Reviews - Updated on April 14, 2022

Choice Stopgame

Recently, the immersive sim genre, where we don’t shoot as much as we experiment, survive, explore the environment and get from point A to point B in a non-trivial way, has been experiencing problems with self-expression. Yes, Dishonored 2 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided came out, but in their case, the developers just got out of the bins and dusted off a couple of tried-and-true tricks without offering anything outstanding. So Prey is another attempt to blow our minds, and to remind someone else what the original Deus Ex or System Shock tasted like. Is Arkane capable of such an ambition?

“Good Morning Last Hero”

Morgan Yu wakes up in his apartment to go to the laboratory of the Transstar Corporation, which is run by his (or her – depending on who you choose at the start) brother Alex. A helicopter is already waiting on the roof of the building – it is he who delivers the hero to where stupid tests must be passed: move the box, press the button, answer the question of whether you will throw a person under the train if it will save seven at once. It seems that the matter is in the ointment, and people in white coats are even useful, but one day the scenario goes beyond: one of the researchers is attacked by a mug that has turned into a black creature with tentacles. Morgan Yu is gassed out and awakens again in his bedroom. However, this time it’s not the same as before.

Like so much in the game, both Yu are not what they seem.

Because the familiar world crumbles into scenery. Breaking the window, behind which the panorama of the city shines, we climb backstage, where there are computers with records of how often Morgan drinks coffee and visits the toilet. The helicopter on the site is just a training simulator, a dummy. And anything like a chair, a toilet paper roll, or a book is deadly. After all, the action takes place on the Talos-1 space station, which is captured by aliens – Typhons. They are incredibly resourceful, cunning, and their small fry, nicknamed mimics, can imitate household items. So you think you have a package of udon noodles in front of you, but this is an extraterrestrial creature lurking, and you can be sure that it will pounce as soon as you get closer. Yes, many things at the station are illusory, but there are also genuine objects – the corpses of Morgan’s former colleagues. Mornings are not good.

Who served in space, he does not laugh in the circus

The game does not paint large-scale pictures in front of you with star wars, conquest of distant frontiers and guardians of the galaxy – everything that matters in the Prey universe takes place on Talos-1, drifting near the moon. Closer to the denouement, you understand why the fate of mankind literally depends on the choice of the hero’s path. And only a teaspoon between the lines is fed us information that, it turns out, Mars is already being colonized in 2032, and people are close to discovering the secret of eternal life.

From books and magazines, we learn that the action takes place in an alternative world where there was no Vietnam War, and John F. Kennedy (John Kennedy) was not shot at all in Dallas – the thirty-fifth US president lived safely into the 21st century. And in 1962, instead of saber-rattling in Cuba, the two superpowers, on the contrary, went for rapprochement, agreeing on joint scientific projects. In general, the script pays a compliment to Soviet science: they say that it was the scientists of the USSR who first discovered typhons and began to study them, for which they built the Cage space laboratory, from which the Talos-1 station grew. What attracts in the model created by the developers is its organicity, saturation with details – for each event of an alternative history there is an explanation here, and the synthesis of ideas from East and West is noticeable even in the design of the rooms.

Sometimes it’s annoying that the graphics here are so-so.

Either we wander around the foyer in the art deco style, which could well decorate the first BioShock, then we fall into the gloomy industrial a la Dead Space 2, and sometimes the difficult one leads the hero into a sewer with vomited tiles and retrofuturism flashing lights – right in half Shadow of Chernobyl with Singularity. But there was an explanation for such a design discord: here, they say, there was a laboratory of Soviet researchers, and these premises were later attached to the skeleton by the Transstar corporation. But the crown of work is the arboretum, a real garden with a bunch of bungalows, protected from vacuum and absolute zero by a transparent dome. It looks like Earth, but there is a caveat: in space, no one can hear you scream.

To whom is Talos, and to whom is the phallus

The first tools of the game are a wrench and a gypsum gun that shoots clods of a substance that hardens in air, like mounting foam. Equipment like this is out of the question. On the one hand, it is good for battles: we immobilize the monster with foam and hit it with a key until the wet spot remains. On the other hand, the same cannon helps to get to where there are no stairs, and the doors are locked. Given that there are no direct paths to Prey, and the locations of the huge station are woven into labyrinths, a very useful thing. You can make steps out of gypsum, it is great at extinguishing a fire or, for example, stopping a fan in a mine, where you need to get into. Therefore, try, make mistakes and try again, settling in Talos-1 and laying trails only for you. There are no obvious routes, as in a middle-class corridor shooter. If the authors promised several paths to the goal at once, then this does not mean that all of them should be in sight, right?

It’s hard to believe, but the path from the bottom up was made with the help of a plaster gun.

Neuromods also help to overcome obstacles – we convert them into hero skills by introducing useful devilry with a needle through Morgan’s eye. Because of this, the eye is, of course, red. But Morgan is more dexterous. Having invested in the skills of a hacker, you learn to break open safes and doors, a strong man moves heavy objects from their place, a repair master brings mechanisms to life, a gunsmith improves the performance of “guns”. To the three branches of skills – security guard, scientist and engineer – Prey adds alien tricks in the middle of the story. Turn into a cup like Mimics do? Yes, please – only the turrets of that and look will begin to take the hero for a monster and shoot him without looking at the passport.

It is the combination of skills in half with worldly cunning that makes the passage of the game so multifaceted. If cracking the door lock is not an option, we de-energize it and open the sash manually. Not enough strength – we are looking for a bypass loophole. Or we search the compartments in search of a key card, which can lie so far that the search will seem like a separate story akin to the Spanish reconquista. Is the aisle cluttered with furniture and bales? It is enough to throw a utilizing grenade there to compress the barrier into a couple of cubes smaller than the size of the palm of your hand. And there – with a running start, run into a mimic jumping right in the face and at the same time understand that there was no need to wade into the room.

Because navigating the tags in Prey is like drunkenly getting out of an unfamiliar area. Be kind to suffer. The game is not so simple as to make life easier for everyone you meet. Suggest what to do? Show me where to go? Take a bite. Maybe give you the keys – from the apartment where the cheat codes are? That is why, getting used to the prevailing situation on the Talos and comprehending the local nature of things, you develop your own tactics. That is, you calculate the actions in advance: here you can jump from beam to beam, and there you can stick ledges from a plaster gun on the wall. Then repair the turret and drag it with you to the next room. But no matter how great the plan was thought out, nothing prevents him from flying into hell.

“Well, come here! I’ll fix you!”

fast and dead

Attacks of topographic cretinism are, of course, not enough to complete the sensations. Therefore, the enemies give a light even on normal difficulty. And the matter is not limited to mimics alone, which you can fucking catch, but smeared on the floor with a couple of blows. The station is also inhabited by tougher creatures: one typhon fries with fire, the other strikes with lightning that Lord Raiden from Mortal Kombat. The technopath monster can subjugate robots and turrets, disable elevators or generally any mechanism powered by electricity. The weaver throws fiery koloboks around him, and the Nightmare, as it should be, is a nightmare – both in size and indestructibility. Each monster needs a special approach: if it is enough to immobilize one with a plaster gun or a shocker, and then finish it off, then you won’t get close to the other without an armful of grenades and a combat trance.

As a result, first-aid kits and ammunition are in the price. But you have already guessed that both the first and the second are not lying around all the time – it’s too simple. They have to be printed on a local equivalent of a 3D printer called a fabricator. And in order for the contraption to properly supply everything you need, materials like plastic or organic matter should be loaded into it – they, in turn, are produced from the trash collected in the nooks and crannies of the utilizer. Nowhere else will you search the wastebaskets and pockets of corpses with such self-forgetfulness as on the Talos. Because being stuck in a doorway with two rounds in a pistol, an empty shotgun and a suit full of holes is worse than spending a few minutes looking for a secret with broken fans and coils of wire. And there is always time to get stuck – this is in the order of things here.

There are survivors on the station, but not all of them are equally friendly.

Prey is categorically merciless. She doesn’t care how much ammo, medkits, fabricator resources you have left, whether the suit is intact, or if you have enough health to fight even the most miserable of mimics. Collisions often arise here when the hero is absolutely helpless, and there is no point in retreating to an already cleared location in order to take a breath in it – enemies have bred there again, and more wickedly than before. After all, clearing the levels of the game is akin to a battle with a hydra – instead of a severed head, two heads grow. It happens that on a site that you run fully armed in a couple of minutes, you spend half an hour with depressive equipment. This is how the game sets the pace – somewhere it is better to act slowly, having thought it over carefully, and somewhere – to spin, as if in a frying pan. Already armed with a shotgun.

Echoes of the Big Bang

Once you get the hang of basic things like finding loopholes, slaying typhons, or upgrading your hero’s skills, wandering around the station becomes as easy as riding a bike. Which burns, and everything burns, and you’re in hell. The developers are doing to you the same thing that John Romero’s Daikatana advertisement once promised. Only he did not succeed, but the employees of Arkane did it completely. More than once or twice, you will angrily go to the desktop, so that after some time, after thinking and digesting the situation, you will again return to the hero stuck in God knows where and pull him out of trouble. This is reminiscent of a workout with a simulator in the gym: each new approach is more difficult than the previous one, but you can’t give up, otherwise you are a weakling. Moreover, the pleasure of completing tasks here is also akin to sports achievements.

Prey is a furious and at the same time thoughtful game, designed for dozens of hours. She is ruthless to the hurried, but supportive of the resourceful player. In addition, this is an adventure in a carefully crafted universe where every detail makes sense and where the hero is not just an idiot with a cool “gun”. Where, in the end, you construct your own story and where you want to return to try other paths. If you’re waiting for Half-Life 3, get down, you’ve arrived. And try to survive on the Talos-1 space station.

Pros: inventive gameplay and stunningly designed locations; story for twenty hours, not counting the secondary missions; a well-thought-out universe that mixes science fiction and alternative history; the enemies are challenging, and the plot keeps you excited until the very end.

Cons: somewhat outdated graphics; infuriating interface and bugs in places; far from the best localization.

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