|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Arkane Studios|
|Pub: Bethesda Softworks|
|Release: May 5, 2017|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence|
Compounding my frustrations with Prey is how weirdly inconsistent it can be in structure and how pointlessly dull its storytelling is. If it was a drawn-out, slow burn of a game full of interesting characters and terrifying enemies, it would probably be a contender in 2017’s crowd of Shockingly Great Video Games. Instead, you fight evil blobs with powers that just sort of fill the screen with noise and follow Morgan along with a list of clichés a mile long. Exposition delivered through emails and audio logs is the worst way to deliver a story, and it doesn’t help that every beat feels like something I’ve done several times already in other games that got there first.
The bad guys start strong with mimics, creatures that can take the form of any innocuous object and jump out at you when you least expect it. These guys take a back seat after you gain the ability to detect them, and you face more generic creatures that shoot fireballs and lightning at you once Prey really gets going. To its credit, enemy encounters often take the form of puzzle-like situations and are isolated in rooms with different options presented to the player to deal with them. This is the real appeal of Prey, something that’s more muddled than the other parts, but often what the player will need to deal with the most.
A lot of Prey is about navigating Talos I and finding your way off the beaten path. As often as you’re fed keycards, passwords, and scripted events, you will find just as many dead ends you’ll need to investigate for physical ways around. Particularly interesting is Morgan’s ability to grab into almost any edge and pull themselves up on top of pipes and other structures that would be aesthetic window-dressing in other games. It’s not very well translated, but once you figure out it’s another option in your bag of tricks, it opens up how you interact with roadblocks in a way that’s much more satisfying than fumbling with any of Prey’s other sloppy systems.
Prey also has an amazing soundtrack. Seriously, its score is not afraid to take over the whole experience, getting loud out of nowhere and flexing its bulging muscles. It’s simultaneously the best and worst part, perfectly nailing its aesthetic, but promising more than the plot can ever deliver. Prey is often at its best when you’re working your way around an obstacle, with no bad guys around and some stellar music taking over as you look for the next out-of-the-box solution.
Ultimately, I doubt I’ll remember Prey much after I stop playing it. There’s too much else going on in games in 2017, and Prey does not stand out amongst its peers. Its fiction is self-serious, despite being so derivative, and its systems are frustrating and constantly in conflict with each other. It feels like dozens of other games I’ve played already, but enjoyed more. Even when something interesting does happen, I still feel like my time hasn’t been respected and my brain hasn’t been stimulated as promised. Prey is competently made, it runs great on the CryEngine, and it seems like no expense seems to have been spared,, but it clings to what it’s paying homage to, rather than reaching for new heights. Prey has an audience, but I doubt it will have a legacy.