Prey (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gabriel Jones 11.05.2017

Review for Prey on PlayStation 4

Up until his death in the year 2031, former U.S. president John F. Kennedy was a fervent believer in the space programme. In 1963, through an agreement with the Soviet Union, the space station Kletka was built. Its purpose was to research a mysterious organism known as the Typhon. Unfortunately, decades of work failed to produce any results. Furthermore, an accident on the station in 1998 resulted in the entire research team being killed. In the year 2030, the TranStar Corporation assumed control of the once derelict space station and renamed it Talos-1. Two years later, another accident occurs…

What is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of retro-futurism is how it accurately underscores the state of the world. When it comes to fashion and architecture, the future envisioned in Prey acts as if the 1960s never ended. Even in a world as tumultuous as this one, fashions change as often as the weather. For something to remain in style for over 70 years there would have to be a discovery that's so earth-shattering and innovative that it completely envelops the entire way of life.

Enter the Typhon. This organism of unknown origin is intent on eradicating mankind but, at the same time, it can be harvested to produce miraculous abilities. Through the administration of neuromods, a person could obtain superhuman strength, learn new languages in seconds, or even bend the fabric of reality to their will. As is often the case in science-fiction, humanity's desire to fly too close to the sun will undoubtedly lead to its ruin. Morgan Yu, the scientist caught in the midst of so much chaos and destruction, is ill-equipped to handle the extraordinary task ahead of her. Since the removal of neuromods results in memory loss, she's forgotten practically everything that led to her current predicament. While trying to figure out what happened, she must survive the constant threat of a rapidly-evolving and dangerous organism.

Naturally, when dealing a vicious threat that defies comprehension, the first instinct is to grab a hold of a trusty wrench. When paying tribute to groundbreaking titles such as System Shock 2, apparently there has to be a wrench. Anyway, Morgan finds other weapons, but her best asset will always be her agency. The Typhon doesn't simply rush in the general direction of the heroine. They stalk the halls, patrol areas, and sometimes hide amongst inanimate objects. This behaviour allows the scientist to plan her actions accordingly. There aren't any long drawn-out enemy encounters. If she sees an opportunity to escape or eliminate a foe, she should take it.

Screenshot for Prey on PlayStation 4

With neuromods, Morgan Yu's options increase tenfold. Why settle for merely shooting an enemy or whacking it with a wrench? The wonders of genetic manipulation allow for surprising possibilities. With enhanced strength, the scientist can hurl heavy objects with startling speed and accuracy. She can also become an expert mechanic in order to repair turrets or other devices that have broken down. Neuromods aren't required in order to complete the game, but it might be worthwhile to make use of them.

As the story progresses, Yu will come across a device known as the psychoscope. This visor analyses the Typhon, offering unique alien neuromods when enough research is completed. While there's something to be said about attempting to force cohabitation with a hostile element, almost anyone will appreciate the plethora of amazing abilities. There are simple yet effective techniques such as area-clearing kinetic blasts and mind-melting psychoshocks. Then there are the more intriguing powers, such as the ability to mimic almost any object. Nobody will ever suspect that the roll of toilet paper is in fact a human, or at least partly one.

Whatever the case, it deserves mentioning that the player always has absolute freedom. Their approach to every situation is entirely their own, and all the game does is provide the means to achieve success. There is never only one way to defeat an adversary or access a locked room. This is where the brilliance of the game's agency really shines. The more observant will always find an alternate route, and will always be appropriately rewarded for their efforts. They are never forced to spend neuromods on something they will never use outside of one particular incident. If they don't want to hack the door's locking mechanism, they can seek out a keycard or passcode. Failing that, maybe a nearby maintenance shaft will provide access. It's entirely possible that the room has a backdoor or even a hole in the roof.

Just to show how much confidence Prey has in its level-design, it offers something known as a gloo gun. This aptly-named weapon fires globs of rapidly-hardening goo. This substance is durable enough to stop Typhon in their tracks, and can also create stepping stones. In other words, the power to scale practically any wall is made available within the first couple hours. Its brilliant implementation helps to make exploration a very satisfying endeavour. Resourceful folk will find yet more uses for the handy device, such as trapping enemies in rooms, or creating a slight bit of cover to avoid their gaze.

Screenshot for Prey on PlayStation 4

Depending on personal play-styles, some doors might always remain closed. A couple weapons could also be considered redundant depending on what psi powers Morgan has inherited. Thankfully, no resource is ever wasted. Located throughout Talos-1 are stations where unneeded weapons and garbage can be recycled for materials. These materials can then be fabricated into ammo, med-kits, or even neuromods. This is a very effective way to assist someone in developing their play-style. In this game, certain obnoxious situations are never forced upon someone. There aren't boss battles where 'x' amount of damage has to be done in order to progress. Prey perfectly exemplifies why freedom is a beautiful thing.

Talos-1 is simply incredible. It's one of the most astonishingly-realised space stations to ever appear in a videogame. This really feels like a place that's…actually real. Each sub-section is thoroughly put together and features all of the practical amenities. Yes, this means that inconsequential places, such as public restrooms, are consistent and in their proper locations. An immense amount of world-building is found in all of the tiniest details. Through emails, audio-logs, and curiously-placed objects, the final hours of numerous crewmembers can be pieced together. It's possible to gain at least some attachment to a few individuals. Hopefully they will survive, even though the odds are clearly against them.


 
The fantastic retro-futuristic design of the space station is a wonder to behold, as well. One of the subtle yet amazing touches is the constant clash of aesthetics. Most of the technology is sleek and sophisticated, but also bulky and unpalatable. Handheld devices typically have a mess of circuit boards and wires sticking out of them. It's as if the team of scientists and engineers are more concerned with functionality and practicality than being fashionable and eye-pleasing. This helps to create an atmosphere that is just startling.

It also deserves mention that this massive station is designed in a way that never becomes padded or repetitive. This is where all of the attention to intelligent world-building really pays off. Not once does it ever feel like being purposefully stretched out, simply to achieve a long play-time. The station is huge, yet at the same time very focused. The scale is appropriate, and every room is efficiently organised. Not once will those in control ever think "Why is this there? Why are the hallways so long? Why does a single elevator go to twelve different areas?" Everything makes perfect sense.

Alongside Morgan Yu's main objective, there are several side missions to take on, and very rarely will they devolve into "collect this" or "kill that" mundanity. A few of them can also change due to Morgan's actions. Dealings with the scant survivors of Talos-1 can have interesting results. Oh, and if worst comes to worst, failing a quest isn't a total loss. Can't rescue somebody in time? Well, maybe their corpse has a few valuable items.

Screenshot for Prey on PlayStation 4

As fantastic as Prey is, though, the PlayStation 4 port is in some ways a let-down. First off, there's some input lag, which makes moving and aiming a little more troublesome than it should be. In a misguided attempt to rectify this issue, the deadzone of the controller's analogue sticks was shrunk. This means that the slightest feather touch on the analogue stick can cause Morgan Yu to move, albeit very slowly. The player can eventually adjust to the problematic controls, but they never really stop being an issue.

Also unfortunate are the load times. On average, it takes about a minute in order to load each area. Granted, every location is quite large and features a preponderance of tasks to perform, but the time spent not playing will add up. This issue becomes especially grating when having to rush through multiple areas to reach the next objective. The steady 30 frames per second and solid 1080p resolution are nice; however, there aren't any additional benefits for PS4 Pro owners. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but the back of the game box mentions that it's "PS4 Pro Enhanced." Hopefully, the improvements are patched in later.

What's most likely to bog the game down is the handful of bugs that players are liable to stumble upon. At first, someone might notice wonky physics or an enemy getting stuck in the geometry. Under very particular circumstances, a corpse might disappear, denying the player its precious items. The most difficult to excuse bugs tend to occur later on in the experience. After Morgan rescues a couple survivors, they tell her that they will be waiting in her office. However, when she arrives, they immediately and inexplicably become hostile. Ultimately, their survival has no effect upon the completion of the game, but they won't respond to the main character, so whatever missions or rewards they might have to offer are completely gone. This isn't to say that all players will run into these critical errors. Their experience could very well be entirely bug-free. This is only being pointed out because it happened during the review process. Prey is by every metric a masterpiece, although some scuffs are impossible to overlook.

Screenshot for Prey on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Despite its issues, which should be addressed in short order, Prey is a stunning gem. Not since the venerable System Shock 2 has there been an immersive simulator that succeeds in everything it sets out to do. Talos-1 is masterful in both its construction and design. Players are given limitless freedom to approach every possible situation, lending the game unparalleled levels of replay value. Also, it's rare to see a purely single-player experience retain its freshness in the face of a lengthy play time. This is just as compelling in the 30th hour as it is in the first.

Developer

Arkane

Publisher

Bethesda Softworks

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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