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Bioshock-esque – and that is high praise indeed

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    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    Bioshock-esque – and that is high praise indeed

    The highest praise I can give this game is that it gave me very strong Bioshock vibes. A silent protagonist in an isolated world, exploring and uncovering the story of what has proceeded, and utilising strange new powers to aid your cause.

    Awakening on a space station, after a brief hint that everything isn’t as it seems, you’re let loose on Talos 1 to take on the mimics and phantoms that stand in your way as you track down your brother and find a way off the station – or whatever the next best alternative may be.

    The world design hooked me straight away. ‘Metroidvania’ is the appropriate adjective I believe. At first you will find many doors locked, corridors blocked, and elevators lacking power. As you progress, you will find keys or develop new powers that allow these areas to become accessible. It’s a formula that I think is massively under-utilised in video-games. You’re never too far from somewhere familiar, so though that may seem like backtracking it actually makes the sense of reward so much greater when you’ve passed a locked door 50 times, tried time and time again to sneak/jump/hack your way in, but then you finally find the key and get to enter this previously forbidden sector.

    There’s no fast travel across Talos 1; instead you have to open airlocks that lead you to the station exterior, which then acts as a shortcut to most destinations. I like the concept, but the zero-gravity controls when on the exterior are rather fiddly, and the combat with enemies becomes much more challenging. It put me off wanting to use the ‘shortcuts’, as the greater chance of death meant it would probably take me just as long to get to where I was headed. There’s also an interior area called G.U.T.S that has a similar purpose of branching out to other areas, but is equally as frustrating to navigate for the same reasons.

    Otherwise though, Prey is a game where you’re going to want to go off the beaten track and explore, and the rewards for doing so make it extremely worthwhile. The Neuromods – your form of upgrades – are an extremely valuable resource, and so every single one you can get your hands on is worth the effort. It’s far more effective than other games that just reward you with currency, which would then only be exchanged for ammo/health kits etc. Personally I stayed mainly within the ‘human’ branch of upgrades, but even then the desire to reach the maximum level of hacking or repairing was huge, as you knew that would allow you to finally access that security room to finish the side-quest you started five hours ago. It’s all brilliantly interconnected and interwoven, and not since Skyrim have I played a game so good at making me say, ‘I’ll just play another hour…’ ‘Okay, just one more hour…’ ‘One more hour…’

    The ‘Alien’ upgrades I personally felt weren’t entirely necessary, although another play-through of exploiting them more may show me what I was missing. But they became available slightly later on in the game than the human powers, so I had already started developing my character into a hacking/sneaking wizard, and therefore I only needed to dabble into a couple of the alien powers to give myself that extra edge. Some of them did look interesting, but not at the expense of a bit of extra sneak attack power, or that final level of repair.

    The plot is solid, and does take an interesting turn right at the end. Which is a good twist to end on, but did make me wish the story had reeled me in more the rest of the time. It just needed those eccentric characters that Bioshock brought, and more audio-logs rather than emails to make the NPCs more personal and memorable. You mainly aim towards one goal the whole game, with disruptions leading you through the events of the story to finally get to that end-point. Though it’s far from poor, a tighter story built more around intrigue and mystery would have done Prey the world of good.

    Gameplay-wise I found it very enjoyable. Each weapon serves a purpose and is useful at certain points, which makes weapon upgrade kits almost as valuable as Neuromods. The mimics are a brilliant enemy for keeping you on your toes, as a cup of coffee suddenly jumps up at you and clutches on to your face. The phantoms have some brilliantly creepy lines of dialogue, and other enemies are introduced each with a unique element and technique needed to defeat.

    Prey could well be my game of the year so far. I’d heard it was short, but if you’re a perfectionist/completionist like me – looking in every corner and exploring every nook and cranny – you can quite easily pass 50 hours. It’s not without its flaws, but for me it was a massive breath of fresh air on gaming for its combination of old-school fun and contemporary story-telling.

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