A rollercoaster of emotions; frustration, enjoyment, awe, determination and exasperation to name a few.
The truth is, the harder I pushed to get through, the more I was punished, which just made me fight more (and quick save quite a bit).
From the beginning, it feels familiar
Prey of 2017 has absolutely nothing in common with the Prey of 2006, apart from the fact you sometimes hold a gun and shoot aliens with it. Prey 2006 really did annoy me, for multiple reasons, so I only played it once.
This is not the sequel we were promised when completing the Prey of 2006; sure it would have been great, judging from the gameplay we saw at E3, but that was canned, so forget about it. They’ve reused the name, that’s all.
To me, and many others it seems, this is BioShock in space. Simple as that. I thoroughly enjoyed the BioShock games, so this just felt right. It was helped along by evoking feelings of playing the Half-Life series too, which are some of my all time favourite games. Not necassirly the combat, probably the “science gone wrong” aspect. Having almost exclusively played third person titles for the past 12 months, this was a welcome return to my roots as an FPS lover. I felt immersed.
Not constantly full of action, don’t let the trailers fool you
The trailers I watched the day before launch were impressive, no question, the hype was real by that point. They gave me, plus a number of people who’ve seen me playing the game since on Steam, the impression this game is balls to the wall action, akin to DOOM 2016. It isn’t.
There’s got to be some action though, right?
For me there was a fair bit of backtracking, thinking, preparing, avoiding confrontation completely, running away when caught or against the clock, and just outright hiding for a couple minutes at a time.
After 6 hours, I was still scrambling around trying to craft ammo and health kits just to stay alive, because every enemy I faced was a simple matter of, “do I have enough bullets or smarts to kill this thing before it kills me?” Mashing the trigger might get you out of this tight spot now, but will you have enough firepower for the next encounter? It isn’t guaranteed. At this point, I think anyone needing instant gratification would have long given up, but I was enjoying the struggle.
There were a few points in my playthrough where supplies were plentiful, crafting almost 100 shotgun shells made me feel like Rambo or something, it completely changes your entire experience when you feel you can go toe-to-toe with the Typhon.
It’s quite satisfying running straight at the humanoid enemies, pulling the trigger up close and personal, or spinning around planting one straight into a mimic that moments ago was the lamp you walked past. I felt so persecuted by this point I was truly out to erase these !@#ers from existence, every little battle won was celebrated.
For my first and only playthrough while writing this review, I completely avoided all of the alien powers on offer. As I progressed, I increasingly felt as if the game was expecting me to have succumbed to what was on offer, there simply wasn’t enough traditional ammo or the materials to craft them for me. I was determined to get through at least once using “traditional” methods of combat. Ultimately I achieved that, but it was challenging, even on the “easy” difficulty. It was also extremely enjoyable.
You need to pay attention
The game introduces new things to you at what feels like a rapid pace. It’s very easy to miss stuff, new enemy types, game changing items and so on.
There’s neuromods (skill trees), keycards, safe combinations/pass codes, maps, suit/weapon upgrades, tutorial popups, audio recordings, crafting, status effects, alien abilities and on and on.
Thankfully, the game does a good job of keeping track, making all of this information readily available and understandable. I confess to writing down a few pass codes before I realised that wasn’t necessary.
Despite what appears to be some blurry looking text in places, the interface is very clean and intuitive, with an appropriately sci-fi look, sound and feel.
Finding yourself in the heat of battle but can’t remember what weaknesses the enemy you’re fighting has? No problem, pause the action to take a quick look at your research data, then hop back out into the weapon wheel to select whatever is needed to subdue the beast before you.
As with BioShock, much of the storytelling is done through audio recordings left in the world, mixed in with some NPC dialog, although it really didn’t feel like I met many people who were still alive.
There’s also books and other reading material, sticky notes, E-Mail and so on throughout the world.
If all of this sounds like hard work, it isn’t, most of it will be found during the course of play, not much of it was hidden that I recall.
Two of the NPCs I saved inexplicably died, which was disappointing considering the lengths I went to saving them. Apparently I killed at least one of them, according to my stats, but I have no idea when or how. There’s also been reports of weapons disappearing and a few other niggles you’d expect during the first weeks of a title release. Bethesda, at the time of publishing this review, have released three patches for the PC version addressing many of these issues. To their credit, they are also engaging with the community via places like Reddit, asking for save files and the like, which is great to see.
The music, the general atmosphere, the constant threat that even the chair you’re walking past could at any second launch toward your throat, it all makes for a very amusing experience, if wearing a little thin at times when firepower is low.
Although I’ve finished one full playthrough and experienced a couple of the endings first hand, by no means am I done with this game. There’s simply too much unfinished business I need to take care of up on Talos I.
Now I understand the basics, I’m going back in to embrace the alien abilities and taking the fight to the Typhon. I feel it will be a very different game. No more hiding.