THE latest space opera from gaming’s post-Bioshock bloom blends popcorn-munching and chin-scratching in equal measure with a first-person horror thriller that mixes blasting, stealth and exploration in an alternate universe where Kennedy survives the grassy knoll.
With an expanded space programme discovering alien species, players will quake in the space boots of Morgan Yu, director of research on board a retro-futuristic orbiting station. Awaking on the Talos 1 – dedicated to genetic modification experiments – Morgan must uncover its secrets all the while bashing the gooey brains of aliens.
With folk able to enhance their body with mods a la Bioshock, there’s much to-do about the dangers of body-tampering and the nature of humanity, though Prey’s sterile setting isn’t as brilliantly bonkers as 2K’s briny blockbuster. Playing out more like Dishonored in space, there’s an intricate freedom to the way Morgan’s myriad tasks can be completed, though much of the game involves shoving mods into your eyeballs, rifling through corpses and twatting alien beasties upside their noggins with a wrench.
And what a foe the Typhon are – with the ability to shape-shift and mimic everyday objects, any bog roll can leap up and bite you in the, erm, face. Thankfully, there’s all manner of pistols and shotguns, including the ingenious GLOO cannon, a foam-blasting doodad that coats wiry enemies, blocks hazards and creates makeshift steps.
With an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, Prey even manages to shoehorn in zero-g sequences, tonnes of sidequests and a canny crafting mechanic whereby Morgan can recycle junk into new weapons and items, provided you have the plans.
The Talos 1 is a triumph of game design, littered with emails and audio logs to snoop, while its art-deco nightmare blends spandex space suits with analogue 70s stylings, wrapped up in the crispest of visuals. And though the unsettling acoustics won’t fail to tingle spines, the jarring eardrum assault when something bad is afoot telegraphs the doom and yanks you out of the moment.
Worse still, mucho backtracking, technical farts and sluggish movement occasionally threaten to spoil the party. Equal parts space opera, blaster and horror story, Prey is as shape-shifting as its gloopy foe. While the slow burn may frustrate those who just want to go a-killin', it’ll tickle that festering Bioshock scratch with enough galactic goodies to be worth a look for fans of hard sci-fi and survival horror.