nature of the Talos I and its research, and how things have gone awfully awry. Armed with a trusty wrench, you set out to unravel the mysteries of the Talos I and figure out where to go from there.
Prey’s level design is one of the best I have ever experienced, and it is a result of the overall gameplay, physical level design, atmosphere, and sound that make it extraordinary.
Without spoiling too much, Prey includes many elements from various genres such as skill trees, backtracking, multiple paths and endings, minor platforming, and gunplay. The aliens, known as the Typhon, take on a variety of shapes and sizes as they look to kill the player character. Luckily, the player has a variety of tools and weaponry at his or her disposal, including but not limited to a wrench, GLOO Gun, pistol, shotgun, and a nerf-like crossbow. In your search for answers, collecting materials, crafting supplies, and making full use of the environment and your skills will be necessary to avoid becoming the aliens’ prey. Despite having access to some decent weaponry, I found the aiming and combat to be a bit clunky. While I like to consider myself a savvy player of first-person shooters, others may find greater success in Prey’s combat than I have.
Perhaps the greatest part of Prey is its setting, atmosphere, and level design. If I ever set foot on a space station designed in the 1960’s with futuristic upgrades, the Talos I would be exactly what I would expect. In addition to the setting specifically, the level design and layout is near perfect, with the only aspect that breaks the immersion being the long load times between major sections of the space station. Not only is the layout of the Talos I realistic relative to what one would expect, but the abilities available to the player allows for some intuitive movement within levels such as being able to morph into a cup and maneuver through a vent or using the GLOO Gun to create a makeshift staircase to that platform above. Despite the added mobility with the GLOO Gun, I had a few instances where attempting to climb the GLOO itself became very frustrating. Despite that, Prey’s level design is one of the best I have ever experienced, and it is a result of the overall gameplay, physical level design, atmosphere, and sound that make it extraordinary.
Prey’s graphics do not stand out exceptionally well, but are more than adequate in telling the story. In fact, despite Prey’s graphics, its atmosphere is out of this world. The artistic qualities of the game more than make up for its technical side. Specifically, the architecture of the Talos I and the strong use of lighting really bring (what remains of) the Talos I to life. Whether in the brighter opening portion of the game, to the darker setting of Talos I, Prey offers an atmosphere that consumed me right from the beginning.
Contributing to the atmosphere is Prey’s outstanding soundtrack, which hits you from the get-go. The soundtrack is mood appropriate depending on where you are in the game, and really contributes to the overall atmosphere of the game. In addition, the sound effects of the PA system, enemies, guns, and operating machines are highly effective as well. The only negative I experienced in my time with Prey was the inconsistency in volume, when another character is communicating with you. Their dialogue is noticeably lower in my case, though the voice acting overall was well done.
Overall, Prey is a masterpiece in level design, atmosphere, and exploration. While the combat frustrated me at times, I thought to myself, “Well, I am just a scientist” and overall, it did not bother me too much. Usually when games are compared to other great games, expectations are usually not met. However, even when compared to the great games mentioned earlier, Prey has earned the comparisons and shows that it is a game that will be compared with many times in the future. Prey starts off with a bang and does not stop as the Talos I aims to consume you into its engrossing atmosphere and narrative.
*** PS4 key provided by the publisher ***
- Exception level design
- Chilling atmosphere
- Fun abilities
- Some clunky mechanics
- Inconsistent volume
- Immersion breaking load screens