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Old 08-27-2017, 10:14 AM   #1
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The Evil Avatar Prey Review

Title: Prey
Platform: PS4,Xbox One, PC
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Developer: DEVELOPER
Publisher: PUBLISHER
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Aaron Birch

Prey Review

A sci-fi shock to the system

I have no trouble admitting it, I'm a Looking Glass fanboy, and still consider the company's releases to be rock solid classics. Thief hasn't been the same since, and System Shock 2 is, in my opinion, one of the best games ever made, even held to today's standards. It's no surprise, then, that I was more than a little excited that Arkane was working on the reboot of the reboot of Prey, and that it looked to be heavily influenced by the Dark Engine classic.

Just as Arkane managed to make a better Thief sequel than the actual official effort with Dishonored, Prey shows that the team has unparalleled skill when it comes to resurrecting classics in its own vision, and although BioShock was a superb spiritual sequel to System Shock, Prey is by far the most accurate, bringing back the feeling of being alone in space against a deadly foe.



That foe may not be a rogue AI like SHODAN, and is instead an amorphous alien race known as the Typhon, bit the setting, story-telling, character evolution, and overall feel is pure System Shock, and you know what? It's fantastic.

Prey harks back to the original System Shock games in how it handles the plot and character development. As protagonist, Morgan Yu, you're stranded on Talos 1, a research space station orbiting the Moon. Also like System Shock, a disaster has occurred leaving the station is chaos, with everyone seemingly long dead, and only a malevolent presence on board. What's happened, and why, you have no clue, and you're going to have to find out whilst surviving against ever-increasing danger.



The story here isn't delivered to you in a tidy prologue or neatly packaged bit of exposition. Instead, you have to piece together the story yourself by fining audio logs, emails, and other forms of information to learn about the station's fate. This is a narrative format that many games have tired, but in some way, most seem to fail. System Shock managed beautifully, and so to, does Prey. You can find logs and emails that range of mundane or inconsequential that still build up the lore, such as a science team's love of a futuristic D&D board game, to logs that directly deliver reports of what happened on the station, and deeper secrets of the Yu family, and your could be bad, or could be good brother, Alex. It's a gripping plot, with many sub-plots interwoven through it, and it all builds a very believable picture of science gone wrong, even if the original goal was of good intentions.

The retro artistic direction that in many ways mirrors 70s sci-fi is also a welcome touch, delivering a game that's very different in its world building from the usual sci-fi fare we get that's blanketed with greys or neon. Here the station is less clean and clinical steel corridors and desks, and more wood panelled, and kitsch, with a modern twist thrown in. It's unique, and has a very distinctive style, but doesn't try so hard things feel forced. Just as BioShock absolutely nailed the underwater city of Rapture, so too does Prey get Talos 1 spot on. IT really isn't that far removed from the Von Braun of System Shock 2 in terms of atmosphere (although few things could top the creep hybribs and those terrifying midwives *shudder*).



The actual gameplay is System Shock, through-and-through, with a fairly deep level of customisation, learnable abilities, grid-based inventory, and a need to scan and research foes to learn from them. You begin with nary a weapon or skill to your name, but as you progress you find decent weapons and eventually boost your psionic abilities, giving you the ability to do such things as slow down time, hack computers, repair machinery, and lift heavy objects. Eventually, you also learn how to utilise alien abilities that make use of Typhon DNA. These skills often lean towards combat, with energy blasts and other deadly skills, but in embracing them, you also add Typhon DNA to your own. This means station security, including turrets, will recognise you as a threat and open fire, so it's a risky prospect, but you could become very powerful, indeed. You learn such skills by finding and using Neuromods, a simple analogue of System Shock's Cybernetic Modules.

The range of weapons and tools is decent, with the usual staples of pistols and shotguns bolstered by more unique offerings like beam cannons, stun guns, and one of the best tools, the GLOO gun. This is useful in and out of combat, and can be used to slow down otherwise very speedy and agile foes so you can attack them easily, and can also be used to block off areas and create barriers, or even create stairs to reach otherwise inaccessible places. It's very cool, and is a clever addition that can really open up your options.



One of Prey's most intriguing features is the recycle and crafting system. Although not a revelation, it's a clever addition that lets you pick up junk from around the station and then recycle it, using a special machine, into core elements that an then be used in what are essentially 3D printers that can craft items you've found blueprints for. This includes weapons, ammo, medkits, and even Neuromods. This means it's worth scavenging for anything, even old banana peels, as ammo and other items are scarce, and the Typhon can make for very tough foes. So important is this, there's even a cool recycler grenade that can convert anything in the blast, including foes (and you if you're not careful), into usable materials.

Speaking of the Typhon, perhaps the most well-known of these foes is the mimic. These are the small, spider / headcrab creatures that can, as their name suggests, mimic the appearance of normal items, allowing them to blend in to the environment and ambush you. They do this very well, and the AI is surprisingly clever, often running away out of your sight in order to change form and fool you. Although you get help to spot them later, at first, these can be very dangerous foes.



Other Typon all have their own forms and attacks, with some pretty tough foes that highlight the game's varied focus, not just on combat and exploration, but also stealth. Often the best approach is to avoid conflict, especially if you're out of supplies or low on health. The make up of the station allows this quite fluidly, with some routes only being open you you if you've invested in specific skills. It ties progression to your gameplay style, and means there's plenty of scope for replays and chances to miss out on content in a single play through.

Prey isn't an action game per se. It has plenty of combat, sure, and this is handled very well, but it also has a lot of downtime and exploration, back-tracking, and general tension-building sections. The mimics always keep the tension up, as you're never sure quite when one will jump out at you next, and when played on higher difficulties, you really do need to conserve ammo and tread with care. This builds up a great deal of fear, just like any good survival horror title.

There may be a real System Shock sequel now on the way (with none other than Warren Specter involved), but for now, Prey is undoubtedly the number one successor to Looking Glass' excellent series, and any fans of the genre shouldn't hesitate to get hold of it.

Score: 4.5 out of 5




The Good
  • Strong story and game world
  • Solid skill tree and character building
  • Solid and often unique combat
The Bad
  • Long loading times
  • Some minor physics and engine issues
The Ugly
  • A lot of texture pop-in problems
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Old 08-27-2017, 11:30 AM   #2
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Long loading times ??? Aaaaa PS4

In pc on a M2 SSD its like 3 seconds :P
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Old 08-27-2017, 12:15 PM   #3
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Nice review Evil!
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Old 08-27-2017, 12:25 PM   #4
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Just an FYI, Prey is currently $20 at Newegg with promo code MCRJCG38 ($40 before applying code).

Xbox One

PS4
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Old 08-27-2017, 12:35 PM   #5
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One of my kids is deep into this game and loves it. I wish I could find time.
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Old 08-27-2017, 02:29 PM   #6
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Great review, thanks!
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Old 08-27-2017, 03:36 PM   #7
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Great game and really has a modern feel of System Shock and elements of Deus Ex. Loved it from beginning to end.
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Old 08-27-2017, 03:38 PM   #8
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Prey is System Shock 3, in every sense that matters. They've managed to carry all the important notes forward whilst updating the interface and mechanics. Most importantly, the updates bring the game play into modern times without sacrificing any of what made the original System Shock games great (in their time).

It's difficult to look back across the decades and accurately reflect on exactly how the original SS games stood against their peers, the nostalgia is just too strong (at least for me). But Prey is really good. It's better than all the pretenders, such as Bioshock, and arguably just as good as System Shock 2 was in its heyday. Even with as much as I love System Shock 2, it hasn't stood the test of time as well as some games. By today's standards, Prey is definitely the better game to play.

It really is that good.
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Old 08-27-2017, 04:43 PM   #9
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Nice review Evil!
He should do a YT channel or something. His reviews are always excellent.
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Old 08-28-2017, 12:27 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brandonjclark View Post
He should do a YT channel or something. His reviews are always excellent.
I wish I could take credit for these! They are written by Aaron Birch, one of our long-time readers from the great island of Oz, Australia.
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Old 08-28-2017, 01:50 AM   #11
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This is my favorite game of the year so far. Even with the glitches and some other light issues it is just so reactive and expansive and just plain FUN to play.

Get it at any price.
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Old 08-28-2017, 05:51 AM   #12
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Spot on review yet again. Still have to finish the game - shiny pennies keep distracting me - but with as far as I got into the game I absolutely loved it. Atmosphere, pacing, etc...not much not to like.
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Old 08-28-2017, 05:57 AM   #13
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I should have looked at the writer section of the review.

Nice work Aaron Birch!
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Old 08-28-2017, 06:23 AM   #14
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I like it as well.
Though I do feel something is missing.

The formula has been tried many times now.
Also the creatures are kind of boring - probably my largest issue.
They all look like weird gobles and I missed variation there.

The combat is also not up-to-par with Bioshock.
I had some really great memories of battles in Bioshock 1 + 2, but with Prey they kill you extremely fast and it's mostly kill fast and hide while throwing bombs.

Another thing .. the story is lacking I feel.
Bioshock had the whole ideology/politics angle and really cool twists.
System Shock 2 had Shodan vs. the Flesh mutations - AI versus Organic. And the storytelling focused around that. I feel Prey is not quite that good in that regard.


Still.. enjoyed it. As I am a great shock fan.
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