Released: May 5th, 2017
In an abandoned space station, no-one can hear you scream. Alas, the Talos 1 station is not quite abandoned, and everything that can hear you scream is coming for you. All hope is not lost. There may be once chance to survive…
“Hello, my name is Mr. Glooey McGlooface”
Talos 1. TranStar’s crowning achievement is floating in orbit above the moon and decorated in high class 1960s luxury. In the process of creating the Neuromods, the test subjects escaped, brought havoc upon the entire station. The experiments continue until they get to they reach Morgan Yu a human aboard the station. During initial experiments on Morgans Neuromod implant there’s a malfunction, causing the day to be reset. A second attempt is made before discovering it’s an echo of Morgan sabotaging the experiments to free the player of the test simulation, to tackle the real problems on Talos 1: the Typhon, an alien species with many different sub-species, is loose on the station. As one of very few humans left, it’s up to Morgan Yu (and by extension you, the player) to find out how to stop them making their way back to Earth. The version of yourself that was freed from the simulation guides you through the game, and uses a name relating to the time it was created (January). It teaches Morgan about Neuromods, and her brother’s involvement in her experiments as a high-ranking member of TranStar.
The most common Typhon that you encounter is the most terrifying and yet the easiest to kill (of course it is). This is largely due to the nature of it’s unique abilities, which are hinted at in it’s name. Mimics feature heavily in the early part of the game, and are fast moving, low health, low damage enemies. However, as may seem obvious by the name, they are masters of disguise. Seeing one run past doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be easy to follow and kill. They can hide anywhere, dead end corridors, office rooms, labs. This is due to the fact they are rarely in their natural, offensive state. They can masquerade as a desk chair, a coffee cup or even a potted plant. See that cup on the floor? Innocuous enough, so you walk past it. Then it leaps out and attacks, with no warning. Armed at the beginning of the game with just a wrench, these encounters can get downright terrifying, not just for the player but for Morgan, who can have various status effects thrown upon her, one of which is fear. Fear causes a loss of stamina, more damage to be dealt and can give the player just as much a sense of panic as Morgan is feeling in the game.
Players can create their own Neuromods with different abilities such as increasing health levels with the use of medikits, hacking and repairing computers, and aid them in combat scenarios. Somewhat akin to the Plasmid system in Bioshock, these are somewhat hard to come by in the early stages, meaning decisions are to be made over which Neuromods to install. Further progression grants a Psychoscope, allowing scanning of Typhons and the unlocking of their abilities to use as Neuromods. From here, things get more interesting and often less serious (honestly, rolling around the game world as a coffee cup is hours of fun) but there are advantages beyond the hilarity for these abilities. Being in control of a much smaller entity than that of Morgan allows access and egress to a lot of new routes around the station, bringing a far wider tactical element to the game. Also, surprise attacks while disguised as a coffee cup are genius. Like a caffeine ninja, watching as enemies amble past before dealing additional damage from a sneak attack.
An eye-opening feature of Prey is the moments when Morgan needs to traverse the station from the outside, leading to zero-gravity based elements, which have been done especially well. A short burst on the thruster units will create a generous amount of forward propulsion, due to the lack of friction and wind resistance, just as it would in real life. Very good job here, Arkane Studios.
The tougher elements of gameplay, and bad points, are that even on the ‘Normal level’ Prey is a difficult game, with players needing to decide ‘on the fly’ whether to react with a ‘fight or flight’ response. Often in games, ‘fight’ is the wiser option as enemies are easy enough to kill, however Prey needs more tactical analysis than that. Most enemies are far stronger than Morgan, and ammo is scarce (though it can be crafted at Fabrication Stations) so half the time it is far easier to run from a tough enemy until more ammo or Neuromods become available. The weapon cache is not the widest range on offer, and most ammo on the station is for the TranStar MADE Gloo Cannon, which has the ability to stop enemies in their tracks allowing for easier dispatch. The bad points are thankfully scarce in this game, it’s well rounded and rather polished in it’s execution. The controls although a little clumsy will be easy enough to get used to and the menu system is intuitive and easy to use, so another plus point there. The graphics aren’t quite as good as a lot of games of this generation but still pretty enough to be able to marvel at during the brief moments that players can take a second to take in their surroundings. Other than this, often there is frustratingly little to show a route to the objective, but again, as familiarity with Talos 1 increases this becomes more of a moot point.
Certainly a very different game to the usual FPS titles on offer. It’s almost Dead Space meets Bioshock but without being similar enough to either to cause issues. Fun and fast paced, with plenty of back story for those interested in a fully immersive experience.