When I was lucky enough to snag a great deal on a Xbox One X amid the pandemic, I got into playing some games that I have always wanted to play. My first round was with the Dead Space game franchise, which happened to be on Microsoft’s Game Pass. If you don’t know what Dead Space is, it’s considered one of the scariest games ever created, and despite the first one coming out in 2008, it was still giving me nightmares (and it still had pretty decent graphics). After finishing the final Dead Space, I was looking for more terror and a similar game experience. I stumbled on an article that announced that one of the most underrated games of 2017 was coming on the game pass: Prey.
There are many reasons the game wasn’t quite popular on its launch, but that doesn’t take away from how much of a sleeper hit it became. I went on about Dead Space because Prey too is a scary game, that also happens to take place in space, with innumerable, ancient alien monsters as the enemies. Dead Space has its nightmare fuel necromorphs, which take over much of the universe, and Prey, the typhon.
The game play is of course, solo, just like Dead Space; this isolation already adds to the horror and paranoia you will experience. It is in the genre of immersive simulation, meaning that your choices affect the game; there also tends to be multiple ways to deal with almost every situation, area, and enemy, which can feel quite awarding when you use your wits, intuition, or brute strength.
The story of the game itself is also quite richly developed: It’s essentially an alternate timeline where JFK’s assassination failed, and as a result, furthered the space program (so much as helping the Soviet Union with the first encounter of the typhon). At present, it is set in the decade of 2030, aboard an extremely high tech space station owned by a mega corporation, TranStar (akin to Umbrella Corp in Resident Evil). TranStar’s biggest achievement are neuromods, medical devices that can rewire the brain.
This allows users to instantly learn something as if they’ve always known (like playing a piano, or being good at a sport, anything). Of course, it’s only for the uber rich. And oh, spoiler alert, neuromods have something to do with the typhon, since the gigantic space station was made primarily to study typhon. So, what exactly are the typhon anyway? They’re made out shiny, shimmering grey-black substance that seems to display the characteristics of solids, liquids and gasses all at once, and can change their structure at will. Sounds to me like Venom.
Here’s more details on the gameplay… The most important trait to do well in the game is to loot everything; there are junk materials scattered across the world, and all dead organisms, human or not, have loot that can be collected. Any material in the game can be recycled at recyclers into raw materials to be manufactured at fabricators (the former and latter structures are spread throughout the game). For combat, you have human weapons or tools to utilize, and super cool alien powers, which are later acquired as the game goes on.
The most important “tool”, designated as a science weapon, is the GLOO cannon. It doesn’t actually damage enemies, but it’s far from useless. It can remove environmental hazards (which can really be dangerous), such as flames, electricity, and toxic gas. The globs the weapon shoots can also be used as a platform, to reach areas or structures that are otherwise unreachable. Finally, the gun immobilizes enemies for a short duration, and increases damage dealt. In Prey, you can never go guns blazing lest you risk death; thinking is paramount. The cannon is considered so revolutionary in terms of gameplay, it might as well be a portal gun (from a very popular game known as Portal).
Again, the typhon are your enemies, and there are various species of them, ranging from the abundant mimics, which mimic objects, phantoms, humanoid typon created out of human corpses that launch devastating ranged attacks, or telepaths, which mind control humans. But typhon aren’t the only enemies, so are robots (and various humans that aren’t necessarily mind controlled). There is a special typhon, the technopath, which can turn friendly robots (like auto turrets, or operators, which replenish hp, armor, or psi) into killers. The story in the typhon is really astonishing. They are apex predators; hence the game’s title, Prey, referring to the typhon’s victims as prey. Mimics are pure typhons; all typhon after that point were specifically created to deal with humans and their technology.
One overlooked in most video games is diversity. Yes, diversity is just as important in video games as it is with films, books, the media, etc. Prey is no exception. You as the player can choose a gender for Morgan Yu, the half Chinese half German playable protagonist of the game (whose family also holds high positions in TranStar), there’s a lesbian couple, and all crew members aboard Talos 1 look different. Heck, a portion of them were even uber nerds/geeks, playing their own version of Dragons and Dungeons and having a treasure map hunt. Tragic, considering most of the humans are dead.