Prey was developed by Arkane Studios and released in 2017 by Bethesda Softworks. While this game shares a name with a game released in 2006 by the same name, Arkane’s version was meant to be more of a spiritual successor to games like System Shock. Prey, however, stands on its own as a first-person shooter and psychological horror game.
The story central to the game starts strong, creating a sense of urgency and terror in the player as it progresses. The first notion of something being off is in the first seamlessly integrated tutorial phase. The player begins by waking up in an apartment, before making their way by helicopter to a facility. From here, the player is placed in a test filled with a series of fairly menial, but off-putting tasks — pressing a button, hiding in almost plain sight, a Rorschach test — when you see a quick glimpse of something darting across the screen.
It’s then that you finally come in contact with the Typhon, the primary type of enemy that you encounter across the game. A cloud of smoke pulls the character toward unconsciousness, and the screen turns black. Immediately following this, the player is placed back into the opening sequence, with everything surrounding you just slightly different from the way that it was displayed at the opening. It’s not long before you discover that nothing is quite as it first appeared.
Combat is relatively fluid, further aided by modifications made from resources. While combat is a focal point, this game lends toward a slow and steady pace, sending the more skittish players whacking aimlessly away at potential Typhon hidden in nearly every corner. But the more observant players will begin to notice the little ticks given off by enemies and can progress with more of a resolute determination. Boss fights consist of more extensive and stronger Typhon, from Poltergeists, Telepaths, and a Nightmare. These creatures have singular mechanics to each individual enemy. With a keen eye and the ability to maneuver into nearly any corner of what becomes an arena is vital in defeating them.
The setting in Prey is one of the most significant accomplishments in this game. Not only is it visually captivating, the space station, Talos I, but is designed with vertical movement in mind. Each section within the station is diligently planned, incorporating elements of different styles. The living areas have an exuberance, trying to imitate the style of more earthly luxury.
They even go so far as to construct an arboretum onboard, set up like a lavish garden. Laboratory elements are orderly and minimalistic in their design, especially compared to the living spaces. Other corners belie the fact that it is a space station, held together through life-sustaining systems. The care that was taken to create this expansive setting is impressive and shows with each subsequent playthrough.
One of the most interesting mechanics that leans toward an element of replayability in the game is the resource and the neuromod capabilities once you are able to move around the space station. The resources are found across the entirety of the station and when taken to the Fabricator and create weapons and ammo. With the Gloo Gun and a few persistent explorers can find their way through the entire station fairly quickly, forming ledges to help move you vertically and to different areas much more rapidly.
The neuromods are augmentation that you can add to your character, giving your character abilities seen in the Typhon enemies you fight along the way. You will have the ability to mimic matter — like turn into the fated coffee mug from the beginning. Or, my personal favorite, the kinetic blast, knocking enemies away from you to give you a moment to escape.
From the opening sequence, the entire game is constructed in a way that gives you a sense of panic, beginning to fear even ordinary objects that the Typhon could have mimicked. It’s the subtly of the horror that makes it compelling. There are very few overtly terrorizing moments in the game, unlike more recent horror games, like Until Dawn or P.T. If those intense games are not your style, Prey might still interest you, bringing a compelling story that begs for at least a single playthrough.
As a whole, Prey should definitely be on your list, rating over 80% from nearly every critic. It’s hard not to recommend this game, even to those who don’t like horror games. While there are a few hiccups in the game, they’re quickly overshadowed by all that was great about this game. And with two expansions, there is even more game to explore.