I was only peripherally aware of Prey before I unexpectedly got a free key of it from Keymailer. As it had come out only the day before, I was very excited to try it despite it appearing to be a bit horror-y. What followed was a 40 hour journey around Talos-1 fighting aliens and enjoying myself more than I ever expected.
Run, Gun or Stun
Despite knowing very little about Prey, I was aware that it’s by Arkane Studios; developers of my second favourite game of all time, Dishonored. Because of this the stealth mechanics are really polished as they’re the core of the Dishonored franchise. Actually, the whole game had a ‘Dishonored-but-not’ feel to it… From hiding under tables accidentally by crouching too near them to the way the protagonist, Morgan Yu (who can be male or female if you’re wondering), handles his (or her) wrench, I recognised a lot of tricks from my time as Corvo (and Emily). This is all good because it allowed me to get to grips with the myriad of mechanics with more ease than perhaps I would have.
I must say, however, that the tutorials and slow incline of new mechanics is brilliantly done; think Half-life 2’s progression if you didn’t always find the weapons in the same order and this impacted your play-style. The weapons can always be found in the same places, but as the explorable world opens up very wide, very suddenly, it’s easy to pick a different direction and thus change how you go.
Add to this the weapon upgrades, plethora of powers and tactical choices from terrain and equipment, and I frequently felt like I could take on anything… And that’s just the moment the game unleashed a new monstrosity to send me fleeing and cowering; it’s a bit eerie, now that I think about it. Even with hours and hours of side questing and exploring, I never felt overpowered or out of my depth.
The Whole World In A Station
I can’t say much about the story without ruining the fun, so suffice that it kept me guessing and questioning right until the very last moment. ‘Morally grey’ is a bit of a theme, but you have no idea how many ways that can be applied until you’ve played through the whole game.
The game world is dripping with lore and personality, from the character interactions to books and notes, to the way your actions impact it. That’s another thing Arkane do so well that they’re officially my new favourite developers. You really feel like a person who exists and, more importantly, has existed in this world.
Would You Kindly Not Steal
I should address the elephant in the room…or should I say in the isolated environment? No. ‘In the room’ will do.
This game starts off – and kinda feels – a bit like BioShock. Does this sound familiar? Lost and alone with no real direction, trapped in an isolated environment, guided only by a voice on a radio, wielding a wrench as a melee weapon… If the start of this game isn’t a homage to the original BioShock then Valve may want to have a word.
As I am currently in the midst of my first playthrough of the original BioShock, I feel especially-positioned to compare the two. I prefer Prey. By a flaming mile. The horror is less creepy imagery and more environmental, the controls are much smoother (granted it is 10 years younger, but still), the visuals are stunning (again, age difference might come into this) and it does much more interesting things with its setting.
The BioShock similarities faded away quickly, however, as I got more into the game and it developed a unique identity somewhere between BioShock, Dishonored and something metamorphosing into a chair.
Right To The Brain
Overall it is a phenomenal game that neatly balances all of its mechanics and has a use for almost anything you find; even that one ‘joke’ weapon that does no damage was useful in its own way. It’s unique, great fun and has enough variation to make replaying it an inevitability.