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There is sadly nothing quite like checking out a game that is just in the middle. It’s not good, it’s not terrible, but it’s just so meh. Usually, I will at the very least remember when I have played a super awesome game like Dragon Quest Heroes II or an incredibly terrible game like Yasai Ninja. Playing a game that’s in the middle just leaves me with nothing to remember. That’s how I felt when I played the new Bethesda-published game, Prey. Developed by Arkane Studios, the team behind Dishonored, Prey is an odd reboot that took the place of the canceled sequel to the first Prey. While it has nothing to do with the cancelled sequel, I can’t help but wonder why we couldn’t have gotten the sequel instead of a reimagining that has barely anything to do with the original. Well, let’s dive in and see what the damage is.
You play as a male or female Morgan Yu, a scientist who is set to go into space to a station called Talos I. After taking some tests to be qualified for such a task, the scientists testing Morgan get attacked by oily black blob monsters known as mimics. You then wake back up in your sky-high apartment, and get a call from some unknown individual telling you to get out of your apartment. You grab a wrench and break open the window to find that you are actually in space in the Talos 1. Unfortunately, the station is now mostly deserted, with the monsters running around and maybe a few survivors. It is up to you to find out what exactly is going on and to find out what is going on with you. The story is set up with the philosophy that the overall plot is barely the focus, with a lot of what happens hidden behind backstories found in recordings and emails. Actually, that’s how you find some of your side quests. It can be interesting at times, and when you first break out of your apartment, it can be quite shocking and trippy, but I have more problems with the story that I want to share later.
Prey is a first-person sci-fi horror game, with a lot going on that’s like a bucket list of what were in other games. You have crafting/blueprints for items, inventory management, survival elements, horror elements of facing the monsters and corrupted machines, exploring the massive station of Talos I, first-person shooter/combat elements, customizable abilities, and suits that will help you traverse the rather large station. There are definitely a couple of elements to watch out for. You have a stamina bar, armor degradation, and a meter below your health that will lower if you run the stamina meter low. The game is basically very open-ended, but it’s not an open-world game. I wouldn’t call it Metroidvania either. You will be able to find keys, hack systems, and repair machines to help you get through the massive station. Along the way, you might be wondering why you are scrounging around for garbage that is filling up that precious inventory slot. Well, you will come across blueprints and machines that will craft special items with said junk, which can help you, including weapons, ammo, and whatever else you can find blueprints for. If you wanted to, you can get special alien powers, like being able to transform into any items in your area or an energy blast. However, if you decided to invest into those powers, better beware that turrets will shoot at you. The one thing this game can’t lie about is its length. You get about 20 or so hours. The replay value comes in the form of different builds and playing the game from a different point of view. Though, in some regards, you might not want to do that. But I will get to that issue later.
Graphically, the game does look great. While Talos I might be a bit sterile and fancy looking for a station that just got ransacked by a slew of shapeshifting blobs, the game is consistently good looking. Slick graphics, very little performance issues on the PlayStation 4, and the animation on the characters and aliens were pretty smooth. The voice acting is well done. I found everyone included in the cast to do a good job. It’s not super corny or trying too hard. It a good balance of characters you would probably find in a lot of sci-fi films. The music is probably my favorite aspect of the game. When the music by composer Mick Gordon is playing, it really sets the mood. Then again, this is the same guy behind Season 1 & 2 of the new Killer Instinct, 2016’s Doom, and 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order. Granted, some of the sound mixing was rather terrible, and the horror elements were undone by the music blaring up when you were by the monsters, but luckily, some of it was patched over to make it a more atmospheric and dreadful (in a good way) experience.
To me, the biggest problem with Prey is that it has an identity crisis. It doesn’t really know what it wants to be, because besides the hacking and non-melee stuff, everything else is pretty subpar. It has stealth mechanics, but they are not fleshed out. They have gunplay, but it’s not tight, or satisfying to use a gun. The game wants you to play as you want, but it really does want you to play it in a specific way. It has elements of System Shock, Deus Ex, Bioshock, but with the exceptions I listed above, it doesn’t do them all that well. It wants to also be a bit more like a horror survival game, but the music, while pretty good, makes it way too obvious when you are in a room full of the boring forgettable monsters. I wouldn’t mind fighting these repetitive and generic blobs if the combat was any fun, but until you upgrade to a certain point, combat is a horrible way to start a build in the beginning hours.
Yeah, that’s another problem; you can start off the game woefully in the red if you choose to customize your character down a certain path. They say you can literally play this game however you want, but there are definitely routes that you can take that will be easier for you as a player. Now, some could argue that’s part of the charm and consequence, but at the same time, other games have had this same problem, like Elder Scrolls: Battlespire, and yet no one gave that game’s problems a free pass. If you really want to be able to play however you want, then you need to make that 100% possible. This is why it’s problematic when games offer you the idea that you can play however you want, but then punish you for not playing it one specific way. You can get cool abilities, like being able to shapeshift and mimic other items like the monsters do, but if the melee combat and the gameplay is not doing it for me, then why should I care that I can do cool stuff like that?
I could honestly get over these problems if the story was any good, but I just couldn’t find myself getting fully invested the entire time I was playing. I was more worried about scavenging for items to make stuff, ammo for guns, and stuff to repair my suit than the actual story. I honestly forced myself through the game. Now, some side-stories can be interesting, and to be fair, the overall idea of Prey’s world and story are not terrible. I even liked some of the trippy beginning hours, when you realize your character was possibly living a lie, and how you become more paranoid in terms of who you trust throughout the game. Who’s being honest, and who’s lying? But these types of games usually forget that while you can have backstory and lore behind the scenes, the main story still needs to grab you. What hurts the story experience more is the fact that this game’s side-quests are pretty much you walking from one place to another to find something or turn something back on and then going all the way back. Not the most riveting side-quests and especially not great ones compared to the quests you go through in Horizon Zero Dawn, Dragon Quest Heroes II, and Nier Automata.
Am I saying that Prey is not that great of a game? Personally, I think it’s just okay. It’s not the worst, since a few games have already popped up that can be considered the worst of 2017, but I personally didn’t care for it. Of course, if you like everything about this game, then that’s perfectly okay as well. This review is just my opinion, and in my opinion, I would have rather them just reboot the cancelled sequel from the ground up, instead of reimagining the entire game from the ground up with no connections or reason to call it Prey, besides cynical copyright holding. If you like this game or think anything in this review sounds appealing, then you can buy the game or rent it. I would probably wait for a sale, but that’s just me. I feel like Prey could have been more interesting if it simply focused on certain elements instead of trying to do everything within the kitchen sink. I would probably consider it one of the few blunders so far of 2017. Maybe it should have mimicked a more interesting game.
This game gets a 5 out of 10.