So there I am, sitting at work doing a double on the graveyard shift. All of a sudden an alarm pops up on the screen. Some door has been opened on the third floor. There shouldn’t be anyone up there, so I grab my keys and radio and go to investigate. I take the elevator to the third floor and the first thing I see when the doors open is a coffee cup that has rolled onto it’s side. WHAT THE FUCK, I think to myself. No, no, it’s an inanimate object….right? I momentarily glance at a few chairs that haven’t been pushed in, my paranoia increasing with every second. Someone slams a door and I nearly jump out of my shoes, but it’s just the building engineer on his rounds. I ask if he is the one who set off that alarm. “Yea man sorry. It was me”. I compose/chastise myself and walk back towards the elevator, acutely aware of the fact that I still don’t trust that damn coffee mug. Why was I so distrustful of inanimate objects? Well, aside from sleep deprivation…… fucking Prey. The game that makes we wish I was being hunted by a xenomorph instead.
The thing that sets Prey apart from other games of its kind is that it makes you distrust your environment. While in other games a coffee cup might be a good distraction were you to throw it across the room, in Prey that coffee cup could very well want you dead. The reason for this is the mimics. Let me just say, fuck mimics. Mimics are the first enemy you come across in Prey and the most likely to startle you. They have the ability to mimic inanimate objects, hence their name, which allows them to do shit like this:
Before I talk about the gameplay, lets talk a bit about the story. You play as Morgan Yu, a scientist, on a space station called Talos 1 who has the ability to make use of neuromods. Neuromods are kind of like mental augmentations that give you various powers. The problem with neuromods is that they come from a species of alien called the Typhon that the scientists discovered and the majority of people can’t handle them. Morgan is special in that regard because he/she (depending on what gender you choose) doesn’t have the negative side effects from neuromods. Morgan does however have one side effect. When a neuromod is removed, a person’s memory resets back to the point it was at before the neuromod was installed. This plays a big part in the plot, but I won’t say any more to avoid spoiling things. When the game begins, the Typhon have broken containment and are causing havoc all over the station. The Typhon are, at least initially, a very challenging enemy to fight.
The obnoxious ability of mimics to hide anywhere they want results in the game insinctively being played much different than your average fps. I found myself slowly crouching through rooms and investigating them as opposed to just walking through and waiting for the next enemy to attack so I could kill it. Often times I would whack a coffee cup or a book with my wrench just to be sure. Mimics aren’t the only enemy either, there are various other enemies that are just as annoying, though mimics are the only coffee mug posers. In order to deal with the various enemies in the game you have mulitple options. You could sneak around and be cautious, which is what you will have to do for the first hour or so of the game. Eventually you start finding neuromods that allow you to unlock various skills. There are two basic types of skills to choose from. You can focus on just basic skills, which include things like hacking, gun damage and inventory size. Alternatively, you can focus on Typhon skills. These are extremely fun and allow you to turn the tables on enemies by using their own powers against them. You can even unlock the power to mimic inanimate objects, so that you too can be an asshole hiding inside a coffee cup. Here’s a fun example of that:
While the Typhon powers are fun, there are consequences to using them. Each time you use a neuromod for a Typhon power, you become a little less human. Eventually, if you keep using them, the friendly turrets in the game will become unfriendly, because they start recognizing the Typhon material in you. There are a few other consequences that I won’t spoil here as well. On the other hand, if you decide that you want to avoid using the Typhon neuromods and instead just focus on normal skills, the game may be a bit more challenging and you will need to completely change the way you play it. It’s this contrast in results that really makes you think about the decisions you are making when leveling up your character and it really adds to the overall experience.
The skills that you choose will also have a big impact on how you move throughout Talos 1. Talos 1 is a fucking huge space station with multiple ways to approach every situation in the game. It also allows you to backtrack to earlier areas whenever you want and depending on which powers you choose, you can go about it differently. For example, let’s say you come across a locked room, which also has a mail slot. If you upgraded your hacking, you could simply hack the door and be done with it. If you crafted a weapon called the Huntress Boltcaster (basically a nerf crossbow) you can shoot a dart through the mail slot at the unlock prompt on the touchscreen computer and unlock the door that way. OR, if you decided to focus on Typhon powers you can simply turn into a coffee cup and roll through the mail slot into the room. You can even use the Gloo Cannon to build an artificial bridge up to the roof of the room and drop in from the top instead. Prey‘s gameplay is filled with these little choices and it’s one of the things that really makes it shine.
One of the really unique aspects of Prey, and perhaps my favorite, is the way everything can be recycled and reused. Scattered around Talos 1 are these machines called recyclers. You can throw literally any object in the game into these recyclers and in return you will get raw materials. These raw materials can then be used to fabricate different objects using a machine called a fabricator. It’s a very cool mechanic, because it allows you to take useless junk that you find lying around and create something from it. It also puts an entirely different spin on inventory management, which otherwise is extremely similar to Resident Evil or Deus Ex. Now, instead of dropping something that is taking up too much inventory space you can throw it into a recycler and use the raw materials from it to craft ammo or whatever you happen to need at that point in your playthrough.
This is one of the best games I have played in a while, and so far is my game of the year. It had a rough launch due to some technical issues, but those have all been fixed and shouldn’t have any bearing on your decision to play this game. The immaculate blend of System Shock, Half Life and Resident Evil is something that many games have tried to achieve, but have ultimately failed at. Prey succeeds at this while still maintaining it’s own unique identity. If you’re looking for a bland FPS where you just kill all the enemies in the room this game isn’t for you. If you want a game that makes you think about your choices, presents challenging enemies, is extremely unforgiving when you aren’t prepared, and rewards exploration then this is the game for you. Prey is a fresh take on an aging genre that anyone who is a fan of games should check out.