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Prey is an Almost Perfect Game for Me

Prey (2017)

There are two games named Prey. There’s one from 2006 that had gravity walkways and astral projection as a gameplay mechanic. Then, there’s the new one in 2017 that had people jamming surgical devices into their eyes to learn new skills, which turned out to be made from aliens. I got to play the new Prey recently, and it gave me the same feeling I get from Deus Ex, the Resident Evil 2 remake, and BioShock combined.

I’ve had more free time lately, especially with my mother getting back to (mostly) normal after a month of illness, so I’ve been playing more video games. While I can do more work, the added stress had me at the edge of a breakdown, so I needed something therapeutic. That got me digging into all the games I’ve not played yet, and it’s a big backlog.

Prey has a lot of things I like in a singleplayer game—exploration in a fleshed-out setting, survival horror, stealth, cool weapons, and an interesting premise. While I’d like it better if most of the NPCs weren’t dead, the only thing I don’t like about Prey is I didn’t play it sooner.

NOTE: There may be some spoilers. You’ve been warned.

This is a first impression post with initial observations and analysis.

It may lead to a full written review of the game once I’m done with it.

Premise and Story of Prey

It’s March 15, 2032, Morgan Yu’s first day at work in the TranStar Industries testing facilities. He does his morning routine, puts on his research suit, and boards the helicopter that takes him to his new workplace. He is then gets by the man who brought him into TranStar—his older brother, Alex Yu.

He then goes through some tests that looks more like a tutorial for babies, but something weird then jumps at the man conducting the tests, Dr. Sylvain Bellamy. A gas then envelops the final testing room and Morgan is sedated. He wakes up back in his apartment and the date is still March 15. What follows is Morgan realizing that everything is not as it seems.

TranStar Industries is a Chinese technology megacorporation founded in 2025 by William Yu, Morgan and Alex’s father. The family business dabbles in a lot of things, but their most notable tech is the Neuromod, or Neural Modifier, which is a tool that lets people learn new skills and abilities by injecting a serum through the eye to reprogram the brain.

The corporation owns two space research facilities—Talos I, a space station that orbits the moon, and Pytheas, a moon base which serves as the setting for the expansion pack Mooncrash. The disaster that occurs aboard Talos I serves as the catalyst of everything the player goes through and have to solve in one way or another.

At the center of it all is the Typhon, an alien species that became the source of the Neuromod technology, as well as what can potentially cause humanity’s extinction.

Presentation and Gameplay of Prey

Much of new Prey’s presentation and gameplay is right up my alley. I remember gushing over the screenshots back in 2017 when it was first released, but I couldn’t get to it due to life and work. I’m glad I finally got to it, even if it’s over two years too late.

Here are a few notes I have on some things I’ve seen thus far.

Prey (2017) Emails

I like how you can interact with touchscreens. Also, this particular substory gets a bit interesting.

Graphic Design

Much of the graphic design is similar to that of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided with its cleanness, but with a bit more neo-art deco typography like BioShock. It does its best in being as uncluttered as possible, which is not easy in a game that has a lot of text and lore.

But perhaps it doesn’t have as much of that distinctness that makes me latch on like Deus Ex: Human Revolution (as you can see from this web design). In fact, I’m watching a let’s play video series of Astral Chain for the Nintendo Switch (Woolie VS), and I actually like how it looks more than new Prey (I’m not calling it Prey 2).

Inventory Management

The inventory looks and feels pretty good, although the mechanic for moving items around could have been better. It’s likely a compromise Arkane took to accommodate console players, but I would’ve liked it more if items could be moved around with the mouse instead of the arrow keys, which forces me to move either my left or right hand away from its usual position.

Yes, I can do that easily enough, but it’s slower and slightly less convenient. Pardon me for being pedantic.

Prey (2017) Inventory

Inventory management in this game is a notch below old school Resident Evil in difficulty.

Character Models

You see enough NPC models in this game and realize their faces were most likely made from a common template. They look different enough in their character portraits (seen on screen when playing audio logs), but they then have the same wrinkled face with different hair and skin color. Maybe that’s because most of them are dead.

The only ones that look the most different are the people like Alex Yu and the guy serving as the chef in the kitchen. However, the stories you dig up during your exploration from emails, notes, journal entries, and audio logs make up for that physical sameness.

Skills and Abilities

One of the main challenges in the game is acquiring Neuromods to gain skills and abilities that make gameplay easier. Take note that while you may eventually get them all of you put all your resources into crafting Neuromods (and scanning all the Typhons to unlock all the alien powers), Morgan is still a squishy human being who can get smeared into paste by even mimics if you’re not careful.

Prey (2017) Combat

These guys are like vortigaunts in Half-Life, but way more dangerous.

Even on its easiest difficulty, the enemies can kill you easily if you’re not careful, even with all the ammunition and healing items you’d ever want. You can spam medkits, suit repair kits, food, and psi hypos all you want, but it only works to your detriment later on if you don’t conserve your resources.

Prey 2017 is a survival horror game with RPG elements, but you don’t ever become a god. Even if you can do everything, you’ll find it hard to fight the bigger enemies, incredibly difficult to kill a Typhon nightmare, and impossible to kill the really big Typhon at the end of the game.

Prey (2017) Neuromods

This gets even harder to decide on in Survival mode and higher difficulties.

Prey (2017) Hacking

Fuck this hacking minigame. Perhaps the hardest one I’ve ever experienced in any game.

Comparison with Old Prey from 2006

The trailer for this remake raised a lot of eyebrows as the shift of premise from contemporary Native Americans being abducted by aliens to fighting aliens in a space station. It was quite the tonal shift, but there being 11 years between the two games made it forgivable.

Prey 2006

Oh man, this aspect ratio. I played this back in the day on a 5:4 CRT monitor.

But the old Prey was more like a corridor shooter like Doom 3, all the way to the dark lighting. The new Prey is more like a metroidvania BioShock with plenty of side objectives in an indoor setting with much better lighting and interior design. There are still dark places in new Prey, but they’re a lot more sporadic.

Also, this space station is not dreary to look at for a change.

The addition of stealth mechanics, however rudimentary, makes gameplay in new Prey mode varied. Since ammunition and healing items are scarce, you’d want to be able to sneak past encounters if necessary. 

The one thing old Prey has over new Prey is having mirrors that actually show reflections. The trailer for new Prey showed Morgan looking at his bloodshot eye, but the actual game doesn’t look like it has mirrors at all. That’s a bit disappointing, but not a total deal breaker.

Conclusion

It’s not a perfect 10, but it makes a very good case as an 8 or 9. Perhaps what will make me score it a 9 out of 10 is if my next playthrough in Survival mode will actually make every major thing click for me.

The only thing that keeps it from achieving absolute perfection in my eyes is my yearning for more attachment to the non-player characters (like Danielle Sho). If it had even more dialogue options and other ways to interact, it would’ve been even better for me.

However, that would’ve added even more development time, which wasn’t possible with this game beyond what it got. Maybe the Prey: Mooncrash DLC will satisfy that craving. But for now, I’ll leave it here or this will turn into a 5,000-word post.

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Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have on the comment section below.

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