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Prey Review - From this world to another

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I want you to forget everything you know about the last Prey that released back in 2006. Prey of 2017 is so different, and if anything it has nothing in common other than being a first-person shooter. Prey took me on some wild adventures - some so outlandish I'm still tripping. The game might borrow inspiration from a few titles like BioShock and some Alien: Isolation, but in the end, it's the fantastic atmosphere and psychological horror mechanics that make Prey one of the most "out there" games I have played in ages.

Arkane Studios masterfully designed a space where madness and fear collide to produce something that is both unique and inspiring. They created a world that is at the same time realistic and unrealistic. The game is drenched in so much atmosphere, that it draws the player inside itself and make the experience feel very real. I dare say; the world of Prey felt so plausible that someone might just be inspired to create it! Over all of this, Arcane painted their digital canvas with a layer of dreadful unease; especially when I knew I had nothing around me to help me fight the Mimics and other strange creatures. The synergy of all these elements resulted in a terrifying, challenging and absurdly wonderful experience.

Mind-Bender

The more I played Prey, the more I could not help but be intrigued by its setting and brilliant take on space travel. Taking control of Morgan Yu, the starting hour of the game is a complete mind-bender. You wake up and travel to a test of some sort in order to sign up for the Talos I space station that orbits Earth. A Mimic outbreak takes places and you pass out to wake up again in the same bed, but this time smashing through your window, you realise that you have been on the space station the whole time and a tech known as Looking Glass, which is, in theory, are giant 3D screens that are able to give you a "portal-like" view into the area, mimicked a fake world around you. Now that Talos I has been compromised by these Mimics, you need to find a way to stop the threat by destroying the entire space station, preventing the aliens from reaching earth. 

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Morgan has no memory of past events, but he somehow planned for this to take place and has recorded videos to prepare his memory-less self you now control. Arkane has done a fantastic job in bringing the world of Prey to life. The deep history of the space station, and the way Morgan learns about it as if he has never been there before is unreal.

The environment as character

Every PC I came across in the game held insightful information about the people who once lived on the space station, and everyone's story and audio logs felt so real. It is the ability to bring the game to life, that makes Prey so thrilling. Every new area is worth exploring for crafting materials and just some back story of what in the space is going on. The opening hours are so mysterious that you cannot help but want to delve deeper into the game's fantastic narrative. 

Talos I has so much character and the environments come alive with the sights and sounds in each of them. It gives you the feeling of "what if" at every turn. I constantly questioned things like, what if humans were able to live in space on a massive space station, but this all happened in the 1960s? What if the brain could be harnessed in such a way that allows one to enhance skills on the fly and increase performance in daily tasks? All these realistic scenarios came into play during the game, mainly because the world makes you believe it is possible. 

The star of the game

The stars of the game are the Mimics, which if you know have been around in video games for ages. Mimics are known for their ability to shapeshift and turn into something of this world. In the Dark Souls series, they are chests, and in Prey they are little black spider-like creatures that can turn into anything really. A cup, a bin, and even a chair.

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They are the main horror factor in the game as you never know where they are, and what evil their little bodies are plotting against you. If you see two cups, hit both of them, and the same goes for any items that may seem out of place. Morgan is not a fighter, and the combat in the game makes this quite clear. You often feel defenceless against these creatures and their bigger brothers who take on the form of walking sasquatch-like monsters (these are known as the Typhon.)

Run, Morgan, Run!

Morgan gets guns like the GLOO Gun which can freeze enemies in a concrete substance, and other heavy guns like a pistol and shotgun. Ammo is hard to come by, and you would have better chance crafting it using materials you find in the game than actually finding ammo on the floor. 

Using all your weapons and your surroundings, you need to now fight back or run for your life. I often ran as fighting was not fun with no resources. In a way, Prey's weaker mechanics are often in the game's combat. I expected it to be smoother, and more dare I say "Bioshock", but instead it was a hard one to master.

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Camera controls and overall character movement in the game lack fluidity. Morgan feels stiff and control is clunky. Freezing a Mimic with the GLOO Gun and then changing to your wrench to bash its head in sounds easy enough, but aiming takes the back seat and the mimics are so fast you often miss. You then need to open up the so-called "quick menu" and change to your wrench to finish them off.

Later on in the game, Morgan gets hold of alien abilities known as Psi Abilities that help him in both combat and exploration, but the lead up to these is a long haul and often tough to deal with. Once I got these powers I felt like I had much more control over the combat, and they gave me the upper hand at times. Some of these abilities range from a fiery gust that you can summon from underneath an enemy, to even becoming a Mimic yourself and turning into a tin to fit under a broken pile of boxes. 

Not just spray & play

Nueromods are Morgans skills currency, and tweaking with objects, repairing broken tech like turrets and fabricators, all rely on the said skill to be unlocked before you can do it. Hacking into someone's personal email to find their safe code needs you to have the right hacking skill before you can do so. Repairing a gun turret in order to defend yourself from a lighting Typhon, needs that repair skill to be unlocked first.

You unlock the skills in the way you think you will play the game, and some of them take priority over others. If you feel that you will be creating more objects using the recycler, then there is a skill to give you more materials for that machine. Whatever you need, the scientist. engineer and security tabs will help you out. Each of these benefits a play style in some way or another. 

All the skills and weapons come together in different ways in order to get past a tough enemy, but you need to first know what you can do with what you have. Given the low resources in both psi abilities and ammo, you need really focus in combat and not just spray and play all over the place. 

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Prey would have been one of the first games I would have preferred to play on PC. The PS4 version suffers from some severe input lag, and this great affects combat and aiming. There is nothing worse in the world than an FPS game with input lag issues on a console. It creates a disconnection between player and the game, and it causes major issues in combat. 

While the input lag and blocky combat were the only negatives I could find about the game, everything else in Prey was an absolute joy to experience. The atmosphere that oozes out of every corner of Talos I and beyond, is something rare, and you cannot help but feel drawn into the events and environment in the game.

The story is gripping, and the challenges of the game have to be taken seriously where every decision you make in combat needs to be a wise one. Prey is a jewel of a game that I highly recommend you pick up and gaze into for a while. 

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Available on: PS4, PC, Xbox One | Reviewed on: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 25 April 2017

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"Prey was an absolute joy to experience"

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