Prey, developed by Arkane Studios (the team behind the Dishonored series), is a first-person shooter with a sci-fi thriller theme. You play as Morgan Yu, a scientist suffering with amnesia as a result of a number of experiments involving an alien species known as the Typhon. Players must make their way through Talos I acquiring various abilities along the way to fight the Typhon.
You can already find our Prey Preview on our YouTube channel, so if you’d like to know slightly more about the premise of the game without any spoilers check that out. As for spoilers in this review, we won’t ruin the whole game but if you haven’t played it yet you may want to avoid this one.
So if you haven’t read any of our previous previews of Prey, we can sum them up quickly by saying they were incredibly positive. Prey’s opening hours show the foundations of a potential Game of the Year contender. Everything from the story, the environment of Talos I, all of the abilities you can obtain and the enemies just make you want to keep playing.
Talos I’s level design is a player’s dream when it comes to exploring. There are so many routes you can take using the GLOO gun and at points it almost feels as though you are breaking the game, only to find the developer has left a reward for you at the end of the path.
The relationship between Morgan and other crew members is equally well designed. Stumbling across a corpse of a crew member will elicit an emotional response despite the fact that you’ve only read emails or listened to audio logs.
Prey’s main storyline is strong enough to stand on its own without having the additional context of the side quests, though completing the side quests certainly enhances the overall plot. That’s not to say every mission in the game is perfect, in fact we’d argue there are a few in there that seem like busy work for the player. Thankfully, the majority of the game’s quests are both fun and relevant to the story.
The Typhon come in many different forms, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each encounter with the Typhon feels stressful as they are not easy to take out in groups. Our favourite variation of the Typhon is easily the Poltergeist. Not only is the Poltergeist able to mess around with the environment, it also takes the form of nearby objects and can turn invisible. Finally killing one of these enemies feels rewarding, we just wish every fight could be like this.
Unfortunately, the combat is where Prey begins to fall flat. After you complete the first few hours, enemies begin to appear everywhere, including areas you originally thought of as safe zones. Being forced into action at so many points highlights just how poor the combat is. It’s frustrating because you are constantly outnumbered and, more often than not, underpowered. The Typhon only drop tumours and organs when they die. These aren’t particularly useful when you are out of ammo and health, which you will be after several fights in a row.
We switched the difficulty down to Easy after spending roughly five hours with the game. The amount of enemies around coupled with the lack of ammo made me want to avoid the Typhon completely. The difference between Easy and Medium seems negligible as the enemies still flooded the space station.
You’d think players would be able to balance this out by selecting a number of abilities that counter the Typhon, however it soon becomes apparent you have to make sacrifices when choosing abilities. Due to the lack of available Neuromods, players may feel pressured into opting for ‘boring’ powers such as upgrading your inventory space, or increasing your health pool. No one wants to put their hard earned points into things like this, but you feel as though you have to as a result of the powerful enemies.
Games like Resident Evil purposely avoid giving out too much ammo in order to keep players on their toes without making them frustrated. Prey gives you the option to make ammo with the Fabricator, but even then you never feel like you have enough. The only weapon you can actually rely on is your wrench, and even that requires you to spend points on upgrading it so it can be viable.
Even if you were to take the combat in Prey out of the equation, there’s still an array of performance issues on the PC, weeks after the initial launch. We both have powerful computers, but there’s a certain area in the game where the frame rate drops below what we would consider to be a playable level. Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the bugs in Prey. Upon arriving at the Power Plant, everything decided to break on us. At this point, our game would crash sporadically every thirty minutes or so. In addition to this, our frame rate problems worsened as it would plummet after ten minutes no matter what area we were in. Funnily enough, the random crashes ended up helping us as the only way we could fix the frame rate issues was to restart our game.
There have also been reports of quests not completing, which we also experienced. Towards the end of the game, we were no longer able to complete the majority of our outstanding side quests. In addition to this, there’s the issue of save game corruption which luckily we did not run into, but it doesn’t surprise us considering the state the game is in.
Prey is a game that we desperately wanted to enjoy and we were really looking forward to, however the bad aspects of the game cannot be ignored. We cannot recommend the PC version of the game at the moment due to the number of bugs, though if you wanted to play it on console then maybe you’d have a smoother experience. Even if Prey’s most infuriating bugs were fixed, we’d still have a difficult time recommending it. Prey’s combat system is deeply flawed, making players feel like they are at a constant disadvantage. The foundations for a great game are there, but you’ll have a lot of grief trying to find them.