Good morning, Morgan.
Click here to see my bottom line for Arkane Studios Prey.
Today is Monday, March 15th, 2032. You awaken in your lavish high-rise apartment with a stunning view of the city. It’s your first day on the job with your brother at TranStar, an almost cult-like mega-company specializing in the creation and distribution of neuromods - a substance designed to increase the capabilities of the human race.
Things take a pretty strange and dangerous turn rather quickly as you soon find out that TranStar isn’t all it appears to be…
Prey is a first-person thriller game developed by Arkane Studios (BioShock 2 and the Dishonored series) and published by Bethesda. It was released on May 5, 2017.
Graphics and Atmosphere
Have you ever played BioShock? If you answered, ‘no’ but you’ve played Arkane Studios Prey, then you’re a dirty, dirty liar! Okay, so not really, but you get what I’m saying, right? Prey is pretty much BioShock 3. Please don’t mistake that as a complaint - it’s not at all. But if you give Prey a go, you’ll notice that there are some striking similarities to the BioShock series. From a few of the weapons, to the building architecture, to the intense sense of foreboding, to the very pungent odor of an empire’s collapse, this game feels like a BioShock clone.
Arkane has done a phenomenal job in setting up a dangerous environment for you to roam. In fact, there’s almost nowhere in which you’re totally safe from harm. You don’t know who to trust. And you never know what might be lurking around the next corner… BOO!
(That has more of an effect in person, I realize)
Graphics-wise, we’ve got an absolute beauty on our hands. Take a look at some of the scenes you can expect to see in the world of Prey:
The art style of the characters is a bit cartoonish, with many of their facial features being particularly exaggerated. I personally find that this makes it harder to distinguish who is trustworthy and who is not. Nearly everyone ends up looking a bit more sinister as a result. It’s not quite an episode of the Loony Tunes, but it’s certainly distinguishable.
It’s rather easy to be captivated by the look and feel of this game.
I’m not a spoiler guy, so I’m going to tiptoe around this topic as best as I possibly can, but this storyline begs to be talked about.
As I mentioned in the intro, you take on the role of Morgan Yu, sibling to Alex Yu. It’s your first day on the job as an executive at TranStar. After a short series of tests, you see...well, you don’t really know exactly what you see.
Little black flashes rapidly grow in size and start swallowing the people around you. Furniture and people are frantically being pushed aside in the frenzy of the moment. Gunshots rain down on the black flashes. You watch on, horrified and trapped. As gas begins entering your chamber, your vision begins to fade out in the most terrifying moment of your life.
After, you wake up in your apartment. Was it all a dream?
You’ll soon discover that TranStar might not have been all it was cracked up to be. Your job just got a whole lot tougher. I don’t think you’ll be getting a pay raise, either.
The story of Prey is incredibly intriguing. With a massive area to explore, Talos I has a lot of secrets to hide. As Morgan progresses, he/she will need to answer a few very important questions:
Who can I trust?
What happened to my memory?
How can I end this nightmare?
If you find yourself nearing the end of the game, hold onto your butts! It’s a wild ride.
Now, I won’t lie to you. This game is hard. I played on the normal difficulty and I don’t even want to begin trying to remember how many times I died. I don’t claim to be the absolute best at games, but I’m still kind of a big deal - I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany. This game will test you.
First off, Arkane absolutely nailed the limited supply aspect of this game. And you may or may not appreciate that, depending on your tolerance for rapid improvisation. You will run out of your favorite supplies, I can assure you. You will be forced to adapt to that scarcity. That, or you will die! MWUAAHHHAAAAHA!
Once you clear an area of baddies, you can expect it to remain cleared. For one mission. At least, that’s how it seems. Areas repopulate much more quickly than you’d hope or expect. Remember how I mentioned supplies are in short...uh...supply? Yeah, this isn’t going to be a great combination.
While your average run-of-the-mill areas will repopulate, you’ll be forced to venture into some more high-security areas as well. You better be prepared for what’s to come, because holy crapballs. There are certain areas of the station that I wouldn’t wish on my worst gamer enemy.
And areas outside of the station, I should say. Space combat. It’s ridiculously disorienting. Have you ever been to a haunted house where there is a path that runs through a spinning cylinder? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check it out. They put guard rails on each side of the walkway so that people don’t fall, break a wrist, and sue them. They’re desperately needed when I walk through. That’s pretty much how space combat in Prey is for me.
There’s also this tool you’re required to use if you want to unlock certain upgrade slots. The way it works is by scanning your enemies. And before you ask, yes, it is just as mildly frustrating - in the most “first-world probs” kinda way - as it was in Mass Effect: Andromeda. The psychoscope had limited usefulness in my campaign, but I imagine others find it invaluable for the potential unlocking ability it possesses.
As any good game with RPG elements, you’ll find that Morgan’s abilities increase over time. You’re in charge of delegating these skill points, also known as neuromods, into the areas in which you think will better help you survive. Oh, and uhh...choose wisely, will ya? There’s no way to re-spec once those points are spent.
“Oh, well…” you might naively think to yourself. If only you knew of the permanent consequences to putting that neuromod point in that particular category... HAHA! The evil geniuses at Arkane have really done it this time.
I don’t bring all of this up to trash on the gameplay of Prey. Quite the opposite, in fact. These aspects of Prey make it unlike anything else I’ve ever played. I rather enjoyed the challenge. I may be a glutton for punishment, it turns out. But Prey does also have some more positive qualities.
For instance, if you find yourself faced with an unscalable wall, what do you do? Do you search for a path around? Or do you try to scale the unscalable? In Prey, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And I like that.
Just to clarify, I mean that I like having options. I don’t skin cats. Look, I’m a dog person, but I don’t have anything against cats, I swear! Sigh I guess the NSA will have added me to yet another list by now.
Oh, get this! There’s a huge enemy in the game known as [REDACTED]. They’re insanely hard to kill and incredibly easy to die from. In short, they’re just a boatload of fun to happen upon during your nightly stroll past the Psychotronics department! But actually, I do really like the idea of running into a mysteriously powerful enemy. Kinda reminds me of the good ol’ days in Mass Effect. There’s not much knowledge surrounding their origins or weaknesses. They just...are.
Arkane Studios Prey is, first and foremost, a first-person shooter. That necessitates talking about the combat mechanics, methinks. In terms of shooters, Prey isn’t really all that great. Once again, think BioShock here.
For starters, there’s no way to shoulder or aim down the sights of your firearms. You’re just shooting from the hip. Nobody claimed Morgan was an expert marksman, but seriously? I don’t even want to know what my hit percentage was. If it’s even in the neighborhood of my GPA, I’d seriously be surprised.
The combat is crazy frantic at times, which means you have to move at crackhead-level speeds for most of the game. This is all offset by the weapons and inventory menus. There are many more weapons and powers than what you’re able to assign to gamepad buttons, which means you’ll rely on opening the wheel mid-combat from time-to-time. Time still moves during this action, it just moves in super slo-mo. It’s sometimes jarring to go from 100 miles an hour to 1 mile an hour and then back to 100 miles an hour in the matter of a second.
As I mentioned before, there are certain areas of the station that are more heavily guarded than Guantanamo Bay.
Is Guantanamo still open? It is, but it’s only got like 40 dudes in it? Wow, seems like a waste of guard resources…
Oh, right, the station. Yeah, it’s just a complete mess in some areas. You’re liable to run into [REDACTED] and some [REDACTED], oh and their tougher counterparts, the [REDACTED]. All at the same time!
And when you hit up those areas, just bask in the comfort of the fact that there is no good way to fight a horde of enemies. You’ll be fighting groups of enemies and there isn’t any surefire way to stop them all. Praise the sun!
Now, all of that said, there are some pretty cool aspects of combat. There are some really unique items to wield that you won’t find in other games. Make sure you check out the deadly Huntress Boltcaster. That thing packs a punch! I also enjoy using that one ability at that one time. Gotta love vague descriptions as a way of preventing spoilers! You’re welcome!
Bugs, Glitches, and Annoyances
Prey is pretty solid in terms of being a finished, well-polished product. I only noticed a couple bugs and a handful of annoyances during my playthrough, but they do warrant noting.
I have to start with the most annoying bug that I encountered: access panels. They’re necessary if you want to move through areas of the station undetected. Since they’re just little crawl spaces, you have to crouch down to enter them. The issue is that the flooring is usually a few inches higher outside of the crawl space than it is inside. This causes you to repeatedly smash your face into the wall of the access panel without actually being able to enter. I lost count of the number of times that I was trying to evade an enemy only to crouch-walk into the wall and soak up some damage in the meantime.
Prey utilizes a “recognition” based detection system. This means that enemies don’t just see you and immediately begin attacking. As your opponents’ recognize you, your indicator at the bottom of the screen grows. The recognition system itself is awesome. What’s not as awesome is that enemies often begin recognizing you before you are even aware they are present. Sometimes, you might even be recognized when there aren’t any enemies in the vicinity at all. Perhaps Prey is simply trying to recreate the feeling of being a protagonist in a 70’s slasher flick. Hm...
One of my favorite things about Arkane Studios Prey is the freedom the game gives you in overcoming obstacles. For me, that freedom came in the form of the GLOO cannon. With the ability to climb on top of the foam that it shoots, I often found myself climbing walls that probably weren’t meant to be climbed. Sometimes, when trying to climb a foam blob, Morgan would instead be blasted away from the wall using the jetpack (which also happens to be assigned to the A button on Xbox). Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like falling multiple stories down to the ground after spending all that time climbing.
Do you ever like being a bullet sponge? What about when your health dwindles really quickly and there is constantly a shortage of supplies? Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do other than just soak up damage. Whether it’s a lack of viable cover, or just an overwhelming force of enemies, you will eventually find yourself in a situation where you’re going to have to eat up some damage. Even masochists can’t find that very fun.
And last but not least, the inability to re-spec. I’ve already mentioned this earlier in the article, but this is so impactful, I think it warrants double mentioning. If you have neuromods to spend, you better save your game before you spend ‘em. Trust me.
If this article has done its job, you have but one question remaining: Should I buy Prey?
I admit that Prey is not usually the kind of game I go for. Sure, I’ve played all the BioShock games, but those playthroughs took place over the course of eight years.
That said, Prey is a game that I can recommend to you - provided you are looking for a few things in particular:
Replayability: Prey has above-average replayability due to its moral choices and sandbox-style approach to station navigation. It’s also possible to acquire different missions by using different play styles and making certain choices. If you miss one mission your first time around, just hop back in and switch it up next time. If you’re looking for a game that you can play a couple times over, Prey would be a good candidate for you.
Time value: One of the things I long for when I buy a game is time value. I don’t know about you, but it really bothers me that some games that only offer 6 hours of playtime cost the same as games that offer 200 hours of playtime. While you probably won’t squeeze 200 hours out of Prey, there is pretty decent time value here given its replayability and the sheer amount of exploring and missioning you can do. If you were to complete every mission in the game, you will have completed one metric butt-ton of missions. That’s a lot of missions!
A good, yet not demanding storyline: The story arc of Prey is interesting, but it develops rather slowly. Not much changes in any one playthrough, and missions are fairly compact at the same time. For time-crunched gamers, Prey is a solid option since the storyline can be consumed over time with little effect lost. Just hop back into your TranStar jumpsuit whenever you have time and you’ll feel right at home almost immediately. As long as home has a bunch of weird, twitchy, homicidal...things… running around, that is.
If you enjoy thriller or horror games, and you like the other three things listed above, you’ll probably want to take a good, long look at Prey. It’s twisted and creepy enough to satisfy even the most twisted and creepiest of you who might be reading this.
Well done, Morgan! Now that you’ve made it through this review, I can confidently give you a 54% chance of surviving Prey. If you want to chat with me about the game, feel free to reach out in the comments below or join my Discord. You can also follow me on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitch. Those links can be found at the very bottom of the page. If you’re interested in buying the game, feel free to check out some partner links below. Thanks for reading! And remember: ……………………………………….BOO!