Prey from Arkane Studios has a solid foundation of horror mechanics but falls short with its’ pacing and fails to stick the landing on the narrative front.
Prey is a game that I wanted to love, but by the time the end credits rolled I only sort of admired the adventure. The campaign provides a truly terrifying experience but at the same time offers a frustrating Pace that doesn’t play to the strengths of the core game play.
Prey’s strength are in its’ world building and atmosphere. The enemies in Prey feel dangerous and powerful. The first time you come across something new in Prey you end up approaching it with curiosity because there is a very good chance it will absolutely decimate you. Any time the music cues hit the sense of dread and uneasiness instantly ramp up and even though you know soemthing is near by trying to murder you, you still are skeptical to find out just what is stalking you. As the player you feel alone and outnumbered which is a feeling that even some strict horror games miss the mark at providing. The dilemma becomes that Prey gets in its’ own way as you progress.
The first few hours of prey grabbed me with its narrative hooks. Some really clever and neat reveals made me truly wonder what was going on in the universe. Then being introduced to enemies that can literally morph into anything in the room only aided in sucking me into the experience. Seeing an enemy crawl into a room only to proceed into that room and find no enemy is scary every time. You stand there looking at every single item in the room trying to see if anything feels out of place. When you screw up and guess wrong its terrifying, but also when you guess right the satisfaction is extremely rewarding.
Going into my first room zero gravity and actually having controls that made sense and felt tight was something I didn’t expect at all. I spent a lot of time just flying around Space outside the Space station, just taking in the sights and seeing what new things popped out. The vibe in the world of Prey feels real and lived in.
Then once the actual game mechanics start rearing their head in during the second half, my enjoyment started to subside.
At one point a message literally tells you to play the game how you want. Want to get through that door? Get your hacking skill up and say screw the key, or sneak around in the maintenance vents and circumvent the enemy. I took the games advice and played how I wanted to which ended up being the wrong way. Turning everything you find into usable materials, creating new and helpful items at the push of a button was a great way to keep me looking in every room for every possible piece of junk I could find. Then when I had so much ammo I didn’t know what to do with it, and my sense of exploration didn’t seem to be nearly as prominent. As the player obtains more abilities and you start to become stronger, the threats and atmosphere aren’t as appealing. The skill tree doesn’t seem very cohesive, and it’s fairly easy to screw yourself as the player since you aren’t intended to achieve every skill. Playing Prey as the jack of all trades type of character is the wrong way to play it, but there is no way to know this until your play through is over.
Becoming stronger in a game is a fairly common mechanic, but in Prey the mechanic ends up stealing the soul of the game play.
When the element of fear leaves the player because they now can use telepathic powers to hurt enemies with the click of a button, the entire dynamic of the game changes. Prey starts out as a survival horror game, but then becomes a weird action game that doesn’t do action well enough to be fun. Before you are super powerful, everything has a sense of weight to it that adds to the experience. Your wrench takes a lot of stamina to swing and missing a shot can be the difference bewteen life and death, but eventually you can upgrade yourself so that your stamina barely is ever depleted, and that wrench then becomes your best weapon because it does so much damage without using ammo. When the challenge disappears from Prey, the enemies are no longer scary, and the draw then becomes the narrative which also sadly falls short
The end of the narrative also left me not feeling very satisfied. It always felt like something much bigger was going on, but you didn’t know quite what it was. There were little hints to what was happening, but when you finally get the big reveal literally at the last part of the game, i sort of shrugged my shoulders and deleted the game from my hard drive. The big “thing” about Prey sort of comes from no where but the biggest issue becomes that it just doesn’t add anything to the experience. It feels like a twist for the sake of there being a twist.
Prey is a game that is a roller coaster of emotions. There are a lot of highs such as the atmosphere and sense of dread, but then you have odd pacing issues among other things that bring it down. The narrative just doesn’t stick the landing as well creating a game that should of been better. I enjoyed my time with Prey, but it isn’t anything I will remember in the coming months.