From the moment you step foot into the life of Morgan Yu, you enter a world both new and familiar. Prey draws easy and obvious parallels to Arkane Studios’ award-winning Dishonored series, but with its brilliantly unsettling atmosphere and mind-bending opening level, it presents something unique and altogether exciting.
The game begins in the apartment of Morgan Yu (male or female depending on your preference) as you are greeted by a robotic voice announcing the arrival of morning. Waking, you receive a call inviting you to the Transtar testing facility, where you will undergo a series of unknown tests. As you put on your suit and head out of your apartment, a beautiful, soaring score accompanies you, all the way to your awaiting helicopter and across the gorgeously rendered skies of your hometown. As you touch down at Transtar, however, the atmosphere begins to change. You’re greeted by your brother, Alex, and begin a series of tests that include leaping over a bench, hitting a red button, and hiding behind furniture. The reason for the tests is not immediately clear, and the scientists behind the glass appear concerned by your progress.
The seemingly generic cold open is skilful in the way it tempers your expectations, allowing you to be drawn into a web of comfort and familiarity before the rug is pulled from under you as the aliens make their presence known. The scene fades to black as the room around you begins to shake, and you collapse. Eventually, you are greeted by the same computerised voice as earlier, and find yourself back in your apartment, as if nothing had happened. It’s here that the mystery of the game deepens, as once again, you put on your spacesuit and head out of your apartment door. As you exit the apartment, the emptiness is almost overwhelming, the music reaching a haunting crescendo as you discover a desiccated corpse lying in a corridor where all the doors have disappeared. Tasked with finding a way out of the apartment complex, your world is shattered quite literally in a brilliant moment that underlines why Prey is looking to be a strong contender for game of the year.
As you exit the apartment, armed only with a wrench you pluck from the corpses’ hand, you find yourself inside a mysterious station known as the Talos I. Guided by a mysterious voice named January, you make your way through the station, every sense on edge. The voice, which appears to know more than it lets on, guides you towards the main hull, where you’re greeted by a stunningly rendered, vast expanse of planets. The Talos I, that you now find yourself the sole human occupant of, is suspended in space, and with little idea of how you got there, you begin your mission to find out. Peppered throughout the various rooms aboard the Talos I are clues alluding to the central mystery – various audio logs and journal entries charting other experiments and life aboard the space station. These clues flesh out the world of Prey, creating a level of realism that immediately grabs you and draws you in. Tailed by the tendril-like aliens from before, now known to you as ‘mimics’, you must traverse the station and find out the truth of who you are, and what exactly is going down on the Talos I.
The mimics are a beautifully designed and realised enemy, bringing everything from caution to extreme panic with their ability to transform into any object around you. Entering any room brings with it an indescribable sense of stress as you go about smashing everything in sight, only for the mimics to appear from behind and surprise you all the same. This ability marks out the mimics as unique and worthy enemies in a gaming scene populated by generic alien creations. Their mysterious connection to Morgan, and the development of his or her alien powers, as well as the appearance of the humanoid mimics known as Phantoms deepens the intrigue of Prey and the perplexity of the story.
Much like Dishonored, Prey allows you to complete goals in any way you see fit, with multiple weapon and upgrade options open to your character, and several possible paths to take. It presents three options through which you can augment Morgan’s ability – Engineer, Scientist and Security, each of which allows the development of abilities such as hacking, medicine, strength and endurance. Each of these allows you to traverse the challenges of the game through differing ways. Of the many weapons found in-game, we were able to test the wrench, pistol and our favourite, the GLOO cannon, which allows you to spray hardening paste on enemies to shatter and defeat them easily. This was especially effective against the massive Phantoms that lurk within the main hull of the Talos I, as they proved to be quicker and more efficient that their smaller tendril-like counterparts.
Eventually making your way to your office, you are greeted by your own self in the form of a recorded video message. Someone has tampered with your memories, and it’s up to you to find out why. With this, the first chapter of the game is complete, and the many facets of the mystery behind Prey deepen. In what is a confident and bold opening level, Prey hooks you in almost immediately and skilfully subverts any expectations you might have of the title. The twists in the story are genuinely shocking and stunningly accomplished, bringing you deep into the mind of Morgan Yu. With formidable enemies, a well-realised world and a haunting, atmospheric score, the world of Prey is easy to get invested in and excited about. Where the story goes from here is anyone’s guess.
Prey is out May 5th on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.