I bought the 2017 reboot of “Prey” a while ago during a sale on the Xbox Store, but, for one reason or another, I didn’t end up playing it for very long. It wasn’t until recently when I was looking for something new to play that I remembered that the game was still installed on my hard drive, gathering dust, so to speak. So, I fired it up, started a new game, and ended up engrossed in it almost immediately.
Developed by Arkane Studios, the same studio behind the acclaimed “Dishonored” series, “Prey” is an exploratory first-person shooter with elements of survival and roleplaying games sprinkled in. Arkane designed the game as a spiritual successor to the “System Shock” games, and the end result is a game that, in my opinion, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with those legendary games.
In “Prey,” players take control of Morgan Yu, a scientist stationed aboard the TranStar corporation’s private research space station Talos I. After awakening with amnesia, you soon discover that Talos I has been overrun by a monstrous alien force known as the Typhon. With most of your colleagues dead and the station quickly deteriorating, it’s up to you to prevent the Typhon from making their way to Earth, filling in the holes in your memory along the way.
The story of “Prey” is told almost entirely through reading emails on office computers and listening to the audiologs of deceased crew members, ad there is a lot of really interesting stuff to delve into here. The more you explore, the more that the mysteries of Talos I and Morgan’s identity begin to unravel. It’s a deep, well-written tale that tackles themes of existentialism, science going too far, and the dangers of playing God. The best part, however, is that it isn’t forced in your face and doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay.
Player choice is the name of the game in “Prey.” As you explore Talos I, you will come across items called Neuromods that allow you to augment your physical and mental capabilities. These Neuromods, combined with the stellar level and objective design, give players an incredible amount of freedom to tailor their character to their playstyle and progress through the game however they please. It also makes the game highly replayable, as you can have one playthrough where you specialize in stealth and hacking, and then go through it again with full combat upgrades and have a completely different experience.
Speaking of combat, the shooting in “Prey” is very solid. You have a modest selection of guns at your disposal, consisting of security-issue firearms and experimental devices that all feel great to use. Rather than being a straight run-and-gun shooter (though you are free to play it as such), the combat system places emphasis on using stealth and disabling enemies with your various devices and, later on, psionic abilities, before moving in for the kill. There are a variety of Typhon creatures infesting the station, and each one has a different weakness that can be exploited. Encountering new enemy types and learning their weaknesses is always a thrill, and the feeling of satisfaction upon using your wits and whatever else is at your disposal to bring down a difficult foe is almost palpable.
“Prey” is one of the most enjoyable games I have played in a very long time, and I’m amazed that it has taken me this long to finally get around to playing it. Talos I is a joy to explore, and the game does an astounding job of catering to different playstyles with its level design and the Neuromod system, all while telling a great story in the process. If you missed out on “Prey” the first time around like I did, I would highly recommend picking it up and giving it a shot. It was released for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, and it goes for pretty cheap across all those platforms now. Whatever you play it on, you’re in for an experience that you won’t be forgetting any time soon.