Prey is a game that plays a very cruel trick on you.
Of course the trick is, you don’t realise it until you started playing.
Seeing the marketing for Prey you would be fooled into thinking it looked and felt like a game that pays homage to BioShock. It does, but not in the way you were expecting.
BioShock was very tough, but then it had to be, because you were tougher. It gave you the weapons and abilities to face these foes.
It is a shock then that after playing the opening hours of Prey you realise that you are not tough, you are weak. In fact you’re outgunned, facing a foe that doesn’t even operate in the same universe as you and has the ability to become any object you can see.
We won’t go too much into details but simply put Prey is science fiction horror set in an alternate timeline. The space race went a very different way thanks to the discovery of an alien race aboard a Soviet satellite.
As humans studied the aliens known as the Typhon, they advanced, allowing for the construction of a vast space station orbiting the Moon. It is aboard this space station, Talos 1, that you find yourself tackling a horde of incredibly angry aliens.
What then does the game hand you to combat this unfathomable foe? A wrench. A single wrench.
It would be with this trusty wrench that we would hopelessly face the space station upon which we found ourselves, swinging wildly in the direction of an alien that may or may not have just taken the form of a photocopier.
If you’re really lucky you might then find, as we did, a plastic nerf gun. After that? It’s hard to say, because while our experience started rough yours could be very different.
Talos 1 is entirely open. As long as you have the means to visit a part of it, you can.
Some parts of the station will be blocked off, requiring you to gain abilities or keycards with which to access them. Other parts contain enemies that are simply too powerful, giving you a brief and stark lesson in overconfidence.
This so-called freedom is what defines Prey. Some will have started the game and within moments found a room that contains a powerful shotgun.
Sadly our overconfidence meant we overlooked this room, and so several painful hours later we started retracing our steps and going over every room we’d visited with a fine tooth comb until we found it.
It is then, with complete humility that you should play Prey. The Typhon are a tough enemy to face. The least powerful of its race, the Mimic, has the ability to transform into any object which means that every single room must be entered slowly, carefully and with the knowledge that at any point you could be brutally attacked by a chair.
Once you learn that your freedom is simply an illusion, you start to understand and enjoy Prey. The station, although not exactly the most inspiring place we’ve ever visited, is literally crammed full of rooms to explore, computers to hack and side quests to complete.
As you explore more of the station you discover more about its inhabitants and the terrible tragedy that has befallen them all. For your curiosity you are amply rewarded with new weapons, abilities and countless junk which you can ‘recycle’ into building materials to make even more weapons.
One highlight in the arsenal is the ‘Gravity Gun’ inspired GLOO Cannon. This weapon fires balls of instantly setting concrete, allowing you to freeze enemies or create your own pathways throughout the station.
In addition to the conventional arsenal of guns and grenades you are also equipped with a tree of abilities that you can enhance using items called Neuromods. From hacking, to overall strength these objects will give you the edge you need and finally, but not completely, remove the fear you initially had that your life would be ended by a inter-dimensional stapler.
Prey isn’t perfect, the game can feel grindy at times thanks to your constant need to examine every single object around you.
The plot can also feel lost among the wealth of side missions and objectives. This is partly down to the open-plan nature of the station but also to the way that it has been presented to you. Sometimes we like a little nudge in the right direction. However when you have six other objectives, it can be frustrating to work out how to approach them and in which order.
Finally the sound effects can be a little over the top. The game is scary in its own right, what it doesn’t always need is a screeching strings-based intro every time we enter a new room. It gets tiresome after a while.
What it lacks in some areas though it makes up for in others. It’s a visually stunning game. The space station is spectacularly detailed while the game’s excellent soundtrack breathes life into the whole experience. Trust us it’s very good indeed and definitely warrants a listen in its own right.
Prey might not be perfect, but it’s a game that we found ourselves compelled to finish. It’s also a game that you’ll remember, and despite its several flaws, that’s one of the biggest compliments we can give.
Who should play Prey?
If you’re a fan of science fiction and horror then we’d say it’s a no brainer. It’s not perfect, but thanks to a stunningly realised world and some truly inventive gameplay you’ll be thinking about Prey for weeks after you finish it.
Who shouldn’t play Prey?
If you’re not a fan of jumps or scares then don’t even pick it up off the shelf. We had to play it in bursts just to keep our heart-rate down. Prey is also a game that requires huge amounts of patience, it won’t just hand you the plot you’ll have to work considerably to get it. For some that will be rewarding, for others it’ll be infuriating.
Prey is available now for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.