There are a number of things I don’t do, mainly out of fear. Take roller coasters, for example. I don’t like being afraid, feeling like my brain is going to get flung out of one ear, and like I’m going to fall 200 feet to my death.
There are also a number of things that I’m still afraid of, but I’ll do anyway, like going in an airplane. At least if I die in an airplane, I’ll have a nice, sweet oxygen high from the bags that drop from the ceiling before the bitter embrace of death.
Some things straddle both of these. Like horror movies. Some horror movies I’ll watch, because I don’t find certain things scary that other’s do. Er… Disturbing, I guess, is a good word. My cousin watched Natural Born Killers with my wife and I the other day, and I think he was actually scarred from it. She and I, on the other hand, absolutely love the movie. It’s great. But other horror films I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.
And then there’s video games, or ‘interactive movies,’ as no one likes to call them. This is a grey area, too. Some games I love to play, like Resident Evil. Others, like Dead Space, I won’t touch.
And this is where Prey comes in. If you read my reviews of Dishonored and Dishonored II, you’ll know that I really love Arkane Studios. When I heard they were coming out with a new IP, Prey, I was ecstatic. But there was a catch: it’s a horror game.
Regardless, I bought it all the same. After my ‘same day delivery’ debacle with Amazon, I ended up grabbing the game from GameStop and began playing Friday night. Things were going great. I was having a great time exploring Talos I, the space station that Prey takes place on, and was really enjoying everything about it.
That is, until Saturday night when I picked it up where I’d left off. Let me set the scene for you.
I’d been drinking a bit. I had a long day of yard work and time at the gym, so I was rewarding myself. I was heading through one of the science labs on the space station and found a maintenance shaft behind a box. I crawled in and saw it led to a hallway that ended in a staircase. The staircase fed into a room with a looking glass, Prey‘s version of a TV screen, that was about 3 feet away form the wall on all sides so I could walk around behind it. I started looking around and found another maintenance shaft that led to a power control switch. As I switched it on, I went back out into the room and noticed that the screen now showed an environment.
Now, what was on the screen isn’t important. It was some scene, nothing terrifying. This being a video game and me being me, I decided I’d get out my wrench and destroy it. **Plunk** One hit. Nothing happened. **Plunk** Two hits. Nothing happened. **Plunk** Three hits. The entire room lit up bright white and then red. The most terrifying, blood curdling screech filled my ears. And a phantom, one of Prey‘s many monster types, jumped up right in front of me behind the screen.
The glass broke. The lights returned to normal. I paused the game and sat on my sofa for about two minutes before I picked up my controller and started playing again.
Put in simpler terms: Prey scared the shit out of me.
Which, in all honesty, is okay. I’ve gotten so much enjoyment out of this game that I can get past that. I’ll put up with a few jump scares (and there are a lot of jump scares) for everything else that Prey has to offer.
What am I loving so far? The inventory system is fantastic. It harkens back to the old Resident Evil system where you have individual boxes to fill up. Some items take up two, three, or four slots, making inventory management a must.
The crafting system is exceptional. I wasn’t really expecting crafting to be a big part of this game, as it wasn’t really important in the Dishonored series. But it almost takes in a Fallout 4 vibe where you pick up junk, trash it, and get crafting components. You can pick up blueprints around Talos I that allow you to craft different weapons, health items, and ammo. The only issue I have with this is that you never have a recycler when you need one. Carrying around all your junk can cause a real headache, especially when you drop everything and then find a recycler five minutes later. But you do have everything in your inventory when you need it. You don’t have to go back to one home base to craft stuff, just to run all the way back to your objective.
The setting is also superb. It’s amazing that they just give you free reign over this entire space station right off the bat. Sure some of the areas are locked off, but if you work hard enough at finding a way through, you can move about the ship without even completing the main quest. It’s great. I spent my first hour playing the game just running around exploring. I turned off my quest markers and just enjoyed the setting. This probably contributed to the total shit show of a situation I’m in now, but I’ll get into that more later.
Well, why not now? This game is great, don’t get me wrong. I could go on for hours on things I like about it. But there’s one thing that’s really bringing me down: it’s rough. I mean, it’s really rough. From the start, you’re thrown into the middle of a really shitty situation. And things haven’t gotten easier eight hours in. I’ve chosen neuromods, Prey‘s equivalent to perks, that I thought would be helpful. I’ve been taking it slow, strategically going around rooms to mark and take down enemies. But I’m just not doing a good enough job.
And, at where I am in the game right now, I’m pretty much screwed.
I have no ammo. I have no grenades. I have no abilities that would help me at this point. I have no way of obtaining new abilities because I have no neuromods. And I haven’t seen a recycler for about two hours.
The worst part is that I don’t think this is the game’s fault. Let me explain.
There was a point where I was floating through the bowels of Talos I, the G.U.T.S., and I came to an intersection. There was a sign in front of me, as there usually is, telling me what was where. To the left, the Arboretum. To the right, the cargo bay. Wanting to explore, I thought ‘Yeah, fuck it, I’ll go right. I’ve got time.’
An hour and all my ammo and medkits later, I’m floating back through the G.U.T.S., running up through the area I’d just traversed, through the lobby, and into my office – the only place I know where to find a recycler and crafting machine – just so I can get some more medkits and ammo. But, sure enough, on my way back, I encounter more enemies than before and waste half the ammo and medkits I’d just created.
Then, when I get to the Arboretum, I end up using all the rest of the ammo I’d crafted, along with anything I’d found while I was there.
So once I made my way into the crew quarters and saw a GIGANTIC Nightmare, the game’s biggest and baddest enemy (I hope), I was dead. Done. Finished. I eventually got past it and made my way into a service shaft, only after dying about 18 times and using up every grenade I had. After I lost it, I started roaming around using my throw ability to distract the other enemies while I snuck around them.
I have nothing. I have no recycler to help get me ammo or medkits. I haven’t seen a person with ammo on their body for about half an hour. I’m so screwed. Is this what you wanted, Prey? Did you want to break me? Because you’ve done it. I screwed up. If only I would’ve turned left instead of right at that intersection, everything would’ve been great. I’d be swimming in ammo and GLOO. But no. I did it. I put myself in this situation, and now I’m going to have to go back and load a save from 4 hours ago, erasing all my progress in the interim.
Could it be the game’s fault? Sure. They could’ve done a better job telling me where to go. They could’ve blocked off the right way and only given me one option. They could have held my hand as I walked towards my objective. But they didn’t. They gave me the freedom to fuck up beyond all repair. And I love that. Not many games do that, nowadays. They walk you through every objective and tell you where to go and how to get there, who to fight and who to leave alone.
But not Prey. Prey gives you an entire world to explore. Arkane Studios opens the door and says “Here’s a thing. Go nuts.” They leave it at that. You have to figure out everything else. Do you succeed? Then it’s you that succeeded. Do you fail horribly and end up hiding in a corner clutching a wrench like me for the last half our of gameplay? Then it’s you that failed. Not the game. Everything you need is somewhere on Talos I. All you need to do is find it.