Note: This is a mid-game review as I have yet to finish Prey, but I will be updating this piece once I do with my final thoughts.
I can’t lie about it; there hasn’t been a game that’s come out in the last six to eight months that’s really grabbed me by the short and curlys and demanded I play it. Then Prey showed up at my airlock door late Friday night last week. This is the game I didn’t even know I was waiting for: 1970’s science fiction aesthetics, alternate history timelines, a System Shock 2/Biosock style powers system and to top it all off, horrifying aliens. There’s so much to love you almost forget it’s made by Bethesda until some of the bugs start showing up. Thankfully the bugs don’t (at least not yet) even come close to overshadowing the world they’ve built.
Your character (selectable as male or female at the start of the game but this seems to be a purely cosmetic choice, at least at this point in the story) Morgan Yu is a scientist of some repute, working aboard the Talos 1 space station researching nueromods, enhancements that allow humans to perform all sorts of things they normally wouldn’t be able to do. Lift heavy crates, run faster, sneak more sneakily; the standard suite of FPS RPG-lite protagonist skills.You start the game in the middle of an experiment that immediately has you questioning what’s real, throwing the player for a loop right from the start as you have no idea what information to trust and what’s actually happened to you. All that starts to sort itself out once you leave the locked down Nueromod wing, enter the space station proper and start to see the damage that has been wrought , probably thanks to the aliens you and your team were so cavalierly experimenting on. You know, that old science fiction moral chestnut about not fucking around with things you don’t fully understand.
The game is challenging at the beginning, with your limited weapons and ammo seeing you fall back to the trusty wrench for defense against enemies. Due to this lack of supplies, these first few hours are also the most harrowing and survival horror-esque that I’ve experienced in Prey. Once you start collecting a few weapons and unlock the ability to create ammo for yourself things become significantly less horrifying and more about finding creative solutions to problems. That, and shooting the shit out of aliens. Still terrifying mind you, just a little less so because you have thirty rounds instead of three.So far (at the roughly 10 hour mark now) I haven’t hit any major game breaking bugs or save issues (unlike some PC users have reported ) but who knows what might happen the further into the Talos 1 facility i venture.
This game has me feeling like that thirteen year old kid again, plugging the original Deus Ex or System Shock 2 disc in for the first time and just getting lost in a world of possible paths to take and questions to answer that inevitably lead to more questions. That Prey achieves this without feeling like nostalgiac pandering is to be applauded, as this game might not make a huge commercial impact but is sure to be regarded as a cult classic (like Deus Ex or SS2) in coming years.
– Scott (@drunkgraveyard)