The latest offering from Arkane Studios brings us yet another spiritual successor to System Shock and Bioshock, this time falling under the previously established brand of Prey, for what seems to be no other reason than for Bethesda to renew the rights to a series that was never all that popular to begin with. Despite the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with the previous Prey though, it manages to more than live up to the reputation of the name (I guess? I liked the old Prey, but I was always under the impression that it wasn’t actually very well received at all), and I would even say that it surpasses its predecessor in many ways.
They are certainly two very different games. Where the original more closely resembled a 90’s FPS, with a heavy reliance on over-the-top action and very graphic violence (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), the new model moves at a much slower pace, often feeling more like an RPG with a dash of survival horror than a standard shooter.
Where the plot of the original was literally just “Aliens just abducted you and your girlfriend. Go kill them all now.”, the new version has you playing the role of an amnesiac scientist who has to search for answers regarding their identity and their role in a complex conspiracy involving strange psychological and genetic experimentation and mysterious bunch of creatures, the Typhon, that just so happen to be invading the space station you’re stranded on right now.
Neuromods are what tie all these things together, as they are the highly sought after self-enhancement items that the conspiracy and experiments seem to revolve around, as well as having some kind of mysterious connection to the Typhon. On one hand, their use may have been responsible for your memory loss, but on the other hand, they serve as skill points in the game and well…your memory’s already gone anyway and you need more powers right?
As is usually the case with an Arkane game, freedom of choice and having a ton of options is a big part of it all. To get the answers you’re looking for you’ll have to explore the Talos I station, which is a pretty huge place that’s packed full of multiple routes and secrets areas for you to find in various ways, depending on how you decide to approach things. Many areas will be closed off in different ways that may require you to obtain a passcode or have a high hacking ability, find a way around/through a hazard or have a high enough mechanical skill to repair the cause of the problem, find a weapon that can destroy some pesky crates blocking your way or have a high enough strength level that you can just pick them up and throw them aside, and etc.
Naturally, this means you’re going to have to make some choices about your character’s build too. Do you want to be a hacking scientist with special surgical skills or a mechanically inclined engineer with repair and weapon modification skills or a security specialist that focuses on pure brute force? You can even try your hand at stealth if you want, though being a stealth specialist who backstabs everyone using a wrench may feel a bit silly.
In time, you’ll also gain access to a scanning device that lets you scan all the various types of Typhon and start implanting their abilities into yourself. This brings up one of the most important (of many) moral choices you’ll find yourself faced with, do you or do you not want to start injecting large doses of completely unknown alien material into your brain to gain more power? You are warned that doing so enough times will start changing your body so much that the station’s security systems will no longer recognize you as human and the defenses will start targeting you and that other, even more serious consequences may arise down the line, but oh man THE POWER!
Let me tell you, the psi-powers are incredibly helpful and fun. There are so many different kinds that even with my approach of overly-thorough exploration and item hoarding, I only tried out maybe 1/3 of the various powers available, but that 1/3 gave me a massive power boost that changed my approach from sneaking around and stunning guys with a wrench just to get the jump on them so they didn’t kill me in 5 seconds to pretty much just annihilating everyone. They range from various overtly destructive powers, to more subtle abilities the likes of mind control/possession/summoning, to copying the weird mimicry powers of the smaller enemies.
I wish I could tell you more about the plot too, but it’s pretty difficult to get into without spoiling any of the many surprises the game has in store. I will only say that it’s a surprisingly deep and complex story that contains many thought-provoking moral conflicts and some impressive and unpredictable twists. I would advise doing a lot of exploration if you want to fully uncover all the gory details of everything that’s going on, but it’s not strictly necessary.
I will also say that while there was room left for sequels, this is still a single complete story that can stand fully on it’s own without leaving you hanging anywhere, which is good because judging from the sales, I seriously doubt that we’ll ever be seeing any sequels. It’s a shame, because despite the issues surrounding this game’s confused identity, it’s really an incredibly solid sci-fi action-adventure with a fascinatingly memorable plot that will surely prove to be very satisfying to fans of System Shock and/or Bioshock.