Prey

I never played the original Prey (2006) but I understand that Arkane Studios’ 2017 reboot of the property retains very little from the premise of that first game, other than that you are the “prey” of the title. In this case the hunters are the Typhon, a mysterious race with the ability to hide in plain by sight by mimicking inanimate objects, and who can use human corpses to multiply themselves.

You play as Morgan Yu, and you are invited aboard the orbital research facility Talon One by your brother Alex. Before you come aboard you are subjugated to a number of tests during which it becomes apparent that something is not quite right…

…but this is a great game that you should definitely check out, so I’ll leave out that detail.

All you need to know is this: you will end up on Talon One, and it is infested with Typhon. You must survive and investigate the invasion before the consequences become even more dire.

How you do that is up to you. This is an immersive sim, think Deus Ex, think Dishonoured. A multitude of different game systems are stacked on top of each other to ensure that every scenario can be approached in a variety of ways. How you choose to use your Neuromods – Prey’s levelling up system – will change how you approach each situation. If you focus on Engineering skills you’ll find yourself fixing and moving the stations portable turrets against your alien enemies, and probably sticking to a trusty shotgun which you can upgrade as you go. Or you may embrace the twisted alien abilities offered to you from researching the Typhon, attacking with psychokinetic blasts, or transforming yourself as the Mimics do to hide from enemies and reach hidden areas.

This is a solid base for sure, but it’s not what sets Prey apart.

This is a game which is in no rush. It wants you to drink it all in, backtracking back and forth across the station to explore every nook and cranny, but it never lets you forget that you’re in the middle of a crisis. Yes, the galaxy does look beautiful beyond the sunbeams which seep through the massive station windows, and yes the station is a wonderful retrofuture blend of Brutalist and Art Deco designs, but that doesn’t stop paranoia from sinking in as you realise that any object in the world could spring to life as a face-hugger-esque Mimic. Soon you will also realise that the predatory Nightmare variation of the Typhon, an enormous, howling beast which you must kill or evade (a timer comes on screen when it spots you) can come at you from nearly anywhere in the station.

Death can come quickly in Prey, so get familiar with quick saves and start committing Neuromods into your play style of choice as quickly as you can.

The fictional tech of the game is also stand-out. Take the GLOO gun, it is one-part weapon, one-part platforming assistant. It can fire globules of quick-hardening goo at walls to create platforms, or at enemies, freezing them in place to be finished off with a swing of a wrench or blast of a shotgun. Then the Q-Beam, which disassembles enemies into their constituent parts, ready to be recycled into useful resources through the Fabricators you can find throughout the station.

Being an immersive sim, there is a great emphasis on consequence. You have choices to make, not just in how you approach combat, exploration, and crafting, but in how you interact with the other survivors on the station. In the end the finale you reach will reflect these choices, and there is a joy to be found in the simple but smart moral quandaries the game throws at you before then.

For instance, a shuttle managed to leave the station thirty minutes before the infestation of Typhon first began to be reported. This shuttle is approaching Earth. It is also rigged to be scuttled if necessary. What if the Typhon are aboard? Should you let it land? A push of the button and the problem disappears in a ball of flame, and the aliens on board will be killed along with all the passengers…but are there any Typhon on-board in the first place? There’s no way of knowing. It’s not a big moment, it’s simple choice that I came across whilst exploring the station. I chose to scuttle the craft. Having spent a dozen hours fighting and running from the creatures I knew that even the smallest chance of the Typhon reaching Earth, and then multiplying as they had on-board the station, was too high a risk.

It was at this point I knew that Prey had fully earned my investment. I cared about that decision, although there was no big reward to making it. It is a great game, not perfect for sure, but great. I’ve spent way too much time in loading screens, and a couple of tense moments have been ruined by some strange physics bugs. The late game is also not quite as appealing as the early, due to the respawning enemies who stop being a challenge after a certain point and just become a time and resource drain. I suppose being the prey in Prey is more entertaining than being the predator, even if it does make for a neat and natural progression arc.

Ultimately Prey is just a very well executed idea. The space station is the perfect place for exploration. Talon One is thankfully not as vast, nor as empty as most modern open worlds, but it is still big enough to get lost in, and to hide plenty of appealing secrets. Within that world Arkane Studios have done what they have already proved to be very good at with the Dishonoured games: delivering an immersive sim with satisfying gun play, a variety of freaky powers, and drawers full of lore to find.

Considering it’s available on Game Pass, and damn cheap if you’re looking to buy it outright, I don’t think anyone has any excuses not to check this one out.

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