We talked about “Dishonored 2” a while ago and talked about “Deathloop” more recently, which leaves one Arkane game, or franchise, that we haven’t touched on. A game that, in my opinion, is their best work to this date. A game that took the immersive-sim genre to new heights. A game by the name of “Prey.” Released in 2017, “Prey” was a re-imagination of the original series of the same name that took a completely different approach. Developed by Arkane Austin under Harvey Smith, this new “Prey” was a genre-defining title the likes of which haven’t been seen to this day. I sound like a broken record when I talk about my love for Arkane Studios and how can’t I love this studio. All they have done is release amazing game after amazing game, with this being their magnum opus.
I have never played a game that’s this underrated, even to this day, and it’s a shame that it is this way. While the industry and the general consensus shift more and more towards games as a service and titles that feature a ton of multiplayer play, i.e., battle royales, with a heavy emphasis on microtransactions, single-player experiences slowly but surely get left behind. With publishers not wanting to invest in games like these as they may not be able to generate enough money or simply may not offer enough replayability, the market gets more and more saturated, and the kinds of games we get on the regular act like nothing but re-skins of an already existing product. Despite that, there are diamonds in the rough, there are always needles hidden in a haystack, and “Prey” is one of them for sure.
I’ll jump into the plot and the setting a little bit before getting into the gameplay and other stuff, as there’s no need for a separate section dedicated to the plot of the game.
“Prey” takes place in an alternate reality where President Kennedy survived his assassination and poured a lot of money into the American space programs. From that, a company called Transtar was born; led by the Yu family, Transtar specialized in space research and the development of new technologies, with their crown jewel being the research station, TALOS-1, orbiting the moon and affectionately called “the eighth wonder of the world.” TALOS-1 is a giant and luxurious space station that conducts research on various subjects that will aid humanity on their missions into the cosmos, all the while bringing technological improvements, and operates under the supervision of siblings Alex and Morgan Yu. The events of the game take place aboard TALOS-1, with you taking charge of the younger sibling, Morgan Yu, who can be male or female based on your choice. Something is wrong with the station, and an alien race known as the Typhon has invaded, and it’s in your hands to get rid of them and get to the bottom of whatever’s going on. However, things are not that simple, and there’s a catch here. Aboard TALOS-1, Transtar was developing a new technology called neuromods, which maps a person’s brain and their skills and then can be injected into the brain of the person who buys them, giving them all the skills the other person knew.
Basically, if you wanted to learn French but didn’t have the time, or if you wanted to sing but never could, you could shell out a large amount of money and buy the correct neuromod from Transtar, and once you inject it through your eyes, you’ll be an expert in French or a Grammy-winning singer in 15 minutes. Crazy right? There’s a problem with that too. The reason why these neuromods are in development and are still not available to the public is that if you wish to remove them at a later date, they will erase your memory from the point when you injected them. That’s a very serious setback. The reason I went on this history lesson is to let you know that Morgan is a subject to these neuromods and, just like you, has no idea what’s going on, so you and the protagonist both are oblivious to the situation, and have to piece it together. That would be the basic setup for the plot of the game, but trust me when I say that there’s a lot more to it that I leave for you to figure out on your own. The mystery here is worth unraveling. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the other departments of this game and see what makes it worth playing.
Just like other Arkane games, “Prey” is an immersive first-person simulation that allows you to play in your way, be it as a gun-toting maniac or a stealthy ninja. However, I do feel like here in this game, you have to kill some things to progress and cannot beat it without ever being seen or not killing anything, but then again, don’t quote me on that; it’s an Arkane game and people can always surprise you.
Morgan is a silent protagonist but has a voice in the form of January, a technician robot. Morgan uploaded his or her memory into that, which guides you throughout your journey and fills you in. You can find and use guns like pistols and shotguns, among a few others, and all of them, especially the shotgun, pack a punch. There are other weapons that have specific uses, like the huntress bolt caster, and a foam dart gun that does zero damage but can be used to open doors and create distractions from a distance. Then you have the G.L.O.O. gun, which is the essential tool aboard TALOS-1. The G.L.O.O. gun shoots a liquid outward that immediately hardens and puffs up upon contact with any surface. It can be used to fix areas, make impromptu or D.I.Y. ladders or pathways across dangerous areas, and freezes enemies in place. The G.L.O.O. gun is unique and an essential tool in your arsenal. Alongside your guns, you also have a plethora of grenades of different kinds that you can use, stuff like a recycler charge that turns any items in their explosion radius into their base particles or E.M.P. grenades or Nullwave grenades that attract Typhon and mesmerize them with their glow. There are a lot more if you are interested. That’s combat, in a nutshell. You shoot aliens and blow them up in different ways, but what about the aliens themselves?
The Typhon is what you’ll be encountering and fighting all across TALOS-1; visually, they look very alien and like walking humanoids with black ooze or hair that’s constantly flowing. They come in all shapes and sizes, and each unit does something unique; however, there’s one type in particular that I wish to talk about, and that would be the mimics. Mimics are small, spider-like creatures that can mimic anything and ambush you out of nowhere. So when you are running around TALOS-1, you never know which object is real and which one is a mimic, as an innocent-looking coffee mug can turn out to be a horrifying monstrosity. The mimics are the most fun enemies this game throws at you; the rest of the Typhon are the run-of-the-mill enemies that charge at you, shoot projectiles at you, and so on. There is another exception here, and that would be the Nightmare. Nightmares are giant Typhon enemies that only appear when you have injected yourself with a lot of Typhon-based neuromods, they appear and hunt you down. If you see one, run.
Speaking of neuromods, let’s talk about the upgrade system. You have a giant skill tree that you can buy upgrades from using neuromods. Or you can play and beat the entire game without injecting a single neuromod; the choice is yours. Neuromods can be found all across TALOS-1 and, later on in the game, can be crafted(more on that in a second) and let you buy upgrades like more strength, health, hacking, carrying capacity, and so on. There is another subsection to the upgrades menu that unlocks later in the game and lets you inject Typhon-based neuromods. What these do is allow you to use Typhon powers using your psionic aptitude, meaning you can shoot Typhon back with energy blasts or turn the tables on them and mimic objects to surprise attack them. These powers are really fun and are unlocked gradually by using your psychoscope and scanning the different types of Typhon across the station. The cost you pay for injecting these neuromods is that the Nightmare starts hunting you, and the security systems of the station, aka the turrets and more, see you as an alien threat and attack you on sight.
There is also a crafting system in the game that is essential for your survival. Don’t worry; it’s not too complicated and is done in a very smart way. Essentially, there are four types of resources, namely mineral material, synthetic material, organic material, and exotic material, that you can collect from across the station. If scavenging is not your thing, then you can throw a recycler charge in the middle of a room, and everything that isn’t bolted to the ground will get sucked in and turn into its base particles, aka the materials, or you can simply transfer all of the junk you’ve been carrying into a recycler and get more materials that way. Then you can find blueprints for just about anything, from weapons and ammunition to other items, including neuromods, and use a fabricator and the materials you have gathered to craft what you need. This crafting system is brilliant and very satisfying both visually and functionally, and you’ll find yourself in front of the fabricator and recycler a lot throughout your playthrough.
Finally, we have the station itself. TALOS-1 is a giant space station that you are free to explore at your leisure. Divided into three main areas, the arboretum, the main lobby, and life support, each of these areas have its own sub-areas that you can visit, explore, and piece together. You’ll find emails and audio recordings throughout the station that’ll give you a glimpse of the lives people had here before all hell broke loose. You may also find a few survivors whom you can help or kill; that’ll be your choice. The three main areas can be accessed by using the main lift, or you can get there using the G.U.T.S., which is a network of tunnels with artificial gravity that connects the station. The G.U.T.S. is a dangerous place with a high number of Typhon, so you better tread carefully there. Once you acquire a thruster, you can even venture outside TALOS-1 and float in space, admiring the beauty and grandeur of the station as it shines bright thanks to the sunlight in the darkness of space, or find what lurks out there. TALOS-1 is huge and beautiful and full of mysteries to unravel, safes to unlock, and recordings to find that gives you the full picture. The environmental storytelling here is on another level, and the worldbuilding is just immaculate. Despite its current situation, it truly is the eighth wonder of the world.
That just about sums up the basics of the gameplay that “Prey” offers. Stealth or action with tons of upgrades to unlock, secret passageways to find or make your own routes, lots to see, discover, and learn and hide from or kill a ton of aliens standing in your way. This being an immersive simulation, there’s a lot more that you can do here that isn’t taught or mentioned, so always experiment; you might be surprised to learn the things you can do here.
The Technical Stuff
The game uses CryEngine, and my experience with it on my Xbox was solid. I have heard the P.C. version had and still has some issues, but I can’t comment on that because I am a console peasant. 1800p of the Xbox One X/Series X with the option to play it on 60fps on the Series X|S exclusively thanks to F.P.S. boost. The voice acting here is also very well done, and the music is mild and sets the mood up perfectly. Visually, the game has its own style and looks good—not the best, but good regardless. Everything else is fine, and I don’t have anything major that I can complain about here.
“Prey” is a game that must be played to get a grasp on what it is. It has a mystery to it that can be very hard to guess if you go in blind, and the freeform nature of the game is a blast to experiment with. Arkane Studios outdid themselves with this one, and it’s a shame that this game is so incredibly underrated. It even has a DLC called “Mooncrash,” which is even more underrated than the base game and stands in a league of its own. In a lot of ways, “Prey” looks like a generic space game, and it is anything but generic. Immersive storytelling combined with the most freeform, open-ended gameplay you’ll come across in just about any game makes “Prey” a blast to play and experiment with. The worldbuilding and environmental storytelling act as the cherry on top. I hope I have convinced at least one person to give this game a shot if they haven’t already, as this game is a masterclass in every sense of the word and a testament to how truly talented the developers at Arkane Studios are. I wish this game wasn’t as underrated as it is, and I hope we’ll get a bigger and even better sequel to it sometime in the future. Until that day comes, please go and play “Prey” and see for yourself how special this game truly is.