Are they the Prey, or are we?
Prey plays in the year of 2035 in an alternative timeline in which Kennedy actually survives the assassination attempt and spends even more budget into the space race. After a while a new alien race, the Typhon, was found and captured by the US and USSR, locked into a space station around the moon and left there to be further examined. After a catastrophic accident in the year 2000 and alongside with the geopolitical instability of the time, the US has shattered the by now known as Project Axiom and left the Typhon in the moon’s orbit. In 2025, the newly founded company TranStar bought access to the Talos 1 and made it a fully functional research station. 7 years later, our protagonist Morgan Yu is invited by his brother Alex Yu to join the company and to join the resarch team on Talos 1. One day while researching, one of the lab scientists gets attacked by a special Typhon, a mimic, which knocks out Morgan, leaving him unconscious. You wake up again in your apartment, only now to see that it is actually the year 2035, three years after you have joined your brother to help the research on Talos 1. From here on the game full begins and you meet your helper, a bot named January. With him by your side, you slowly unravel the mystery of the Talos 1, the Typhon and why you play a center role in the research and chaos that happened on Talos 1.
Not quite Alien, not quite Bioshock
From here on, you’ll learn that your research actually grew some nice fruits and the harvest gave you Neuromods. What are Neuromods? Well these are Typhon physiology modifications to give the brain and body of the human user new abilities, including those that are considered superhuman. TranStar made a lot of money selling those Neuromods on earth initially and wanted of course to expand this further with hiring more people on Talos 1 and increasing budget. You or Morgan from the past, actually helped advancing the research by inventing new analytical devices and also devices that can nullify the Typhons. So in case of an immediate threat from the Typhon, you can just use a grenade, that is harmless to normal humans. And while we’re here, those Typhon actually are an interesting threat to begin with. Most notably known of course should be the small mimics which can change their appearance into any inanimate object. They begin to vibrate and explode into their natural form if you come too close to them, giving you a lot of pretty well done scares. At least at the start of the game. Later I was more reminded of flies with these mimics than actualy scary enemies. They die quickly and you can mostly find them hushing around before they turn into objects. Exactly when this transition happens, of course more scary Typhon appearing. Big humanoids, so called phantoms which were actually humans once, now being controlled by wandering around and finding other humans, mark the next common type of enemy on your way. These are actually the base of the next step of neuromods, in which these former humans, now Typhon exhibit power over fire, lightning and kinetic powers. Scanned by the analytical device Morgan Yu has created, you as the player, a.k.a. Morgan Yu, will be able to implement these abilities into your own skillset.
Now whith that base, the Talos 1 station being run over by the Typhon, you as Morgan trying to find a solution which will either be the total obliteration of the space station or the destruction of all Typhon existence, causing you to start over with your research but still surviving at least the outbreak. On your way you’ll find many other employees of the Talos 1, mostly in rather bad conditions of they are even alive. The game plays the most classic go and kill, then trace back to get your reward style of mission design which is quite acceptable to me. The backtracking was sometimes a bit confusing to me, but the stories I encountered and the moments I shared with other NPCs in this game made me actually embrace the human nature this game seeks to preserve, at least when you’re playing for team human and not for team Typhon enhanced powerhouse. As I explained, just like in similair games such as System Shock or Bioshock, you will get the opportunities to enhance your abilities with new attacks, ways to influence and distract the typhon or other hostile beings, such as more service robots that got under the control of Typhon phantoms for example. What I missed from Prey were some moments like boss fights. There are bigger encounters locking you inside of smaller spaces and forcing you to 1 on 1 with different enemies, but they’re never that rewarding as a special moment between a one time exception from the constant flow of enemies. But, I assume that makes Prey so charming in it’s own way. You’ll never fully know how to react to all the situations you’ll encounter and try to make the best out of the situation. Prey does still have some nice surprises, even in form of a super strong killing machine, known as the nightmare, that only appears once naturally and which can be a reaction of the Typhon in case you are becoming too strong, be using too many Neuromods.
What do you play?
Prey in its roots is a first person shooter with stealth aspects and more RPG elements, including quests, sidequests and connecting the dots to reach your endgoal. While you can explore the Talos 1 station almost freely for the entirity of the game, the station does not hold too much for you to find. The smaller encounters with still alive crew mates do bring more interesting stories from Morgan’s past to the light and making you question, if you should even survive along with the others once you decide to inherently doom the Talos 1 station, if you plan to do so. Of course, being a first person shooter, this game does offer you qtuite an arsenal. The pistol and shotgun are the more classic firearms of the game, while the gloo cannon and the grenade selection fit to the more alternate future storyline. Especially the gloo cannon is an interesting case, because it not only helps to kill some certain enemies having a weakness to it, it mostly just freezes enemies so you can flee when being spotted or actively use over means to get rid of them. It also opens up new paths, when the station’s destruction might hinder you, the path is blocked because of fire or you simply want to reach somewhere, where you can’t get to just by jumping and climbing, so you just pop some gloo bubbles on the wall which makes it easy for you to get somewhere else. The ecosystem of Talos 1 of course doesn’t allow for you to just kill everything with your arsenal. Instead you have to be smart about it and use all abilities as much as you want to include them into your system and also use the gadgets that are given to you, such as a toy crossbow that only puts out small foam darts. Especially the crossbow is an underused item when trying to be stealthy, as those arrows can be used to activate buttons even when you can’t get them or they distract enemies. Because Talos 1 is so futuristic, you can also recycle everything you can grab, including extra guns, ammunition and food which could otherwise heal you. So to some extend, even resource management will be leading you throughout the game which of course will make you as a player also more explorative in the many spaces you’ll visit.
Atmosphere in zero atmosphere
What Prey takes from you is more than just a little sanity and a little time, it’s actually a quite lengthy game. Even so much to a point that I called the game too long for its own good. The last three hours could have been a little more compressed, but overall, it’s for sure a game that respectfully deserves to stay. Ignoring my gripes with the runtime of the game, depending on how much you explore and how long your sessions are, Prey is after all a fascinating experience. The levels that bring you outside of the Talos 1 are fantastic, the weightless outside zones and yet still hazardous environments are intense and an experience quite rarely seen in videogames. Maybe because they draw out a little longer than you’d like in a videogame, it gains more weight on how the game feels in its atmosphere, it’s understanding how to explore human nature and expanding on that by the idea that other lifeforms, how dangerous they are, they’re never as dangerous as the explorative and exploitive nature of humankind, as we can see by all the evidence we kind find of the rather crucial testing and experiments that were done on Talos 1. While I don’t want to take away any really cool scenes which invoked me to think a lot about how we explore and exploit the space that we have in space, it is quite a lot of very interesting moments we can live through in Prey, if we actually care, explore and partake in the life, how much of it is left, on Talos 1. And maybe, this will be an interesting thing for the post credits to talk about, once you played it as well.
On quick sidenote, the music was once again done by Mick Gordon who we know as the composer of the famous DOOM 2016 soundtrack and the Wolfenstein 2: the New Colossus soundtrack. The music sometimes spoilers the appearance of an enemy and drags out longer than necessary when an encounter is already over. Other than that the music is always on point, exciting and tension holding when used. A blessing amongst the other well done things of Prey.
Prey is a fantastic game with smaller dents in its shape and while I got a little frustrated with the time it took to beat the game, for a normal user that has no stress to keep making content on the internet and that also doesn’t play under sleep deprivation, this game surely is a tremendous experience. A complete different direction from what was started with the original Prey, but surely this amount of change and this game alone deserve to take the place of what we think about when we talk about the videogame Pre