Review: Prey — An absolute masterpiece

Let’s get this out of the way. Prey is fantastic and it’s one of the best games to come out this year. It may also be one of the best games to ever grace the Xbox One due to its unique atmosphere. In Prey, you awaken aboard Talos I, a space station orbiting the moon in the year 2032. The player assumes the role of Morgan Yu, the key subject of an experiment meant to alter humanity forever. Unfortunately, as is always the case with such endeavors, events spiral out of control. The space station is overrun by hostile Typhon aliens and you are now being hunted. As you dig into the dark secrets of Talos I and your own past, you must survive using only the tools found on the station. Luckily, the tools include some powerful weapons and mind-bending abilities.

Prey offers some of the best worldbuilding yet

The first-person perspective not only immerses you in the environment, but also cages you in. Prey could be classified as a horror game but it’s more of an open-world adventure. Players can roam the massive space station freely and go anywhere they like. The story isn’t linear and changes depending on certain actions. For example, early on in the game your objective is to simply escape Talos I. Well, you can do that after around 25 hours, but that’s barely scratching the surface of what the title has to offer. There are still countless sections to explore and dozens of side quests to complete. Prey is definitely one of the most expansive experiences out there because if offers you complete control of the outcome.

Even on Xbox One, Prey is a visually stunning game. While CryEngine may be a little finicky on the platform, it still runs well and looks great. The main concern gamers may have is the frame rate which experiences some stuttering when loading checkpoints but it doesn’t detract from the experience. Usually quests and other assignments are given when you’re reading documents or listening to audio logs so you don’t have to worry about fighting through molasses when a Mimic is attacking you. Apart from that, the environments are varied despite the fact that you’re confined to a space station and its immediate outer space surroundings. Not only do you encounter luxurious living quarters, you can also explore vast gardens and much more. It’s definitely not the “corridor shooter” everyone was expecting.

Prey is a beautiful game despite its soft rendering

The world outside of Talos I is quite interesting as well. The game takes place in an alternate timeline which witnessed significant scientific advancement in terms of space programs as John F. Kennedy survived his assassination in 1963. Every detail of the space station has a different look and feel. It’s definitely not the generic space habitat many modern titles offer. One of the best portions of the game have to be the museums and other informational displays which detail what’s going on on Earth. There are also magazines scattered around which discuss terraforming Mars. The attention to detail in crafting this environment is astounding and is definitely a step forward for the industry.

One of the main mechanics is the ability to pick up various items and break them down into raw materials. The raw materials are then fed into a printer which fabricates the necessary items. While crafting Neuromods—Prey’s version of skill points—from anything and everything is a great way to go about this, you’ll need to make sure you’re stocked up on Medkits and ammunition. The wrench only gets you so far.

During a playthrough, you’re given the option of either installing human Neuromods or Typhon abilities. While human powers allow you to hack terminals and become stronger, Typhon powers allow you to morph into various objects and be more creative. It’s impossible to unlock all of the powers during a single playthrough so this definitely encourages replayability. Prey is a lot like Dishonored 2 in terms of mechanics where you have to pick and choose your playstyle. There’s also a stealth option but playing the game as an action-focused title is infinitely more enjoyable. Just be sure to upgrade your health and unlock additional slots in your suit to withstand the significant amount of damage inflicted on your person during direct encounters.

Remember to craft bullets and not just Neuromods

If you’re going to focus on Typhon powers, be sure to scan enemies with your Psychoscope multiple times until you exhaust all possible research options. For example, a beast called the Nightmare pursues you throughout the game. Well, you can either destroy it or scan it a few times to unlock additional alien abilities. Even scanning mind-controlled humans unlocks Typhon powers. However, it’s still beneficial to scan enemies even if you’re playing as a lowly “superpowered” human because the scanner reveals weaknesses. What’s the best way to kill a Phantom? Well, use explosives. You wouldn’t know that if you didn’t scan them.

The gunplay is brutally difficult and you have to use abilities like Combat Focus to slow down time and take out enemies. Without that you’re going to get killed again and again. Initially, your guns are severely underpowered and only after around 20 hours do you feel powerful. Unlocking the Gunsmith abilities is key to this. However, using the environment to your advantage is also necessary. For example, throwing explosive canisters on those annoying Telepaths and Technopaths is a great way to take them out. Always study your surroundings and make sure that expending bullets is your last resort. Sneak attacks also do a lot of damage. Usually you can always throw a canister or heavy object to kill an enemy, or at least severely damage them so that a shotgun blast will take them out. The combat features a very trial and error-like approach and it’s up to you on how you want to advance. Many players will want to upgrade their weapons by crafting as many Weapon Upgrade Kits as possible and that’s also a perfectly reasonable approach to combat. Lastly, repairing turrets is a waste of time because they’re underpowered and barely do any damage to Typhon organisms. They’re great for taking out mind-controlled humans though—if you don’t want to save them that is.

Prey is one of the best games on Xbox One

Overall, Prey is a mind-blowing game. One of the main questions gamers ask nowadays is how a particular title advances the genre. How do you contribute to first-person shooters which mostly push out generic campaigns but stellar multiplayer experiences? Prey is a perfect example of what’s possible when developers incorporate role-playing mechanics into the stale category. While Prey is heavily inspired by games like BioShock and System Shock, it manages to rise above them due to the sheer vastness of the playground it offers. If you own an Xbox One, you owe it to yourself to pick up Prey.

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