The following is a guest review from DrXan.
Release date: 2017
Version played: PC via Epic Games Store in 2021
Released in 2017, Prey comes to us from Arkane Studios, the team behind the Dishonored games and the recently released Deathloop. You play as Morgan Yu, the male or female Vice-President and Director of Research with TranStar Industries. Whilst going through the family tradition of a round of tests organised by your older brother, Alex, you quickly come to realise that all is not as it seems, as an alien invasion takes over the testing facility. It is up to you to decide the fate of the facility with input from your brother, other survivors, and the mysteriously familiar January.
+ one of the best cold openings in video games, from atmosphere to opening credits you feel immersed in the world you are presented with even as you slowly unravel who and where you are
+ moment to moment gameplay is varied, whilst there is no collectible hunting the world itself and the information that covers it in terminals, notes and environmental storytelling can lead you to rewards and secrets you could easily otherwise miss
+ combat feels as varied as your tools with combos ranging from beating enemies with a wrench through to using experimental laser weapons and the ever-popular shotgun. Where you fight is as important as how you fight; within minutes of starting the game you’re given a gun that can create barriers, platforms, and stun enemies, all of which require skill to pull off
+ the story is told by everything from cutscenes through to architecture and involves challenges to your perception of yourself and your own motives. Having a mostly mute protagonist, along with how the story presents your own memories as unreliable, means you have to rely on others to tell you who you used to be
+ the environments in Prey are absolutely chock full of alternate paths, secrets and supplies you would never find without looking for them: air vents can move around locked doors, pipes can lead to inaccessible supply caches and certain areas can only be accessed with certain skills. This gives the game a real ‘MetroidVania’ feel where you have to remember where the doors you can’t access yet are so you can come back later when you have the skills to get through them
– this game loves a jump scare. The fact that the basic enemy ‘mimics’ disguise themselves as everything from coffee cups to carboard boxes means they will constantly jump out at you when you aren’t prepared. Combining this with respawning enemies means you never feel quite safe in any area
– the fact that so many side quests are linked to notes, emails etc means you may miss a lot of what this game has to offer. As a completionist, I found myself searching every room for sticky notes with passwords or taking the hacking skill over anything else only to give access to a computer with 3 generic company-wide emails
– the ending to the story may throw some people who didn’t engage with the story to the same degree I did. Although the game doesn’t advertise it well certain gameplay decisions can have results when the ending rolls around
– a big negative here; you cannot skip cutscenes nor the opening portion of the game, even in the new game plus mode. Most of the stop and watch moments of horror as the monsters kill someone really don’t have the same impact the second time around.
> I originally considered this a negative but reassessed the point: only your abilities carry over to New Game+, not your weapon upgrades etc. This makes senses from a balance perspective, but I feel it misses some of the fun of New Game+ in other games
> having received this game free on Epic it was bundled with the Mooncrash roguelike game mode using many of the same systems, which may deserve a review of its own
> there is one absolutely intentional jump scare moment in this game that made me literally yell and jump in my chair, I want to personally say a big screw you to whoever designed that.
Should you play this game: I think yes. I had a lot more fun with Prey than I expected to and that is down mainly to the rich environments and the interesting moment to moment gameplay. Although the story can drag in parts, and travel can be tedious to start with, Prey redeems itself by having a setting that feels lived in and infinitely explorable.