Prey Review (BUY/WAIT/AVOID?)
Prey is an ambitious reboot featuring a luxurious sci-fi playground and atmosphere in spades. But, is it a must buy? Jonathan Birkenstamm gives his review.
Prey has had a difficult journey. The original game had a troubled development but was well received on release. With a sequel well into development, Bethesda Softworks acquired the rights to Prey in 2009, but Prey 2 was unceremoniously canceled in 2014. Fortunately, that didn’t mean the end of the franchise. On May 5th, 2017, Prey was released, a reboot of the franchise developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. The good news is the journey has been worthwhile.
This reboot is very different to the original. The original game focused on a Cherokee named Domasi “Tommy” Tawodi and his girlfriend, who are abducted by an alien spaceship called “The Sphere”. “The Sphere” consumes material, both inanimate and living from Earth in order to sustain itself. You play as “Tommy”, who has spiritual powers which give him an edge against the alien threat and helps him stop “The Sphere” from destroying Earth. If you haven’t played the original then I highly recommend it.
In Prey (2017) the story is a lot different. Instead of a Sphere coming to earth and consuming everything in sight, the enemy is an alien race called the “Typhon.” The “Typhon” were discovered in space by the Russians when they launched a satellite in 1958. The Russian’s kept this alien race secret until they asked for help from the USA in 1963. The US-Soviet collaboration resulted in the Keltka program. This program built a permanent installation in space to contain the Typhon. Though, the US-Soviet collaboration was never able to successfully harness the Typhon for military or commercial applications. And in the 1980s a containment failure resulted in the deaths of the research team, which resulted in the US abandoning the space station. Many years later the TranStar corporation secured the derelict station and turned it into the Talos I. In under five years TranStar was able to successfully research the Typhon organisms and apply that research to human applications. Thus, this is where the game begins in 2035 when the Typhon have been able to breach their containment on Talos I and kill most of the crew. You play as Morgan Yu, the brother of Alex Yu who is CEO of TranStar. Morgan Yu has lost most of his memories from the three years or so working at Talos I. Once you reach your office, you find a message from yourself stating that you must destroy Talos I so the Typhon never reaches Earth. This starts your journey across all of Talos I, figuring out what happened and why you lost your memories.
Prey’s gameplay reminds me of Bioshock, though I have read that people have compared it to System Shock. Which makes sense, since most of the team that did Bioshock worked on System Shock. The reason for this comparison is the fact that during your play through you can expand your character by using devices called Neuromods. These can add abilities to Morgan such as hacking, lifting heavy objects, running faster, and alien abilities as well. Though if you pick too many alien mods, the turrets in the game will detect you as a Typhon and attack you. But their abilities such as mimic, teleport, slow time, and many others can help you during your play through. Also, you must craft everything from bullets to health. During your time in Talos I, you will find all sorts of junk that can be recycled into materials which can then be put into crafting machines to create the items you need.
This aspect of Prey reminded me of the vending machines in Bioshock, but instead of buying items you have to create them. You can even find plans to craft the weapons in the game, instead of finding them. But take note there are only seven weapons in total. The most useful of them all is the GLOO Gun. I ended up using this weapon the most if you can even call it a weapon. It felt more like a tool than a weapon. The GLOO Gun can produce a substance that sticks to the walls. This can be used to climb to higher places or put out fires, even leaks in Talos I. You can also use the gun on the Typhon, which it will slow them down making them easier to hit and kill. The GLOO Gun also seemed to be the only weapon that had the most ammo laying around. The other weapon’s ammo was scarce and at times during my play through hard to come by. Crafting them was hard as well, as they required the most materials. This kind of got annoying to me. Later in the game, they throw a bunch of Typhon at you, with limited ammo I had to rely on my alien powers to take them out. Towards the end, I pretty much was on life support trying to survive. The materials needed to craft the ammo and health was very limited.
Along with crafting your ammo, health, and other items. You will also find chips that can modify your suit and psychoscope. These chips will add bonuses to things such as faster repairs and detect near by Typhon. The psychoscope is used to study the Typhon. Though I didn’t find much use for it other then scanning the Typhon to unlock alien Neuromod abilities. This pretty much is the main use for the psychoscope. Scan the Typhon to learn its weaknesses and unlock new alien abilities. As side from that, I only ever used it to zoom in on things to get a better look at what I have to deal with in the distance.
As you explore Talos I, you don’t have to always follow the main story missions. Spread throughout Talos I are side missions which can give you an inside look at the people’s lives aboard the space station. You will find recordings which go through some dialog that ends up giving you missions to complete. Of course, these side missions are optional and are not required in completing the game. But they can give you some good rewards. Some side missions have you saving some of the survivors, and if you save them, those saved people can later craft you useful items you need to stay alive and complete your main mission. Speaking of your main mission, it boils down to two choices. Depending on what you do on Talos I can effect your ending. So can the final choice you make. I will not go into detail here as it will spoil the story. But just know that your actions effect your ending to the game.
Prey is a beautiful game to look at. I played it on the PC and it ran butter smooth, but at some points, the frame-rate could drop more than I would have liked. Thank god that wasn’t the case throughout the entire game. The action was solid and smooth. I didn’t come across any low-res textures either. Using the CryEngine 5, Prey looks amazing. Same could be said about the voice acting and sound effects. The voice actors did a great job and I believed I was right there with them on Talos I. Even Morgan sounded great. Though the main protagonist is silent in the game, the voice actor who plays Morgan did a great job during the recordings you come across. And the sound effects were great as well. Nothing felt out of place. Guns sounded great, along with fire and electricity and other sound effects. The only issue I would say is the fire can sometimes sound loud when it burned in puddles on the floor. Other than that no major issues here.
I will have to say a big disappointment for me in Prey was the Typhon. They are interesting, but the different types were not that exciting. The mimics you encounter in the beginning scared the crap out of me and I felt where the coolest of all the Typhon alien types. They could hide as everyday objects and you couldn’t tell if it is a mimic. They would even hide as items you need such as ammo, health, or junk to recycle. The mimics made for some scary times in the beginning of the game. But as you continue to play, the other types were lacking. The Phantoms were just hominoid-like Typhon that could teleport. They came in three flavors: a Phantom, Fire Phantom, and Electric Phantom. You can guess what the fire and electric do, but the original Phantoms would duplicate itself and teleport.
I was disappointed that, unlike the mimics, they just rush you until you die. The strategy was to run, GLOO Gun then shoot/hit them. Rinse and repeat until they died. At least the mimic would run at times and hide as another item in the next room. It was scary hunting those things. Phantoms were scary when you first see them, but once you understand how they act they are no longer scary anymore. Same goes for the Cystoids, which pretty much are little balls of Typhon that bounce all over and if you got too close to them they would explode doing damage. Once you see these things, they are then easy to deal with. Same with the Weaver, a Typhon that makes Coral which is a colorful thread-like substance that you will start seeing throughout Talos I. The Coral does nothing to harm you, but it does look pretty. Though Weavers can produce Phantoms from dead bodies and Cystoids to protect itself. There are other Typhon, but I’d rather not talk about them as they are best left to be discovered. But once you find them and figure out their attack pattern, they end up being disappointing. They all end up being a rinse and repeat attack pattern, and they all look like black wavey goo. At least the mimics would change into items, the rest kept the same forms until you killed them.
Overall Prey is a fun and beautiful game. But it lacks in creature design. After seeing what the mimics can do, it would have been cool if the bigger versions of Typhon did some kind of morphing of their own. But they don’t and disappoint with their repetitive attacks. Exploring Talos I is cool and interesting but the main story missions and side missions force you to backtrack through areas. What sucks about this is the fact that once you clear that said area, and then later go back, more Typhon shows up. With the limited ammo and crafting materials, it just feels like a chore and I ended up abandoning quests. The ending to Prey left a bunch of holes in the plot and didn’t feel as satisfying of an ending. Though both Prey games (the 2006 and 2017 versions) give you a choice in the end. I felt the original Prey from 2006 had a better ending.
I am not totally disappointed with this reboot of Prey. I had a lot of fun playing the game and exploring Talos I. You will get about 25 to 30 hours out of this game. It was scary and the sense of dread was around every corner. But the lack of creature design, holes in the story, and forced backtracking is the reason why I am saying wait. Wait for a sale or when the price is lowered. It is still worth playing through at least once.
Final Verdict: Wait