Prey (2017) Review: A BIOSHOCK Expansion or Worth Standing as it’s own Title?

Hey yo! First time writer, long time fan of the website!

My name is Sam ‘BigTuck’ Tucker, and while I’m joining this website primarily as a film critic, I would be remiss without describing the video game that I actually completed. Honestly it’s one of those games that people talk about in the dark corners of bars, trading stories and/or Pokémon cards before discussing this experience that ONLY the true fans of… many different genres would understand.

SUMMARY

Prey (2017) is built on the same ‘idea’ as Prey (2006)…. if you completely switched developers, themes, and game-play. I was a big fan of the original (even without considering its maybe not completely “woke” rendition of its Native American Protagonist) so I was dead tickled when they announced the sequel – 2 years later – that is STILL not developed. Since then, however, games like Bioshock have captured the audience who is not infatuated with the most recent war story/getting yelled at by a 13 year old who has nothing better to do sort of experience you find in most modern FPS games. Before this retro-inspired 8/16 Bit takeover of the last few years, it seems like there was a real desire and want for the dark, moody, story-driven tales found in the Shock series, but that would be a different article entirely. Focus, Tuck!

INSTEAD of talking about that, we are talking Prey (2017), which can be found on Xbox Game Pass and heavily discounted across many different platforms. This Action RPG/FPS offers a strict atmospheric adventure in many ways similar to System Shock 2 (in my top pantheon) or the Dishonored series…IN SPAAAAAACCCEEEE!

Subterfuge, story and having an immersive experience reigns supreme over combat, and the game that I thought was just going to be a straight down the middle FPS was anything BUT. I am not a big gamer and most of the time I am listening to Podcasts while I game, but this one truly demands your full attention… for the most part.

OPENING EXPERIENCES

You wake in a fancy Seattle apartment (as we all want) and get instructed by your older brother (who later you find out has failed multiple health screenings due to being a REAL BIG fat jerk… who also sucks, more on that later) to get your life together, put your hazard suit on, then get in a helicopter to go to your mutual place of business. That’s it. It’s really a great introduction to the world and HUD that also doubles as a great opening sequence.

Maybe the most beautiful opening/credit sequence in a game I’ve seen!

You meet him in a different building, then go through the basic training programs: pick this up, move from here, hide behind this… chair, and so on.

Until a stressed out doctor, after having an intern go for coffee, says, “Wait a minute, there’s no Coffee in this MUG!”

#GOTEM!

Panic arises, they apologize, then it goes to black…..

Then you wake up in a fancy Seattle apartment and get instructed by your older brother to get your life together, put your hazard suit on, then get in a helicopter to go to your mutual place of business.

But something’s… off. I immediately started noticing things like:

  • Wait…wasn’t that bottle of wine in the kitchen not on my desk ?
  • Interesting…..that wrench wasn’t in the hallway last time
  • Huh, I guess I need to call building maintenance because the elevator stopped working
  • WAIT now that I have a wrench I can break the window to the patio….

THEN the game kicks off! What an opener!

There’s a ton of spoilers online about this game from 5 years ago, and I’m about to give one that I believe has been spoiled in pretty much every review.

SPOILERS AHEAD

FAIR WARNING!!

*****

FOR REALS, LAST WARNING!

*****

Okay so you’re not in Seattle at all but actually in orbit in a space station named Talo’s 1 that has been brought under attack by… well I guess that’s for you to find out!

GAMEPLAY

Ironically, this section is where Prey (2017) was the weakest, which is kind of shocking considering the games it’s paying homage to. Talos 1 is a beautiful station, ripe with open areas to explore and many broken panels to repair. Prey (2017) gives you a pretty long leash on how you want to go about exploring and accomplishing your objectives, but it does a pretty poor job of explaining how the leash works and what it’s made out of. It took me about 8 hours into playing to figure out that it was one of those games… insofar that there is NO locked door or obstruction that you can’t get around with some ingenuity. For example, you find these grenades called “Recycler Charger'” that are supposed to be your bog standard big damage dealers, until you realize they destroy the furniture that’s blocking the area right in front of an upgrade you want.

NGL these things are pretty slick

Honestly, I’m too much of a neanderthal to have figured out how this ‘system’ is best utilized until I was pretty close to wrapping it up, but even my Cave Man brain came across times where I dragged a coffee cup across the map to read an email about a lovers quarrel that lead to an upgraded pistol (no joke, this is like a game-play standard here).

Oh right. There’s combat in this game. I forgot it’s some sort of shooter, which it wants to be without trying. Prey (2017) ends up feeling like the first open-area map games that came out in Xbox 360-era in the sense that it gives you all the keys to the toolshed, but it’s easier to just blast the door in with guns and bombs.

In Bioshock (which as mentioned many times, this game may as well be a mod of), it gave you the ultimate tough guy in the Big Daddys, who if you are like me (definitely younger than 33, full head of hair, filled with hopes and dreams, etc.) you had NIGHTMARES about beating this brute with your soon to be ex-girlfriend The Butcher hollering at you.

I mean these guys ruled so hard they were on EVERY cover of the game!

In Prey (2017), there are 5 different types of enemies who are all varietals of bullet sponges, just to soak up precious, precious resources. There’s a crafting system here, which is not near as back breaking or moral destroying as Metro Exodus, but trust me you will learn where the Recycler and Fabricators are located (to break down resources and then rebuild them into what you need respectively).

And that’s the deal. You just go through the same enemy types who are pallet swapped but have no “REAL THREAT” if you have the ammo to deal with them. Once I sort of pieced this together I just maxed upgraded the shotgun, made about 250 shells, and went along my merry way repainting the spaceship with [REDACTED] blood.

STORY

And now we get here. HOLY. MOSES. I think if you are a cynic like me you can kind of figure out the whole story at some point, and it gives you juuusssttt enough ideas to piece it together before it tells you if you have the patience and attention span.

The idea of the player character waking up as a sort of Tabulea Rasa (yes, I’m surprisingly literate) and then every major decision you make from then coming back to haunt you is sooooooo good. I’m not one to get fooled at the end game by the choices I made (it’s usually very obvious), but every single choice you make matters INCLUDING not making a choice at all. For example, I found a way to leave the station early and my helper NPC and my Brother said “Wow. You’re just giving up and quitting huh?”. It would be like playing Mario 64 and intentionally killing yourself to the point that Peach says “Welp, I guess you didn’t want that cake after all huh”. It’s rare that a video game just lets you ‘quit’, and even more rare that it even ties up this loose end in a later reveal.

And that brings us to the hard part about reviewing and even playing this game. The story is UNREAL, well thought out, makes you think about reality vs simulation, living on a space station, and how your life is dictated by your choices…. or is it? Are we just passengers on this timeline or do we have agency to make decisions?

And it gives you plenty of time to ponder as you backtrack through the same areas and kill the same enemies for the umpteenth time.

CONCLUSION

Prey (2017) is truly one of those games where you don’t know what you’re getting into until you’re invested. It’s probably the best game that has been produced by Bethesda/Arkane studios I have personally played in recent memory. It’s up there in my TOP X of all time for sure, with an AMAZING story and player immersion, but gets held back from a guaranteed spot due to it’s generic and repetitive game-play loop. If it was called BIOSHOCK – SPACE or System Shock 3 then this would have sold a boatload. Instead, its memory is just kept alive by Big Tuck after a few beers going over the story about how you can quit early to anyone in earshot.

RATING: 4/5 with a Recommendation!

– Big Tuck has often thought that he was on a space station after a night out with his party neighbors

Author: Sam Tucker

Sam "Big Tuck" Tucker is a film reviewer with a passion for Noires of all kinds and occasionally dips his toes into story-rich single player games. When not flipping through streaming platforms and trying to track down the classics on JustWatch, he is a fellow host of the Magic: the Gathering Channel CMDTOWER (www.cmdtower.com) and enjoys everything outdoors in Charlotte. Find him on Twitter @bigtucktweeting.

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