PREY is a game that didn’t seem to have a whole lot of hype or discussion about. I’ll admit, until the 1 hour demo that Bethesda recently put up, I wasn’t really tracking much excitement either. A few minutes into the demo though and I already knew I had to play this. I promptly stopped and waited for the release of the full game. Now after completing the game with 18 hours under my belt, not only did I walk away extremely happy but I believe PREY is an instant sci-fi classic people will be replaying countless times over the years.
You play as either a male or female version of Morgan Yu, a scientist who is on board the Talos 1 space station orbiting the moon. Having discovered a new alien life form, experimentation and research has begun in order to take advantage of their inhuman powers. In classic story telling form, something goes extremely wrong and soon the entire ship is taken over by these lifeforms. They steal the life from countless crew members, turning some into Phantoms. Mimics run rampant and can disguise themselves as everyday objects, only to surprise attack when players least expect it. Surviving is only half the battle though.
Exploration plays a huge aspect here and it’s done extremely well. Talos 1 is designed with various areas of the ship from a crew’s quarters, executive suites, and experimentation labs. The elaborate way the ship is designed and structured together just makes the space station come alive and feel as if it was actually used by a crew. This notion truly makes exploration feel even better, reading data logs for clues, hearing recordings of past events, or finding sticky notes everywhere. There are so many elements that work together to not only make exploration worth it, but it brings more character to Talos 1. The more exploration and side quest players do, the more pieces of the story can come together while also offering more equipment, ammo, or weapons. While exploring Talos 1, the atmosphere is absolutely outstanding in part to the sound effects and music. The voice work is also really well done with crew members I learned to care about or want to know what happened to simple due to their performance and writing.
Combat is another big factor of the game and while it can also come off feeling as the weakest element from the start, it truly becomes a beast of its own the further players get. Finding neromods located in various spots and hidden locations around the ship, new abilities are unlocked. Some of these are as simple as gaining more health or doing more damage. The more unique abilities involve using alien powers to mimic items such as coffee cups or chairs, to shooting kinetic blasts at enemies. How players tailor their character also effects how they can explore areas of the ship. Become a hacker and brute force every computer, or maybe mimic into a roll of toilet paper and sneak through a crevice. The choice is up to the player.
The various outcomes of playing the game the way players want to totally envelopes the entire experience offered here. While the end outcome of the story will go down mostly the same, the various details of how or what happened will differ greatly from other players. I read about someone running into other survivors or characters I never even met in my 18 hours. I made mistakes I lived with, on accident I killed someone due to opening an airlock, whoops. Instead of reverting to a prior save, I lived with that action. Due to the goo gun, while allows some sequence breaking or getting to locations before needed, I even stumbled upon some dialog that I wouldn’t have seen if I’d otherwise not done it. That’s what fascinates me the most about PREY. It’s a story driven game, that has a beginning and end, that’s not open world, and yet still retains lots of choices and outcomes that will variate between players. It makes sense to talk about a game like Skyrim and hear about something never stumbled upon, but in a game such as PREY, you’d expect everyone to have a similar story and it’s not the case.
There are some shortcomings here, and most of them fall under some scrutiny of the last portion of the game. The entire experience has players working their way through the ship, but towards the end, there is a decent amount of backtracking, but staring at a loading scream becomes much more common since instead of exploring a new huge area of the ship, players are simply running through one area to get to another. I also feel the game offers some sudden surges of difficulty at various moments. If players are not recycling anything and everything to obtain more ammo or health kits, it can become frustrating. Enemy variation is ok at best, with some extremely annoying enemies added late into the game, but still I found it manageable. The one audio issue that seemed prevalent is low dialog volume. Also the PS4 version still has some input latency that is a bit of an adjustment to get used to and some folks will definitely not be happy with.
I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to enjoy PREY as much as I did. Yet here I am, wanting to replay it again, see what all I missed, play as a different character build, and jump right back into Talos 1. It’s not often I beat a game and want to jump right back in, but PREY has huge replayabilty. I’m going to say now, it’s mostly likely to land in my top 10 games of the year if not top 5. This is a style of game play we haven’t seen since the likes of System Shock 1 and 2. I’d even go so far as to say PREY is a sci-fi horror gaming masterpiece for this generation. It doesn’t get much better than this.
A PlayStatoin 4 code was provided by the publisher for review purposes