by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
This Sounds Familiar?
Who remembers the original Prey? Very likely few of you at this point except as an afterthought or the following that stuck with it from 2006 to the present. Prey is of the same series, but a reboot. It has nothing to do with the original, nor is it the bounty-hunter based sequel that fell off the radar never to be heard of again. Prey is Prey in franchise name alone, and it's looking to crawl from the grave and infect the hearts and minds of the human population. The question is, did Arkane Studios along with Bethesda Softworks pull it off? Or is Arkane Studios better suited sticking to the Dishonored series? 15 hours later - and counting - I think it's time for me to set the game aside and give you the rundown.
Rise And Shine, Morgan
Just before you begin the game, you are presented with your first choice. Do you pick Morgan Yu, or Morgan Yu? That is; do you pick a preset Male or Female Morgan? I don't think it's quite a necessary choice without actual character customization, but that being said it was nice of them to include the option. After taking a peek at the voice comparison online, I went with female Morgan Yu and then, I woke up.
Or rather, Morgan woke up. In her apartment suite, high above a city below, Morgan prepares for her prerequisites before her journey to the mysterious Talos I to join Morgan's older brother, Alex Yu, in research on board the station. After a rough first day, Morgan wakes up... on the same day as before. Things go from Groundhog Day to something more sinister rather quickly as the peaceful setting is abruptly shaken by a dead body in the hallway, ominous emails on the computer and a message from an uncertain origin saying it's imperative that Morgan escape the apartment.
After a few moments, I looked to the window of the cityscape. That's when I took note that the view was oddly still. No signs of birds or air traffic, what little I could see of any streets looked empty. More curious was that the door to the deck was locked. Having only recently found my first weapon, I took a swing at the glass; and the illusion shattered. Welcome, to Talos I and all the danger it contains
Tide Of Typhon
Those were just the starting few minutes of the game. As it turns out, due to a recent series of events Morgan was being put through the same day over and over to become reacclimated with the events leading up to the most recent neuromod installed. As for why, Morgan cannot remember. Explained shortly after, if you remove a neuromod you, in a sense, remove the memories after that mod was installed; and Morgan had had a certain mod installed and removed several times over (in the name of science, of course).
Reality setting in, it's up to Morgan to find out what has happened on board the station. The story is an up-and-down ride that will sometimes throw curveballs, while at other times offering up cliches, but overall it's intriguing and that's what's important for the narrative in this space thriller. It won't be a walk in the park, however, not if the mysterious and ominous Typhon threat has anything to say about it.
The alien Typhon serve as the primary threat through Prey, ranging from the small Mimics that can disguise themselves as random trinkets and pieces of furniture in the environment for an ambush, scaling all the way up to a trudging behemoth that hunts you down in a way that reminded me of the Nemesis from 1999's Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. I would've made the comparison to Alien: Isolation's Xenomorph, but it's not quite as crafty or unpredictable.
The Typhon will dog you nearly every step of the way through the many blocks of Talos I in one way or another, engaging players in combat that feels like a diet Bioshock in that it's enjoyable and engaging, but many of the abilities ultimately feel squandered with only a few actually feeling beneficial. Some abilities even feel downright silly, even if useful; disguising myself as a coffee cup to avoid detection, while hilarious and fitting with the Mimic theme, took me out of the tense moments and made it more like a game of Prop Hunt if only briefly.
Luckily it's not the combat and abilities that make Prey feel unique; it's the setting.
Whether it's the faux-apartment the game begins in, the massive atrium that becomes akin to a hub or the various different labs and quarters throughout, Talos I is a mesh of vintage, classic and modern Sci-Fi that emerges in a fully realized and massive station. From the Lobby (with a gorgeous view of the Earth and Moon) that serves as a main hub (albeit, more dangerous than most games hub locations) players will gradually unlock more and more of the station. From your to-be-expected research labs, to living quarters and small stores and bars, eerie storage and engineering locations, you'll have more than enough to sate your Sci-Fi fix. But all of that has great icing on the cake in instances of zero gravity both inside and outside of the station, that turn the normal game formula on its head and gives the player a further sense of isolation.
The station itself, from within and outside look beautiful. It's a bit jarring seeing the characters and enemies within them, because the contrast between the quality of them is extremely notable. To make a comparison, it's sometimes like seeing a caricature in a more real looking setting. It's not always quite -that- noticeable, but with certain characters (like Alex Yu) it's a very fair statement.
Prey sure did change between its original inception and the new one, and honestly I'd say it's almost entirely for the better. The original Prey didn't stick with me, or much of the gaming community, and seemed to fade away quietly. While die hard fans of the original game may claim that this reboot is only Prey in name alone, I would argue that this is what Prey should've been in the first place. It's not perfect, but it is engrossing and stole quite a few hours of my life between start to finish. Here's hoping for a sequel that builds upon the solid ideas here, and improves them much in the same way Arkane did for their Dishonored series.
Intriguing story, immersive and beautiful environment, a great alien threat.
Character models clash with the environment, combat and abilities feel a bit too basic, some abilities are outright useless.